The Pedagogy of Kindness: Building a Community of Inquiry, a Faculty Discussion Series

The Center for Teaching & Learning is proud to present a discussion series for faculty: The Pedagogy of Kindness: Building a Community of Inquiry, Spring 2021. The Pedagogy of Kindness is a pedagogical approach focused on creating learning that is accessible and welcoming to all. This discussion series was geared towards exploring how the Pedagogy of Kindness can apply to teaching today. It explored strategies, concepts, and paradigms aimed at building learning environments according to three main themes: building community, being mindful in the classroom, and collaboration.

Session 1: Building Classroom Community, Monday, April 12

Join us for a panel discussion on building a community within the virtual classroom. The panelists will discuss different ways on facilitating a positive learning environment and fostering communication between students.

Sara P. AlvarezSara P. Alvarez, Ph.D

Dr. Sara P Alvarez is Assistant Professor of English at Queens College, CUNY. Her qualitative research focuses on the multilingual and academic writing practices of self-outed U.S. undocumented young adults. Sara is also Associate Investigator with CUNY’s, first of its kind, Initiative on Immigration and Education (CUNY-IIE), learning with and from the K-12 lived experiences of immigrant-generation students and their communities in the state of New York. Dr. Alvarez’s publications have appeared in the journals Equity and Excellence in Education, World Englishes, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, among others.


Lindsey AlbrachtLindsey Albracht, M.A.

Lindsey Albracht is a doctoral candidate in English at the CUNY Graduate Center who specializes in writing studies, translingual writing, critical educational technology, and faculty development. Her dissertation considers how to support faculty education for instructors of writing to move toward more anti-oppressive translingual pedagogical approaches.



Scott LarsonScott Larson, Ph.D

Scott Larson (PhD, CUNY Graduate Center, 2010) is a faculty member and Co-Director of the Office of Community Studies and the Service-Learning program in the Urban Studies Department at Queens College. His research focuses on urban space and social justice, including the issues of redevelopment, gentrification and community-led urbanism. His book, Building Like Moses in Mind: Contemporary Planning in New York City (Temple University Press, 2013), uses ongoing debates about the legacies of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses as a lens for examining the redevelopment strategies of the administration of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Session 2: Setting Boundaries in the Classroom, Wednesday, April 14

The upheavals of the past year have prompted instructors to re-examine conventional classroom practices, rules, and tropes. Dr. Checker’s discussion will begin by questioning certain commonly-held notions about teaching. For instance – are deadline extensions really unfair to those students who turn their papers in on time? Do students, themselves, agree with this assumption? Can we remain flexible without losing control of our classrooms? Drawing on data gleaned from student focus groups, Checker will lead a conversation about adjusting pedagogical boundaries in an era of online teaching, and beyond

Melissa CheckerMelissa Checker, Ph.D 

Dr. Melissa Checker’s (PhD NYU, 2002) research focuses on environmental racism, environmental  justice activism, the politics of urban sustainability, and voluntary relocation/managed retreat after technological and environmental disasters. Her book, The Myth of Sustainability: Environmental Gentrification and the Politics of Justice was published in 2020 with NYU Press. She is also the author of Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town (NYU Press, 2005) which won the 2007 Association for Humanistic Sociology Book Award. In addition, she has authored a number of academic articles and book chapters, as well as articles for popular magazines and newspapers. Checker is the Hagedorn Professor of Urban Studies and directs the Service-Learning program along with Scott Larson. She teaches Contemporary Urban Theory, Fieldwork in Environmental Studies, Service-Learning Practicum, in addition to courses at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Session 3: Alternative Assessments, Wednesday, April 21

Join us for a panel discussion on different methods to assess student learning in an online environment. This panel will go over methods to engage with students in both synchronous and asynchronous classes. The panelists will detail the ways that they are able to have students engage with the learning materials outside of traditional assessment styles.


Nathalia Holtzman

 Nathalia Holtzman, Ph.D

Dr. Holtzman completed her PhD at the University of Oregon where she studied cell migration during gastrulation in zebrafish. Her laboratory is investigates the molecular and cellular basis of organ formation. Dr. Holtzman also served as the Associate Director of the Queens College, Center for Teaching and Learning for 5 years and focused on training faculty in educational pedagogy through workshops, seminars, and online courses. She is now Chair of the Biology Department at Queens College.



Kara Schlichting

 Kara Schlichting, Ph.D

Dr. Kara Schlichting is an Assistant Professor of History at Queens College, CUNY. She is the author of New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore (The University of Chicago Press, 2019). Her work in late-19th and 20th-century New York City history sits at the intersection of urban and environmental history.



Andrew Ng

 Andrew Ng, MA, BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)

Andrew Ng completed both his BA in Psychology and his MA in Applied Behavior Analysis at Queens College. He recently received his board certification (BCBA) in Applied Behavior Analysis, though he has been working in the field for nearly 4 years. As a supervisor, Andrew’s work focuses on developing the socially significant skills needed by individuals with Autism to function in everyday life situations. Andrew is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the Psychology Department.

Session 4: Encouraging Mindfulness in the Classroom, Monday, April 26

Shana will lead a discussion on how to incorporate mindfulness practices in the classroom, from being transparent in the syllabus to engaging in difficult conversations. She will also address some ways to show sensitivity towards students’ varied and rich identities. Attendees will engage in practical methods to make their classes inclusive environments that honor diversity.

Shana Samuel Shana Samuel, M.A. 

Shana Samuel is an Adjunct Lecturer in the Psychology department at Queens College and a second-year graduate student at The Graduate Center (CUNY). She received her B.S. in Psychology at City College and completed her Masters in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Currently her research interests focus on the intersection of perceived discrimination and cognition in marginalized groups, particularly in Black women who have lupus. She is passionate about working with students to disrupt colonization in academia, create inclusive classroom policies, and celebrate diversity through education.

Session 5: Trauma-Informed Teaching, Monday, May 10

Join us and our guest presenter, Dr. David Rivera, as we discuss racial dynamics within the classroom, how to engage with these dynamics, and how to work with a healing pedagogy to support student success.

David Rivera

 David P. Rivera, Ph.D

David P. Rivera, PhD, is an associate professor of counselor education at Queens College-City University of New York and founding director of the CUNY LGBTQI+ Leadership Program. His experience includes college counseling, higher education administration, and consultations and training on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. His research is guided by critical theories and social justice frameworks, and explores issues impacting the marginalization and wellbeing of people of color and oppressed sexual orientation and gender identity groups, with a focus on microaggressions. His work has been recognized by the American Psychological Association,  American College Counseling Association, and American College Personnel Association.


Session 6: Building an International Environment of Collaborative Learning, Wednesday, May 12

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is a virtual exchange pedagogical approach that is led by Dr. Schiro Withanachchi (ECON, BALA) for faculty to engage their students with peers abroad. COIL offers an opportunity for QC students to express their individuality, learn from different cultural contexts, and develop empathy through meaningful international collaboration. By applying principles of responsibility in global citizenship, students build career skills as well. This portion of the discussion series will introduce international projects created by the Spring 2021 faculty cohort and discuss the benefits of intercultural empathy.

Guest presenters:

  • Sharmistha Roy Chowdhury, Ph.D
  • Barbara Walters Doehrman, Ph.D
  • Paul Fadoul, Ph.D
  • Raymond Law, M.A.
  • Sophia Mcgee, M.A.
  • Lillian Moncada-Davidson, Ph.D

Schiro Withanachchi

 Schiro Withanachchi

Schiro Withanachchi is a Lecturer of Economics and Director of the Business and Liberal Arts (BALA) Honors Minor program. Her 20 years of teaching has involved innovative pedagogy using globalized curriculums through international alliances. As the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Coordinator and appointee to CUNY’s Council for Career Development and Engagement, Schiro is bridging the gap between business and knowledge. In 2019, QC officially launched the COIL Faculty Fellowships. The aim of the fellowship is to offer faculty the opportunity to develop strategies for incorporating an international element into their courses, advance research with international colleagues, and expand QC’s global presence. Without the impediments of cost, time, or insecurity, COIL develops skills that enhance students’ career success through engagement with peers from diverse language, sociocultural, and educational backgrounds.

Session 7: Caring in the Classroom, Wednesday, May 19

Care and kindness have surfaced as buzzwords over the past year, but these concepts were studied in the higher education teaching and learning community long before the pandemic. Dr. Fraboni will share what research has uncovered over the years about the role of caring and kindness in student development. Participants will have the opportunity to explore case studies and identify components of caring and empathetic practices in teaching. Participants will also share their own experiences and make plans for implementing caring practices in a future class.

Michelle Fraboni

Michelle Fraboni, Ed.D.

Michelle Fraboni is Assistant Professor in the Department of Elementary & Early Childhood Education at Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her research focuses on beginning teacher education students and how their sense of belonging and community in online and face-to-face learning environments shapes their identities as learners and future teachers. Michelle served as the Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning at Queens College for five years, where she developed an interest in how faculty mindset and teaching practices influence students’ sense of belonging and academic success.