I am currently teaching in the Global Liberal Studies Program of New York University. Here is a nice video with prior students giving a sense of what the program looks like.

When people talk about “interdisciplinary teaching,” I like to think I get what they mean.

I received my Ph.D. from New York University in a field called Performance Studies, which combines anthropology, critical theory, theatre, movement, and music studies, and allowed me to try my hand at nearly anything. While working on my dissertation, I taught classes at the Pratt School of Art, NYU Undergraduate Drama, and NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). I also worked as an Academic Advisor for NYU’s Gallatin School.

After finishing my degree, I began a position in the Communications Department at the St. Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. Next, I moved to the U.K., where I worked as a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of East London.

In 2010, I moved back to the States, and since that time, I have been at New York University’s Global Liberal Studies Program, where I am very happy indeed. Right now I teach lots of classes in the concentration (we don’t have majors) called Contemporary Culture & Creative Production. I’m especially fond of teaching students research methods, writing skills and how to engage in arts-based research. 

 

On Vinegar: A Teaching Philosophy

Theresa M. Senft

Like many teaching philosophies, mine developed by accident, rather than design. One morning, I was on the way home from the market when I realized the bottom of my paper bag was soaked. At first I thought it was wet with water, but quickly realized by the smell that a bottle of white vinegar I had bought was cracked and had been leaking. After a few minutes of swearing (I had, after all, covered my work clothes in vinegar) I realized that I might have stumbled on a way to better teach students about performance and critical observation of media.

Before leaving for school, I poured the vinegar into an empty Poland Springs water bottle. I then headed to class, where I told my students, “Write down everything you see, focusing on my actions here in the front of the room." For two minutes, I sat on my desk, looking out the window and taking occasional sips from my Poland Spring bottle. For two minutes, students dutifully took note of what I was wearing, how often I drank, the label on my bottle, and so forth. When they compared notes afterwards, the students paid close attention to details others had seen that they had missed themselves. “Now, " I told my students, “I want one of you to replicate my actions in the front of the room, and we’ll take notes on that."

The student volunteer took care to arrange herself at the desk exactly as I had, raised my bottle to her lips, and took her first (and only) sip of the vinegar everyone thought was water. Class discussion began instantly: How much are we missing by relying on sight over all over senses, they wondered, and how does media help enable sensory forgetfulness? How ought we rework our theories of “the way things are" when contradictory data emerges, and what are the social and political costs of this re-working? What is the power of the Poland Spring logo that we instantly equate it with water and nothing else? Finally, given that we cannot possibly know everything, all the time, how should we choose those we trust as authorities in life’s classrooms?

People often equate cultural and media studies with pure pleasure, asking what a liberal arts student could possibly gain through classes on topics like television and the Internet. Yet for me, “vinegar " has become code for pleasurable phenomena that seem simple, even obvious, yet on closer inspection reveal themselves as either disturbing, or illustrative of larger truths about human struggle, or both of these things. There is a moment in every good cultural studies class where water turns to vinegar, and easily digested ideological structures become nearly impossible to swallow without pause. This is the moment when I think cultural studies matters, and why I think there are material benefits to be gained from a citizenry trained in this sort of scholarship.

I just made a killer form for students requesting letters of reference from me that makes them do all the admin work required to get a letter together, and then posts all that info automatically it to my private database.Check out the form!

https://airtable.com/shrHbYcjdtYOk3I2M

(NOTE: You can’t use this form for your students, because it goes to MY site! But I tell you how to make your own at the end of this post.)

I did this using Airtable, a free service I really recommend to y’all. It is a relational database that looks like a tarted up Excel sheet.

Things I like about it (no I don’t work for them)

1. You can make FORMS for students to use, and the info on that form goes right to a spreadsheet (no manual adding stuff)

2. Students can paste documents, images and even video in the forms

3. You can control the views for privacy.

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To make a form and database of your own, join Airtable, make a table of your own, copy my fields if you’d like:

https://airtable.com/shrNmVC1UQQFmrtkd/tblMdsq3xNzdMas3i

The fields give you the areas for the form, which you can tweak as you need.

Love,T

STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRE EXAMPLES