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MnWE News Early Summer Issue
May-June 2021
Next Conference: Minnesota Humanities Center, St. Paul, Thur.-Fri., Apr. 7-8, 2022

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4.  BOOK REVIEW: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad

5.  Free Teaching/Learning E-Newsletters (in each issue)

6.  About MnWE (in each issue)

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       “Inclusivity” has become an echoing new buzzword in higher ed. According to the Chronicle’s e-newsletter Teaching, inclusiveness “takes into account students’ varied backgrounds, beliefs, and identities, allowing them all to feel as if they have something to contribute.” The e-newsletter Tomorrow’s Professor says inclusive teaching “address[es] the needs of all students in your classroom and ensure that all students are able to participate equitably in your class. [It] requires preparation before entering the classroom and consistent efforts in the classrooms to create an environment that will be beneficial for all.”
       Inclusiveness isn’t just “teaching and learning,” a movement that differentiates traditional teaching methods (such as the “sage-on-the-stage” model) from those that are proven to create more knowledge in students. And it isn’t just multiculturalism or diversity, which in the past often has been pursued by celebrating different colors, cultures, ethnicities, and gender identifications in readings about them. Inclusive teaching is both of these and more.
       It means to “start where the students are at, not where professors are at,” says Teaching: let all students “feel as if they have something to contribute.” For example, if you have students from several diverse countries, how would you encourage them, in a first draft, to start an argumentative essay by using their own cultures’ methods of making a point? How would you then help them move to the structured organization of an essay for their academic or professional plans?

          “Inclusive teaching,” says Tomorrow’s Professor, “requires preparation before entering the classroom and consistent efforts in the classroom.... Examine your implicit biases and the classroom environment,” “consider the class’s demographics,” reflect inclusive teaching in your syllabus, and “include diverse authors....” Develop a “positive classroom environment...where all...feel comfortable to participate and...their contributions are valued” and “provide opportunities for students to get to know each other.” You even can share relevant details about your own climb to success.
       These sound like more work. However, many faculty are at least half way there, especially those who have established a good base of frequent group work and/or individual student meetings. Another intermediate step is to imagine and ask your students how you can help them succeed using their personal backgrounds. As in most good teaching, incremental change helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed, especially in these already challenging times. 
Inclusivity in Teaching E-newsletter 
Inclusivity in Tomorrow's Professor 1684

        Are you SWMC–straight, white, and middle class? If so, how can you mentor BIPOCs and LGBQTs? I remember sitting in my office years ago with a Black female student, thinking, “What do I dare say? How can I respect our differences when she may not even want to talk about it to an older white guy?”

       Step by step, I learned how by asking questions, humbling myself, occasionally needing to apologize, and remembering when I was young, poor, and countercultural. I slowly learned that students who aren’t part of the dominant culture often appreciate my honest attempt to help if I approach each one respectfully as a unique individual. I also discovered such students need mentoring much more than others because of the veil of silence faculty place around them for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

       The Chronicle’s e-newsletter Race on Campus offers “tips from longtime mentors.” First, says Race, you should treat students of difference like any others: human beings with strengths and limitations. Susan Corbridge, a former clinical professor and now a dean of nursing and medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago, says of students, “I want to hear what their concerns are and what barriers they’re facing instead of just assuming I know. It’s important to start with that.”

       You also can clarify to your class from the start that you expect everyone to treat all classmates with great respect and equality, no matter who they are or what they look like. And you can tell them that what they say to you is private (except for what you are required by law to share). Third, don’t ever expect someone to be a representative of their own race or culture. These three actions alone help create a safe space for students to open themselves.

also suggests that in private conferences, you never should pretend to understand what you haven’t known yourself. Corbridge helped a black gay male who said of her mentoring, “Susan never pretended she’d understand my lived experience.” She connected him to opportunities and to integrating “his activism into his career planning, particularly in examining how race and sexuality are tied to health disparities.”
adds, “Be Open and Empathetic.” Corbridge and another dean, Phoenix Matthews, suggest asking, “In what ways have you experienced challenges that I may not be aware of?” “Ask first,” says Race, “and don’t assume...the answers.” Also never be afraid to ask, “How can I help?” even if you don’t have all the answers.

       Through my students’ experiences, I discovered the varieties of how they are “othered.” The path, however, was through the stories, hopes, and abilities of each one.
Race on Campus on Mentoring


       You’re not alone if you are thinking, “Wasn’t a new edition published just a few years ago?” It was, in 2016, with major changes. Fortunately, the new 9th edition largely continues and expands upon the previous core.
                      says the new edition is an “all-in-one resource that makes MLA style easier to learn and use for writers at any level.” Significantly longer, it “works as both a textbook and a reference guide.” The extra materials offer extended examples and explanations. Purdue’s OWL and many schools plan to update their online materials for fall 2021.


         Some of us long in service to the English language are struggling with one change. You now may use “they, theirs” when referring to singular nouns: e.g., “Shanice picked up their book” (especially if a student has asked to be called “they, theirs”). The new Handbook does suggest you attempt parallel singulars by using words such as “her” instead of “his” when either would work or, more simply, changing both noun and pronoun to plurals. However, if it is easier or more natural to say something like “Keisha, Bill, or Maria can turn in their assignments,” it’s okay, even if you have to ignore your mother’s or grade school teacher’s stern correction ringing in the back of your mind.

       Some of you also may be teaching APA Style. If so, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association released its most recent edition, the 7th, in 2020.   
--- 9th Ed., 2021–What's New
APA Publication Manual, 7th Ed., 2020

4. BOOK REVIEW: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad                  
    Fiction, Doubleday, 2016.

       The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead wraps its arms around you and pulls you deeply underwater into the pre-Civil War South and rural North. It tours slavery by exploring the life of Georgia slave Cora.

       She is born on a “reasonable” plantation: obey the rules, and you won’t be shot, tortured, or hung. One night her mother escapes. Youthful Cora resents being left behind but dreams of the North’s blissful freedom. Just into her teens, she is raped. Later, when a new master takes over, she is whipped within an inch of her life, and her friend Caesar convinces her to escape.


       They barely make it to the underground railroad, which the book imagines as a real, haphazard, below-ground system. Cora and Caesar ride the deep rails to what appears to be a paradise in South Carolina: dorm rooms, food, jobs, and medical care. However, they discover that the state owns them and decrees sterilization and medical experiments. As they prepare to sneak away, a vicious bounty hunter from Cora’s former life kills Caesar and almost grabs her. She escapes through the railway’s tunnels to North Carolina, where she is trapped for months in a low, hellishly hot attic, the only window of which shows, every Friday, the town’s weekly celebratory beating and hanging of a runaway slave. Then the bounty hunter discovers her and chains her, hand and foot, to his open cart for a long road trip back to her plantation. 
       She finally escapes to the rails again, running to a freedman’s Indiana farm where she begins to heal in a large community of escapees. However, nearby racist Hoosier farmers run amok, burning and killing. She barely escapes to the West.
       Whitehead chooses real historical backgrounds to frame fictional arguments. Jim Crow advocates long have postured that the pre-Civil War South was not so hard on slaves and even allowed free Blacks to prosper. Whitehead decimates that viewpoint by showing several versions of what Blacks really experienced. A belief also exists that the freedom-loving North was a haven where all Blacks could find peace and security. Whitehead also bashes this myth. He equally eviscerates the racist meme that some Blacks were treated well on plantations by showing what really happened even in such “good” environments.
       Railroad was a critical and commercial success, winning a well-deserved National Book Award (2016), a Pulitzer (2017), and others. Whitehead later won the Pulitzer in 2020 for his novel Nickel Boys (2020), and a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, both of which mirror even more intently the literary genius of his emotionally-difficult but simply told tale of Cora.   
       The New York Times calls The Underground Railroad a “hallucinatory novel about the horrors of slavery.” In future decades, Cora’s story long may be considered one of the best fiction accounts ever of pre-Civil War racism, especially for students. An Amazon Prime TV limited series is being released May 14.
Film-Series Trailer
New York Times Book Review

Black Readings:

 44 Best Black Books–
30 Top Black Literary Books

Minn. Black Children's Books–Strive Publ.

41 Black Fiction Classics–Barnes & Noble
700+ Black Books–
Black Graphic Novels and Comics

5. Free Teaching/Learning E-Newsletters (repeated in each issue)

      Do you feel out of touch with colleagues or seek ideas from other networks? Connect by subscribing to these free email newsletters. You may start or stop a subscription at any time.

NEA HigherEd, National Education Association. Weekly political and labor news update:

Subscribe           Sample

Race on Campus from Chronicle of Higher Education. Weekly briefs and information:
Sample and Free Subscription

Diversity Insider
, National Education Assoc. Weekly news, essays, and advice:

          Subscribe           Sample

The Source: Updates, MLA Style Center. Weekly pedagogy and readings updates:

          Subscribe (scroll to bottom)   Sample        Other free Style Center e-letters
          Always available online, the Style Center’s "Works Cited: A Quick Guide"

Teaching from Chronicle of Higher Education. Weekly brief advice on general methods:

          Subscribe           Samples      

Tomorrow’s Professor, Stanford University. Twice-weekly reprint of a pedagogy article:
Subscribe           Sample e-letter and online version

The Campus View, Minnesota Private Colleges (17 colleges). Monthly private college news:

          Subscribe             Past issues

6. About MnWE: Old Issues, Joining, Who We Are, Grad Credit, Unsubscribing
(repeated each issue)

More Online-Teaching Resources: See
Our Newsletters: For new and old issues,
visit MnWE News.
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Who are we? “MnWE” is “Minnesota Writing and English,” an all-volunteer organization started in 2007. MnWE has a coordinating committee, a listserv, and an annual, two-day spring conference attended by 100-200 faculty. Our coordinating committee, which meets about six times per year, is composed entirely of unpaid college, university, high school, and other professional English/Writing volunteers. 

      All activities are by and for college, university, and college-in-the-high-schools English and Writing faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and related academic and literary scholars, writers, tutors, and others in the Upper Midwest.  Our purpose is to bring together these communities in Minnesota and in nearby states and provinces.

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Questions: We invite you to email the editor or any coordinator on the MnWE Committee listed below. You also are always invited to attend any of our five to seven MnWE Committee meetings per year: to join the listserv, email jeweLØØ1 at umn dot edu (L zero zero one).. If you’d like to attend a meeting, or join the committee for in-person meetings, Zoom attendance, or email comments from a distance, please ask Richard. In addition, you always are invited to offer suggestions to MnWE, or to volunteer your leadership for a session at the annual conference. 

Copyright: This newsletter is written primarily by MnWE News editor Richard Jewell without copyright so that anyone may quote, paraphrase, or forward any or all parts freely, unless otherwise noted. We do ask that you give credit to the MnWE News and/or; and when you use material that has been quoted or paraphrased in this newsletter from another source, please be sure to give proper credit to the original source. 

Richard Jewell, Co-Founder, General Coord., Inver Hills College (Emeritus)
Donald Ross, Co-Founder and UMN Advisor, University of Minnesota

Larry Sklaney, Conference Coordinator, Century College
Danielle Hinrichs, Program Coordinator, Metropolitan State University
Gordon and Beata Pueschner, Century and North Hennepin Colleges,
     Volunteer and Registration Desk Coordinators  
Heidi Burns, Documents and Guidelines Coordinator, Minn. State-Mankato
Edward Hahn, Web and Registration Coordinator, North Hennepin College
Jana Rieck, Communications Coordinator, Champlin Park High School
Kerrie Patterson, Treasurer, Hennepin Technical College
Yanmei Jiang, Century College, and Mary Taris, Strive Publishing,
      Equity Leaders
richard at jewell dot net - (612) 870-7024
larry dot sklaney at century dot edu - (651) 747-4006
danielle dot hinrichs at metrostate dot edu - (651) 999-5960                 
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Format updated 13 May 2021