In 2019 the Cornell English Department launched a partnership between current graduate students and faculty at two local community colleges, Tompkins-Cortland Community College and Onondaga Community College. Both serve rural populations. Nearly half of all low-income, underrepresented minority undergraduate students are enrolled in community colleges. The goal is for PhD students in the humanities to learn about the pleasures and challenges of teaching at community colleges. In the fall of 2019, we sent out a call for interested graduate students and selected four from the group for the academic year.
The Cornell students and the community college partners built a shared collection of resources about pedagogy and community college populations, held a rich and productive series of discussions about assessment, and talked specifically about the ways that most models of grading serve elite groups. They shared readings that helped them to consider alternatives to standard assessment practices in higher education, which helped our current PhDs to think in fine-grained ways about the specificities of community college teaching, including student needs, curricula, and pedagogical challenges. This collaboration will continue next year.