A Collaborative Approach: Graduate Students Explore Community College Teaching Careers 

Male student stands on steps and railing near college building

Caleb Beidelman, Mellon Fellow in Humanities Teaching at Community Colleges

A select group of graduate students has been getting a first-hand look at what it’s like to teach at the community college level, thanks to a graduate course sponsored and conducted by the Cleveland Humanities Collaborative (CHC). The CHC represents a partnership between Case Western Reserve University and Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) to foster interactions among undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty across the institutions, and to provide a pathway for exceptional community college graduates to matriculate at CWRU. The partnership has been generously supported since 2015 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Six students pursuing master’s degrees in history, English, art history, theater and anthropology enrolled last fall in the course, Humanities 422, taught by Kimberly Emmons, Oviatt Professor of English and director of composition at Case Western Reserve. Two faculty from Tri-C collaborated with Emmons on the planning, execution and other aspects of the course: Christine Wolken, associate professor of art history at Tri-C’s Western Campus; and Derrick Williams, associate professor of communication studies at Tri-C’s Metropolitan Campus. 

As a result of the collaboration, three students are spending the spring semester as Mellon Fellows in Humanities Teaching at Community Colleges. The 2020 Mellon Fellows are Caleb Beidelman (theater), Kylie Fisher (art history) and Maureen Floriano (anthropology). They will spend the semester shadowing and collaborating with Tri-C faculty mentors, including Professors Frederick Perry (theatre arts), Emily Weglian (anthropology) and Christine Wolken (art history).

According to Emmons, the course is a response to several challenges in the humanities globally and locally: an academic job market that continues to decline, the need to give graduate students opportunities to explore teaching careers beyond the four-year institution, and the desire to give graduate students opportunities to reflect on the needs of diverse populations of students.

“Community colleges are one location where humanities enrollments are not in steep decline,” said Emmons. While the course does respond to a pragmatic issue (there may be more humanities jobs at access-oriented institutions than at four-year institutions), it also addresses important areas of collaboration and inquiry. For example: Why are community college students choosing the humanities? And how might those insights help four-year institutions think about the role of the humanities?

Beidelman signed up for the humanities course to learn more about teaching opportunities at community colleges. What he learned inspired him on many levels.

“I knew I wanted to teach and I had heard about the community college system but I didn’t have the facts. People didn’t look upon it as favorably as teaching at a four-year college. But with zero teaching experience, I was hoping for some help,” he said.

“I soon learned that community colleges go about education in a very inspiring way. For many, the mission is to provide open access education for everyone, no matter one’s age, race, sexual orientation or social status. I’m drawn to that approach of providing the most amount of education to the [highest] number of people.”

For more information on the Cleveland Humanities Collaborative, visit https://chc.case.edu/about-the-chc/.