From a Course to a Community

The increasing distance between how we learn, work, and communicate in the world outside and how we do so in academe has many implications. One of them is that our current educational models may become less relevant and useful in preparing our students for the world/professions outside. Another one is that our students will continue to be educated on the basis of local models that fail to take advantage of ideas, people, and cultures/communities in the broader world. I will try to revisit the issues more extensively some time in the future.

In this post, I share some thoughts and reflections about the concept of “community as curriculum” as I am using it in a graduate course here in SUNY Stony Brook. I borrow the idea from David Cormier (some of you may know him as the person who gave the original MOOCs their name and continues to add truly inspiring intellectual substance to the idea of “open learning”).  You can read more about the concept from Dave’s blog here and here.

I normally design courses using an idea as the framework, to undergird the assignments and objectives. In this case, I wanted to experiment a “from x to y” approach to implementing a good idea. Let me explain why after sharing a little about the course itself.

Read full post on the class blog here

Helping International Students Transition and Succeed – II

In this post, written for my department blog, I share a number of specific teaching tips for helping international students academically transition and succeed better/faster.

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Part II: Specific Suggestions

In the first part of this post, I highlighted some general difficulties that international students face during their academic transition, focusing on the challenge of understanding/embracing new ideas, assumptions, and approaches about learning and teaching in a new academic system/culture. In this follow up entry, I list some specific suggestions for helping int’l students with their academic transition and success.

Encouraging International Students to Learn about the Big Picture  Continue reading

“Who? Me?”–International Students, Pedagogically Undefined

“How many of you are ‘international’ students?” I asked one of my college writing classes the first day of semester some time ago.

About a third of the twenty or so students raised their hands, including some that were half-raised, so I paused to ask what that meant.

One student responded: “I was born here in the US but studied in Korea, and my English is not good.” Her father had been a scientist working in the US but the family decided to live back home after some time, eventually sending their daughter back for higher education. A second student had migrated to the US from the Caribbean while he was in middle school but he said he still had concerns about language fluency in general. Yet another student had come to the US more recently but was fluent in speech; instead he was worried about his writing skills. None of these students were on student visa status to the US.

At this point, two additional students decided to join the conversation, and one of them said, “I am NOT an international student but a lot of people think I am, because I ‘look like’ one.” Continue reading

Helping International Students Transition and Succeed – I

This is a reblog of a post that I wrote for RhetComp@StonyBrook, a blog that I started and facilitated for a year (2013-14) for the Program in Writing in Rhetoric at my university.

- – – – – – – – REPOSTED FROM RhetComp@StonyBrook – – – – – – -

Part I: The Big Picture

Moving from one academic context into another, including in the case of academic disciplines and even levels, can be challenging for any student. But transitioning from the educational culture of one country to that of another altogether can add a whole new set of difficulties. In this post, I would like to highlight how significantly difference in educational practices affect international students’ academic transition and success. Continue reading

Soft Skills for International Graduate Students

International graduate students accepted in US universities are arguably the best products of the academic systems in their home countries. However, when it comes to translating their prior academic success, these students still face an uphill battle.

Especially for students in the STEM fields, academic transition can be challenging because their academic disciplines and programs cannot afford the time and priority toward helping the students develop a broad enough range of academic and professional “soft” skills.

In this blog entry, I highlight some of the causes and consequences of academic and professional skills gap among international graduate students especially in STEM. Let me try to do so by using my personal experience of academic transition and my professional experience of working to support other international students navigate and succeed in the US academy. Continue reading

Republica Repost–Too “Knowing” Society?

Published in Republica on Oct 29, 2014


The social condition where some people are expected to be “knowers” and others are not—which I call socio-epistemic structure—has drastically changed in our society today. Thanks to democratic revolutions, increased education, and most recently and perhaps most significantly, the rise of alternative social spaces where (seemingly) anyone can say what they like, Uncle Padams aren’t likely to be able to shut down twelve year olds (or others with less power/privilege in society for that matter) that easily anymore.

Unfortunately, as I argue in this piece, the disruption of the traditional socio-epistemic structure has not always translated into general productivity of knowledge, benefit to social institutions such as education, and the enhancement of social justice in areas such as gender equity and intercultural harmony.

Full article here 

Republica Repost–Promoting the Local

Published in the Republica on Nov 20, 2014

Around fifteen years ago, “pharsi” started becoming “farsi” in the mouths of many Nepalis, particularly in the cities. Replacing the Nepali “ph” with the English “f” may sound more “modern,” but it is not only linguistically absurd, it can also be a symptom of an insidious social problem that I want to discuss in this article.

The process of borrowing, mixing, and developing new sounds, words, meanings, and perspectives are natural to any language (though it is sped up by globalization more than ever before). However, the attempts to “leave behind” what is natural and integral to a local language—and by implication, to thought processes, art forms, and knowledge-making—can also be counterproductive.

- Full post here

Republica Repost–Walking the Tightrope

Published in Republica on Dec 13, 2014

When growing up in Manipur in India, I knew Nepal as a distant land that was all our own, a nation of Nepalis, or, rather, “not India,” which was a place where the Nepali immigrants were treated by many people with insult that bordered abuse. Nepali kids were bullied at school as outsiders; families were regularly burglarized by masked men who often turned out to be neighbors (and the police didn’t care); and anyone who needed to cross state lines had to carry “movement certificates”. Because of such experiences Nepal was our romanticized homeland.

But when I eventually returned to Nepal, while the society was generally nice to my kind of families, I quickly found out that it was not for many others.

- Full article here