Pedagogy of Kindness: Faculty Excellence through a UDL Approach Across CUNY

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

Keynote: Origins of the Pedagogy of Kindness | with Catherine (Cate) Denial | March 9, 2022

What does it mean to teach with kindness? How do we weave compassion into our policies, assignments, and grading practices? This keynote will focus on the three things that make up a Pedagogy of Kindness: justice, believing students, and believing in students. We’ll talk about practical tips for increasing kindness in and out of the classroom, and weave in periods of self-reflection on our own experiences with compassion in educational settings.

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Keynote Speaker: Catherine Denial, PhD. (HIST, Knox College)


About Cate Denial
Cate Denial is the Bright Distinguished Professor of American History, Chair of the History department, and Director of the Bright Institute at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. A 2018-2021 Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Cate is the winner of the American Historical Association’s 2018 Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching award, and a former member of the Digital Public Library of America‘s Educational Advisory Board. Cate currently sits on the boards of the Western Historical Quarterly and Commonplace: A Journal of Early American Life. Cate is at work on a new book, A Pedagogy of Kindness, under contract with West Virginia University Press. Her historical research has examined the early nineteenth-century experience of pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing in Upper Midwestern Ojibwe and missionary cultures, research that grew from Cate’s previous book, Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country (2013). In summer 2018, Cate was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, PA.


Building an International Environment for Collaborative Learning | March 11, 2022

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is a virtual exchange pedagogical approach for faculty to engage their students with peers abroad. As such, it allows access to an authentic and interactive global learning experience without requiring physical mobility. By creating meaningful international collaborations, COIL empowers CUNY students to bring to the fore their cultural identities, develop a new level of self-awareness and empathy, and learn from different cultural contexts. By applying principles of responsibility in global citizenship, students build career skills as well. This portion of the discussion series will introduce topics and pedagogical strategies for successful COIL projects that develop intercultural empathy. ​

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Guest presenters:

Schiro Withanachchi

Schiro Withanachchi, PhD. (ECON and BALA, Queens College)
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.

Jessica Levin

Jessica Levin, M.A. (IEL, Borough of Manhattan Community College)
Jessica Levin is the Experiential Learning and Study Abroad Manager at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). In an effort to create more equitable and sustainable opportunities for international engagement, Jessica developed a program for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) in partnership with BMCC’s E-Learning and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The program has been able to support faculty from various disciplines in virtual exchange.


Olga Aksakalova

Olga Aksakalova, PhD. (ENGL, LaGuardia Community College)
Olga Aksakalova is Professor of English and Coordinator of the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program at LaGuardia Community College. In her role as COIL Coordinator, Dr. Aksakalova has supported over a hundred of class-to-class partnerships with thirty international institutions of higher education. Her scholarship focuses on COIL program administration; COIL in the humanities; civic engagement in transnational writing programs; bilingual writing centers; 20th century American literature and autobiography studies. Dr. Aksakalova serves on the board of non-profit organization COIL Connect and on the editorial board of College Composition and Communication.

Grace Pai

Grace Pai, PhD. (STEM, Guttman Community College)

Grace Pai is an Assistant Professor at Guttman Community College where she teaches mathematics and statistics. In addition to being a former high school math teacher in New York City and a Peace Corps Volunteer, she worked as Senior Research Associate at the New York City Department of Education. She holds a Ph.D. in International Education with a concentration in applied statistics from New York University, an M.Ed. in Secondary School Mathematics from Brooklyn College, and an Ed. M. in Human Development and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include culturally relevant pedagogy, college access and success, global learning, and math education.



A Universal Design Learning (UDL) Approach to Inclusive Teaching | March 16, 2022

Providing an inclusive learning environment and educational materials that are accessible for all students is as much a matter of kind pedagogy as it is a legal requirement. Join us for an interactive workshop on accessibility in teaching and learning with the diverse student population at CUNY in mind, and a discussion on how integrating principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL) will not only help accommodate students with disabilities, but also address the various educational needs of all students. Read more about UDL at the CAST website.

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Guest presenters:

Antonia Levy

Antonia Levy, M.A. (SOC, CUNY School of Professional Studies)
Antonia Levy is an East German transplant to New York and is currently the Associate Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology at CUNY School of Professional Studies. She also teaches as an adjunct instructor in the sociology program at the school. Working in faculty development and instructional technology, she is dedicated to the implementation of universal design as part of the struggle for more equality in higher education.

Michelle Gastulo

Michelle Gastulo, M.A. (OFDIT, CUNY School of Professional Studies)
Michelle Gastulo is an Instructional Design Specialist at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She provides faculty support and training through live sessions and facilitated workshops on topics such as Blackboard, Open Educational Resources, accessibility, and Universal Design for Learning.

Trauma-informed Pedagogy | March 30, 2022

While there has always been a need for trauma-informed practices in education, the pandemic and ongoing racial trauma have increased awareness and efforts to bring trauma-informed teaching and learning to college classrooms across the country. In this session, join colleagues to explore trauma-informed pedagogy and discuss how we can design learning experiences with trauma-informed practices to create humanizing, compassionate, and empowering spaces for our students and ourselves.

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Guest presenter:

jean amaral

Jean Amaral, MLIS, M.A. (LIBR, Borough of Manhattan Community College)
Jean Amaral (MLIS, MA), associate professor and open knowledge librarian at Borough of Manhattan Community College, partners with faculty across disciplines to create active and engaging learning experiences for students through open knowledge practices, such as open educational resources and Wikipedia edit-a-thons. Having taught information literacy, as well as literature and composition, for several years, amaral strives for student-centered learning experiences with a focus on asset pedagogies including culturally sustaining and trauma informed pedagogy and universal design for learning.


Navigating the Classroom Environment through Mindset GPS | April 6, 2022

This discussion will introduce three key learning mindsets (“GPS”)—Growth Mindset, Purpose & Relevance, and Sense of Belonging—drawn from the CUNY Mindset and University of Virginia’s Motivate Lab’s Motivating Learners’ work. The GPS framework encourages, supports, and motivates students while promoting equity. We’ll explore ways that we might implement the GPS framework in our course material, teaching methods, and styles of communication as a practice of the Pedagogy of Kindness.

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Guest presenter:
J. Elizabeth Clark

J. Elizabeth Clark, Ph.D. (ENGL, LaGuardia Community College)
J. Elizabeth Clark shares her ideas about writing and technology at LaGuardia Community College where she teaches composition, children’s literature, and fiction writing. In addition to teaching, Liz has held a variety of roles such as Writing Program Director, Chair of the Common Reading Program, director of the Accelerated Learning Program for basic writing and working extensively with the college’s award-winning ePortfolio program. Liz is particularly interested in reflection as a tool for integrative learning, and the intersections of writing and technology. When CUNY’s Mindset program began, Liz was excited to explore how mindset work might help to transform basic writing and composition classrooms. After taking the CUNY Mindset course, she returned to serve as a CUNY Mindset fellow. She’s excited to share the CUNY Mindset work.


Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education | April 13, 2022

What is “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI)? These words have been popularized in recent times as representative of specific values and practices that many academics and practitioners have been dedicated to since long before the term “DEI” came into vogue. What are those values, and how are they operationalized in the classroom? This workshop offers examples of applied methods for ensuring that curriculum content and classroom practices are inclusive of the myriad identities and experiences that students bring to the classroom. The workshop speaks to ways that instructors can embody and model cultural humility as a route towards achieving inclusive learning environments.  Presenters will provide tips on developing course design routines that include self-check mechanisms to support routine review of practices and continued growth in pedagogical positions.

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Guest presenters:
Desiree Byrd
Desiree Byrd, PhD. (PSYCH, Queens College)
Desiree is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, Queens College and the Graduate Center with a joint appointment in Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is a board-certified neuropsychologist and a nationally recognized leader in the field of cross-cultural neuropsychology. She has authored over 60 peer-reviewed publications and 10 book chapters. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Culture and Psychology and Decolonizing Psychology.

David P. Rivera
David P. Rivera, PhD. (ECP, Queens College)
Dr. David P. Rivera is an associate professor of counselor education at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), where he is also the Founding Director of the CUNY LGBTQI Student Leadership Program. He holds degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Wyoming. His research is guided by critical theories and social justice frameworks and explores cultural competency development and issues impacting the marginalization and wellbeing of people of color and oppressed sexual orientation and gender identity groups, with a focus on microaggressions. He has published books, journal articles, and book chapters in various areas of multicultural psychology, education, and social justice, and his latest co-edited books, Affirming LGBTQ+ Students in Higher Education and Critical Theories for School Psychology and Counseling: A Foundation for Equity and Inclusion in School-Based Practice will be released in 2022. Dr. Rivera holds leadership positions with the American Psychological Association, The Steve Fund, and The Council for Opportunity in Education. He has received national honors from the American Psychological Association, the American College Counseling Association, and the American College Personnel Association.

Sophia McGee
Sophia McGee, M.A. (CERRU, Queens College)
Sophia Salguero McGee is a founding member of the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at Queens College, and one of two founding Director/Facilitators of the CUNY Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Incubator. She is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the History Department at Queens College, where she teaches a series of courses about the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Alternative Assessments: Ungrading and Assignment Scaffolding | April 27, 2022

The panel will address how alternative assignment and assessment designs help to create buy-in from students, build on prior learning, create classroom community, and teach key self-reflection skills that increase intrinsic value and motivation while still helping students to meet learning goals.

 Recorded presentation

Guest presenters:
Rachael Benavidez
Rachael Benavidez, M.A. (ENGL, Queens College)
Rachael Benavidez is an Adjunct Lecturer of English at CUNY Queens College and at BMCC. She is also the Assistant to the Directors of First Year Writing (FYW) at QC and received her Master’s in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Africana Studies from the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests focus on cultivating student recognition of their emerging scholarship through scaffolded low-stakes writing assignments and on the discourse of visual rhetoric.

Lindsey Albracht
Lindsey Albracht, PhD. (ENGL, Queens College)
Lindsey Albracht (she/her/hers) works as a Lecturer in the English department at Queens College. She currently teaches undergraduate classes on writing, and previously worked in interdisciplinary faculty education, writing centers, and in the field of TESOL. Her recent work appears in Journal of American Studies in Italy, Axis, and Visible Pedagogy, and her forthcoming work will appear in the edited collection, Racing Translingualism in Composition: Toward a Race-Conscious Translingualism.

Kara Schlichting
Kara Schlichting, PhD. (HIST, Queens College)
Kara Murphy Schlichting is an Associate Professor of History at Queens College, CUNY. She earned her PhD from Rutgers University. Her work in late-19th and 20th-century American History sits at the intersection of urban, environmental, and political history, with a particular focus on New York City. She is the author ‘New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore’ (University of Chicago Press 2019).

Setting boundaries in the classroom | May 4, 2022

May 4th, 2022 | 12:00-1:30pm Graduate students are an integral part of the CUNY system, as students, emerging scholars, and educators teaching our undergraduates. This session will explore how a Pedagogy of Kindness can be applied in graduate seminars and mentorships, and how modeling PoK can influence graduate students’ own approaches to teaching and working with students. How can PoK bolster appropriate boundaries, nurture empathy, and encourage intellectual curiosity?

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Guest presenters:





Lisa Brundage, PhD. (ENGL, Macaulay Honors College)
Lisa A. Brundage, Ph.D. is Director of Academic Affairs at Macaulay Honors College, CUNY. Lisa heads the Teaching and Learning Collaboratory at Macaulay, supervising a team of postdocs and graduate students who support integration of pedagogically appropriate academic technology into Macaulay seminars. Lisa also oversees numerous experiential learning events at Macaulay, including co-directing the annual BioBlitz, IDEA Day, and Night at the Museum. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the CUNY Graduate Center, where her work focused on race, sexuality, and motherhood in interwar literature. Lisa is also a member of the doctoral faculty of the Graduate Center’s Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program.






Luke Waltzer, PhD. (HIST, The Graduate Center)
Luke Waltzer is the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he supports GC students in their teaching across the CUNY system and beyond, and works on a variety of pedagogical and digital projects. He previously was the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Baruch College. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the Graduate Center, serves as Director of Community Projects for the CUNY Academic Commons, is a faculty member in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program and MA Program in Digital Humanities, and directs the CUNY Humanities Alliance. He serves on the editorial collective of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, and has contributed essays to Matthew K. Gold’s Debates in the Digital Humanities and, with Thomas Harbison, to Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki’s Writing History in the Digital Age.

Flipped Classroom Approach to Teaching | May 11, 2022

In this panel I will discuss my use of the flipped classroom in large and small general chemistry classes with a particular emphasis on how we aim to create a safe learning space that infuses video-based lectures with student centered in-class activities. In addition I will discuss modifications to the model for fully online instruction and the importance of bringing humanity in addition to content expertise into the classroom.

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Guest presenter:
Donna McGregor, Assistant Professor, Analytical Inorganic Chemistry (CHEM, Lehman College)

Donna McGregor is an analytically trained inorganic chemist who earned her PhD., in Analytical Chemistry from The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her PhD thesis focused specifically on understanding the speciation and oxidation state stabilization of technetium-99 (Tc-99) using polyoxometalates as metal oxide mimics. Her primary research interests today are in the fields of Chemical Education Pedagogy, the continued understanding of Tc-99 coordination chemistry and the use of short peptide building blocks for the intelligent design of more complex metal-chelating systems and nanostructures with proton transfer capabilities. Donna started her academic career at Hunter College in 2009 and in 2015 moved to Lehman College to help build their chemistry program.
Donna is an expert in chemical pedagogy and her research in this area is specifically focused on the use of active learning to increase retention and close the pervasive achievement gap in General Chemistry. While faculty at Hunter Donna was awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Mentoring in the Sciences Award on two different occasions, the Faculty Innovations in Teaching with Technology Award, the Witten Award for Excellence in Teaching and was appointed as a Faculty Fellow for the Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching. Upon moving to Lehman Donna and her colleague Pamela Mills won the national Gates funded Online Learning Consortium Digital Learning Innovation Award for advancing undergraduate student success in General Chemistry courses through the adoption of digital learning courseware. Donna was a member of the 21st Century CUNY Steering Committee to develop the CUNY Strategic Framework and currently serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Andrew W Mellon sponsored CUNY Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH) initiative.
Donna has recruited and trained upwards of 20 students (undergraduate and graduate) in her academic career, is co-PI of the Lehman College RISE program and PI of the IDMinNYC Materials Science NSF REU program with City College and the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center.

Humanizing the Classroom | May 18, 2022

In forwarding Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (CSP), scholar-educators like Django Paris, Valerie Kinloch, and Tim San Pedro have referred to education as a humanizing project. Inspired by this vision of education, this discussion centers on the possibilities and immediate practices that teachers and instructors can uptake to humanize their classroom. Specifically, our time will explore how this project of humanization is not only central in our culturally and linguistically rich teaching context, but unveils powerful implications for how we may reimagine teaching and assignment development.

Recorded presentation

Guest presenter:

Sara P. Alvarez, PhD. (ENGL, Queens College)
Sara P Alvarez is Assistant Professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York (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. Sara’s publications have appeared in the journals Equity and Excellence in Education, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and Literacy in Composition Studies among others.