Q and A with Dr. Carra Leah Hood

November 21, 2019

Brooke Comer

Dr. Carra Leah Hood visited AUC as the Academy of Liberal Arts’ DVR for the week of March 10th-17th, 2019, delivering, among a few other workshops and lectures, a talk on “The Problem: Not Teaching for Transfer” for the Provost Lecture Series.

Dr. Hood, who is Associate Provost for Strategic Planning, Academic Programming, and Assessment and Associate Professor of Writing at Stockton University in Galloway Township, New Jersey, shares her thoughts on teaching and comparative notes on Stockton and AUC.

Despite a few striking differences—Stockton operates soup kitchens and accommodates homeless students, military veterans, and diverse ethnic groups--Dr. Hood believes the two institutions share a significant bond in terms of their culture of teaching and learning and the value of community service.

Comer

What surprised you most about AUC?

Hood

I was most surprised by how much AUC and Stockton University have in common. The way we teach Liberal Arts is similar to AUC’s Rhetoric classes: We do an intro course that’s organic, always changing. We both have a commitment to a liberal arts education and to a strong core with learning outcomes that include critical thinking, communication skills, and ethical reasoning. Then there’s the philosophy of “students first”, the practice of ongoing professional development for faculty and staff, and viewing the respective institutions as an anchor in the community.

Comer

Did you see a connection between AUC’s Rhetoric faculty and the Liberal Arts faculty at Stockton?

Hood

Definitely. All our faculty have an area of expertise, but they’re always learning, always innovating and may teach in multiple disciplines. We have a biology professor who writes fantasy fiction, and a writing professor who became interested in the migration patterns of the many birds here and became an ornithologist. Then there’s the engineering professor who became a poet and teaches poetry and math, and a physics professor who took up Twitter research and used Twitter to develop an expertise in hospitality and tourism.

Comer

We have a relatively new Community Development minor and an Academic Community Engagement program to create a mutual learning experience with marginalized communities; how does Stockton’s Community Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) concentration provide opportunities for students to serve the campus and local community?

Hood

In the past 10 years, we’ve been moving more into community and project-based learning. The Community Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) concentration is an interdisciplinary concentration in our Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies (LIBA) degree that incorporates a core set of General Studies classes with disciplinary courses across the university. These courses operationalize learning in community-engaged ways, not only in classes, but through internships and service learning experiences, so students can get experiential learning opportunities in Atlantic City and South Jersey, translate academic learning into real-world experiences, and develop the kind of skills and values that are key to community engagement. We just opened a new campus—though we refer to it as a location, because it’s currently only an academic building and a residential hall--but we offer an MA in social work there and a degree in Organizational Leadership—a very innovative, interdisciplinary program.

Comer

Did your own education embrace the kind of innovation you advocate and inspire? To what extent do we learn from the way we were taught?

Hood

To answer this in full would be a very long statement. However, I can point to two critical experiences in my education: one in elementary school and another during my first year in college. I learned to teach from both of these experiences.

I attended an experimental elementary school in Chicago, Illinois. This school had all students engage in group work. Students did not take individual tests at this school; all learning occurred through peer collaboration. I learned, as a result, that effective learning could take place in teamwork settings where each person’s skills are used to produce the best final product.

My first year of college, I took a biology course. Probably 200-300 students attended the lectures for this course. The professor told us that we could not take notes until the last ten minutes of the course, when he stopped lecturing. He did this, he said, because we could find the science in our textbook so we didn’t need to take notes on that information. In addition, he said that he wanted us to use the last ten minutes of class to conceptualize the information he presented. From this, I learned the value of learning how to learn and employing critical thinking to map out steps in a process. 

Comer

How would you define Teaching for Transfer and how did you discover it has value?

Hood

I would define it in the way that I did in my second presentation: It is a form of creative repurposing for expansive learning, which involves dispositions of individuals and the systems they inhabit as well as sociocultural or community interactions. I find that this definition encompasses the conditions needed for TFT to produce the student outcome transfer of learning. As a professor of writing, I am aware that first-year writing is considered a service course at most universities. A service course, generally, aims to teach for transfer. 

Comer

What three things would you do if you returned?

Hood

I would definitely spend more time in Cairo neighborhoods, such as the Tahrir campus and Cairo University. Then I’d go on a Nile cruise to Aswan and Luxor. I’d also visit the Red Sea.

Comer

What inspired you in terms of ideas for further collaboration between Stockton and AUC? What would you envision ideally?

Hood

Ideally, I would love to see an ongoing collaboration that included regular faculty and student exchanges between AUC and Stockton.

Comer

What was the highlight of your trip to AUC?

Hood

Without a doubt, the highlight of my visit was meeting AUC faculty, staff, and students. The discussions we had were very engaging and demonstrated strong commitment to students, Cairo, and the higher education mission of AUC. Dean Ghada Elshimi and I agree that it’s crucial to elevate and accredit the CORE and that a strong liberal arts background is vital. I also got so many ideas from CLT—for instance, giving faculty certificates for attending workshops. We have to pay our faculty. I loved talking to AUC students, who are extremely aware, engaged, and not at all shy. They told me they wanted more writing classes!