With the rest of the university, we're back in person for the 2021-2022 school year.  Masks are required for everyone in our buildings (as they likely our in yours), but we are determined to negotiate a way to continue to offer you some nice pastries and coffee before and during our morning seminars!

This year, even more departments across the College have joined us, but English continues to lead in offerings. Kris Over's seminar on Allowing Race in the Classroom has been so successful she's reprised it one more time (the Series leads off with it), but several professors from Sociology, from World Languages, and from the Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs are also offering seminars addressing the race discussions we need to bring to our classrooms (or at least account for in our classrooms) today. Our senior Shakespearean, Bradley Greenburg, will offer a seminar on bringing "Twelfth Night" to the high school English classroom, while our former Chair Tim Libretti returns again this year with three fascinating seminars: one on being brave about saying "Marx" in the classroom, another about "cruelty" in canonical texts such as "Huckleberry Finn" and the normalizing of this concept in dominant American institutions, and finally a seminar on the tension between "telling the good story" and telling the truth about diversity in our English curricula. Ryan Poll returns with two seminars this season, on theories of Non-Violence, and another on Disability Studies, and how "beauty is a verb."

Register Online

 For more information, please contact the Coordinator of the series, Tim Scherman at t-scherman@neiu.edu or our Office Administrator Hilary Jirka at h-jirka2@neiu.edu. You can also contact cape@neiu.edu for more information.

Tim Scherman
English Department Chair

Individual Tuition

$110 per seminar

Group Tuition

For departments, schools, or districts: If you would like to register for a total of five or more seats for various seminars, you will receive a discounted price. $100 each for 5-9 seats; $90 each for 10-19 seats; $75 each for 20 or more seats.

Register Now

2020-21 Seminar Offerings

Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon (rescheduled time!)

Allowing Race in the Classroom (500)

Race is real, and on the forefront of the American mind in sharply contested ways. We like to say that it doesn’t exist because there is no biological fact of race. But beliefs as well and social structures make it real by continuing to map race onto certain bodies in ways that perpetuate inequality. This is particularly true in our classrooms, where students of color spend disproportionate amounts of energy dealing with material racism and microaggressions, while white students, who generally do not experience racism, are less familiar and less comfortable with its material reality (Helling). In this seminar we will focus on ways to allow the facts of race and racialized inequality into the classroom so that everyone can be acknowledged in the fullness of their being. With the help of contemporary writers, teachers, and thinkers, we will deliberately put issues of race and inequality on the table and practice ways to reflect and keep participating in the conversation.

Kristen Over, English Department

Friday, oct. 2, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: New Perspectives on Old Debates (501)

This seminar will focus on a phenomenon that bound together four continents, brutally affected millions of lives, and ultimately created pathways of globalization. The trans-Atlantic slave trade has been studied intensively for decades, but new perspectives—and perhaps more important, new sources of information—have led scholars to question much of what we thought we knew. From the numbers of the enslaved, to the patterns of trade, to the large scale of African resistance, recent research has changed much of what we thought we knew. We will examine what the trade meant for Europe, Africa, and the Americas, how it came about, operated, and finally ended. It will also touch briefly on slave systems in the Americas, and the effects of the slave trade around the Atlantic.

Michael Tuck, History Department

now closed
Friday, oct. 9, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Wood Shop Safety and Scrap Wood Sculpture Workshop (502)

This workshop will introduce students to wood shop safety rules and basic wood fabrication techniques. Students will be able to build a self-designed scrap wood sculpture using hand tools, power equipment, and by following wood shop safe working processes. This workshop will include band saw, spindle sander, and drum sander safety and operation skills, as well as wood selection and fabrication techniques. Scrap wood, wood glue, sandpaper, and hand/power tools will be provided.

Shencheng Xu, Art Department

Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Teaching Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (503)

I have for several years been imploring high school teachers to add Twelfth Night to their repertory. There are a number of reasons for this: the play’s brilliant exploration of love (not taken for granted but as a painful and confusing process); a deep inquiry into gender and its convoluted social production; the surprising intersection between mourning and love; and the way identity is constituted by the judgment and authority of others. Do these sound like issues your students struggle with in their lives? This seminar will focus on the play itself (plot, characters, issues, complexities) as well as approaches to, and techniques for, teaching

Bradley Greenburg, English Department

Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

“Oh No, You Didn’t:” Teaching Conflict Resolution and Cooperative Strategies (504)

The world is a stressful place, and our schools reflect many social conflicts experienced in neighborhoods and the greater society. As teachers, we are faced with situations of potential conflict with students and/or colleagues. Increasingly, students also need to be exposed to positive role models of conflict management within the school system. How to effectively resolve situations for “win-win” outcomes is critical to understand. In addition to working with students to address areas of disagreement with student peers, your role can also be to create “teachable moments” for students to develop their own skills in effective conflict management. The purpose of this workshop will be to review different conflict management principles, have group discussions on topical concerns in the classroom/workplace, and actively engage in effective conflict management strategies through the use of group exercises (e.g., role-playing exercises). Furthermore, classroom activities (i.e., jigsaw classroom) that foster an inclusive and compassionate classroom will be shared. The learning outcomes from these training steps will then be discussed regarding proactive conflict management models for both students in the classroom and colleagues in the workplace. Finally, resources will be shared regarding ways to teach students about positive conflict management techniques in the classroom and beyond.

Lisa Hollis-Sawyer and Amanda Dykema-Engblade, Psychology Department
l-hollissawyer@neiu.edu and a-dykema-engblade@neiu.edu

Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

The Elastic President: Presidential Power Under and Above the Constitution (505)

This course will discuss how the presidency has changed over time and how the modern presidency differs from the presidency prior to the modern era. We will examine the growth of presidential power in the modern age including wartime powers and expanded use of executive orders. Specific examples will be drawn from the Trump presidency, looking at Trump’s use of emergency proclamations and executive orders as well as his unusual uses of rhetoric and social media.

William Adler, Political Science Department

Friday, nov. 6, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Gender in the Classroom: Affirming and Inclusive Teaching Practices (506)

Transgender and gender variant students experience hostile school environments including physical harassment, verbal harassment, and physical assault. In fact, 83.7% of transgender students and 69.9% of gender variant students experience bulling and harassment at school. However, students at schools that have LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and policies are less likely to feel unsafe at school and less likely to miss school (GLSEN 2017 National School Climate Survey). This seminar focuses on gender in the classroom with special attention paid to transgender and gender diverse students. The seminar includes an overview of gender and gender diversity including challenges for both students and educators. Guidelines for creating inclusive and affirming classrooms and hands-on application of learned content.

Brooke Johnson, Sociology Department and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Understanding Linguistic Discrimination in the Classroom (507)

Language is an often unrecognized factor in discrimination, particularly for people who speak minoritized linguistic varieties. Through schooling, we internalize pedagogies that emphasize the idealization of native English speakers and the standard language: standard U.S. English is promoted as the proper/correct way of speaking English, and schoolchildren who speak minoritized dialects and languages are admonished for their way of speaking. In this seminar, we will delve into how linguistic discrimination affects everyone. You will learn that varieties of English differ in terms of the social values we assign to them, but there is no correlation between a minoritized variety (e.g. African American Language, Chicano English) and the intelligence of a speaker. Our goals are to show you how a learning environment that promotes the appreciation of language diversity can improve communication and learning for students. Teachers will learn how to curate classroom spaces inclusive of all people and all voices by identifying how the standard language ideology is reflected in their syllabi, lectures, and grading policies.

Ariana Bancu, Linguistics Department, av-bancu@neiu.edu
Rachel Weissler, Linguistics, University of Michigan

Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Stereotypes in the Classroom (508)

Students and teachers face various expectations in the classroom, and both are subjected to a range of stereotypes. The worst of these stereotypes can disrupt long-term learning, agency, and an individual’s ability to view the classroom as a space where they belong and can grow. In this workshop, we will discuss some recent work from philosophy and social psychology on stereotypes, their effects on us, and how they can do damage in a classroom. This workshop will give you the opportunity to reflect on self and group identities, share your own experiences around stereotyping, and learn how harmful stereotypes can be resisted on both small and large scales in education.

Stacey Goguen, Philosophy Department 

Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Challenging Racism Within and Beyond the High School Classroom (509)

Employing a social justice lens, this seminar is designed to help high school teachers develop critical and analytical tools important for understanding the ways in which educational practices perpetuate various forms and manifestations of racism, and to develop agency to challenge these harmful practices. Specifically, this seminar will explore concepts and theoretical frameworks such as racial microaggressions, colorblind racism, white fragility, deficit thinking/assimilationism, intersectionality, and much more! Educational resources to promote healthier (anti-racist) classrooms, schools, and other institutions in which participants are part of will be provided.

Olivia Perlow, Sociology Department 

Friday, dec. 11, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon

Is it time to talk about Marxism yet? How a basic understanding of what Marx actually thought about can help us teach social and literary analysis (510)

I often hear people decry that “capitalism sucks” or express a deep fear of “socialism.” Typically, I find that neither voice in this discussion really understands what capitalism and socialism are exactly, what their central features, dynamics and operations are, or why they suck or deserve to be feared. People rail against corporate power or inequality without understanding the systemic underpinnings. This seminar will provide a basic but hopefully meaty entry into Marx, focusing primarily on his concept of alienation and on his understanding of the central contradiction informing class societies throughout history, exploring finally at how he imagined in some concrete detail the alternative to class society. Marx saw people suffering a deep sickness he called “alienation,” and he undertook a career-long study of its systemic causation. He came to understand this sickness to be a symptom of class society and its dehumanizing operations. This seminar will explore this analytical tale Marx tells of human history. This will not be an ideologically driven seminar but a presentation of some of Marx’s important concepts and thinking. We can assess together their utility and relevance for analyzing culture and society, so feel free to bring your curiosity, your skepticism, even your disdain for Marx—as long as you bring a willingness to listen, engage, and reflect.

Tim Libretti, English Department 

Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Coloniality in the Classroom: Using Decolonial Perspectives to Enrich Engagement with U.S. Latina/o/x and Latin American History and Culture (511)

Decolonial theory, which challenges Eurocentric perspectives on world history in order to understand how the colonization of the Western Hemisphere shapes contemporary social structures, is one of the most influential schools of thought in contemporary Latin American and Latino studies. By engaging with this type of theory, we can enrich and expand U.S.-centered curricula by re-centering the role of colonization in the history of Latino and Latin American experiences. In this seminar we will examine some key concepts from decolonial thought, such as border thinking and modernity/coloniality, developed by thinkers such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Aníbal Quijano and Walter Mignolo. We will explore how decolonial theory can be practically connected to the study of subjects such as U.S. and World History, English, and Social Studies.

Brandon Bisbey, Latina/o and Latin American Studies Program


Friday, jan. 15, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Democracy in the Age of Popular Discontent (512)

Democracy is one of the most popular regimes in the world. Since the start of the new millennium the number of democracies has surpassed the number of autocracies. Also, as a proportion of the world’s population over fifty percent lives in a democracy. Democracies are successful in accumulating wealth for their citizens, as eight out of ten of the wealthiest states, measured by per capita GDP (purchasing power parity based), are democracies. Despite their popularity as a regime, and positive output, modern democracies face many challenges from within. In this seminar we will discuss the following questions. What is a democratic state? How do you distinguish democracy from simple majority rule? How can we classify different states as more or less democratic? What is the difference between input and output democracy? And lastly, what are the challenges for democracy in the age of popular discontent?

Martyn de Bruyn, Political Science Department


Friday, jan. 22, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Teaching Theories of Non-Violence in the High School Classroom (513)

This seminar, geared towards high school teachers, thinks about how theories of non-violence can be used as a paradigm to read and think about modern politics, literature, and film. This seminar will explore the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., in conjunction with considering contemporary theories of non-violence, including the work of Gene Sharp, Judith Butler, and the Combahee River Collective.

Ryan Poll, English Department

Friday, jan. 29, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Becoming an AntiRacist Educator: Understanding the Social Construction of Difference and Access in Public Education (514)

In my teaching, I have found many individuals do not have an understanding of the journey in achieving a quality and unbiased education due to one's race, class, culture, ability, sexuality, or religious affiliation. This seminar explores the history of education for marginalized and disenfranchised groups to provide context in clarity regarding present day problems in education and access. In this seminar, participants will discuss, explore and devise more inclusive and equitable ways of reaching out to marginalized students and families. Participants will begin to explore and understand the need for a social justice approach in classroom climate and curriculum content through practical approaches. Our particular goals here are three: 1) to provide participants with historical reference of the lack of equity and inclusion in public education from past to present; 2) to develop an understanding of the education journey for marginalized and disenfranchised populations in pursuing quality schooling; and 3) to assist participants in employing a social justice framework toward teaching and learning in the classroom and curriculum content.

Durene Wheeler, Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs

Friday, feb. 5, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Problem-Solving “Spanglish” in the Classroom (515)

Spanglish is everywhere. Varying forms creep into the classroom in all modes of both formal and informal communication. It isn’t normative, it varies from one speech community to another, yet it persists. Heritage learners often feel self-conscious about the way that they speak and are reticent to speak up in class. How do we encourage fluency and participation of ideas with more standardized forms of expression? In this seminar we will explore how language and identity are inextricably linked and delve into constructive ways to celebrate our different identities while demonstrating appropriate avenues for different forms of communication.

Denise Cloonan Cortez de Andersen, Department of World Languages and Cultures

Friday, feb. 19, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Beauty is a Verb: Teaching Disability Studies in the High School Classroom (516)

This seminar prepares high school teachers with various concepts and strategies for bringing disability studies into the high-school classroom. Disability studies is one of the most important paradigms for making visible and critiquing “normal bodies,” normative narratives, and the prevalence of ableism marking all spheres of culture. More importantly, disability studies opens our social imagination to the myriad forms of beauty and more socially-just forms of ethics and politics. Together, we will look at a range of literary and cultural texts that help introduce disability studies to a wide audience.

Ryan Poll, English Department 

Friday, feb. 26, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

We the People Remixed: Teaching the U.S. Constitution with poems, manifestos, and music (517)

A great advantage of the United States Constitution is that it is a written document elaborated through amendments and court cases. This advantage, however, is sometimes an impediment to understanding the Constitution as a historical and culturally vital political framework. In this seminar, we explore the experiences of a living constitution via non-legalistic forms of expression. How does the goal of forming a more perfect union animate the poetry of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Cherríe Moraga, Maya Angelou, Wang Ping and others? What kind of writing, politically, is a “declaration?” After 1776, we find the form of the manifesto in statements ranging from the Declaration of Sentiments at the Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls (1848) through today’s 7-Point Mission of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. How do these statements guide action and create collectives? And how do hymns, folk music and rap music constitute us as a people? Each of these sources will be related to specific language in case law and the Constitution. This seminar will enliven our understanding of constitutionalism, and suggest teaching strategies to take back to our classrooms.

Sophia Mihic, Political Science and Philosophy

Friday, mar. 5, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

From Drama to Melodrama: Latin American and U.S. Latinx Television in the Classroom (518)

Many students watch tons of TV. Daily. In fact, they go beyond watching. They binge-watch. These shows speak to them and often shape their worldviews in profound ways that can rival or eclipse the values we hope to instill the classroom. As educators, we should not only be aware of the influence of television, we should actively engage with student consumption of it in order to promote critical thinking and content mastery. This seminar explores ways to welcome U.S. Latinx TV shows and telenovelas from Latin America into the classroom in order to analyze narrative strategies and discuss content related to contemporary social issues in an age-appropriate manner. In particular, we will consider different ways of using this type of cultural production to engage with students about questions of identity, including gender, sexuality, race, social class and religion. Educators teaching advanced levels of Spanish and/or AP courses, as well as Social Studies or History, are encouraged to participate in this seminar. Taught in English.

Dr. Catalina Rincon-Bisbey, World Languages/Cultures

Friday, mar. 12, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Work, Money, and Shopping: Teaching the Global History of Capitalism (519)

As Branko Milanovic, former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund, recently wrote, “Capitalism rules the world. With only the most minor exceptions, the entire globe now organizes economic production the same way.” This fact is unprecedented in world history. The concept “capitalism” is at once global and abstract, and quite relevant to our everyday lives. Since capitalism shapes how we work, the money we have, and the way we buy goods, understanding capitalism is essential for students and citizens. This seminar will examine capitalism’s history since the word first was used widely in the mid-nineteenth century through crises in 2008 and 2020. We will address the changing nature of work and shopping, as well as the world financial system and its impact on our household economies. Since capitalism is very much a global phenomenon, we will consider Russia’s engagement with capitalism as a case study. Russia rejected capitalism entirely after 1917, then embraced capitalism again after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The seminar will be of use to those who seek to integrate recent and urgent economic issues into their U.S., European, and World History courses.

Charles Steinwedel, History Department Chair

Friday, mar. 26, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Teaching Food History (520)

Food is a popular topic. We live in a world of “foodies,” celebrity chefs, and non-stop Food Network programming. Scholars have similarly turned their attention to food. Their studies demonstrate how food has been a historical actor throughout history, one capable of driving large-scale changes. Take sugar, for instance. Had sugarcane not been brought from Southeast Asia across the Mediterranean and eventually into the Americas, would the massive migrations of enslaved Africans have occurred? Had sugar not become such an affordable commodity would our modern-day societies be plagued with so much illness? This seminar explores ways of integrating scholarly approaches to food into the curriculum.Topics will include: why we eat what we eat; food and conquest; famine; food politics; food and gender; the environmental impact of food; and “crop sociology,” the cultivation and processing of a plant and the impact that these have on labor. Our approach will be interdisciplinary and global in scope. At the same time, we will also discuss the problems with today’s industrialized food system and ways of presenting this material to students.

Christina Bueno, History Department

Friday, April 2, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Canonizing Cruelty: How the American Literary Tradition Helps Make Cruelty a Cultural “Classic” (521)

We live in a nation that practices the caging of human beings, while we also hope to welcome the tired, hungry, and poor. We live in a nation characterized by gross inequality and thus severe suffering and disparities in power, while we insist our commitments to democracy and equality make us an exceptional nation. We can call this hypocrisy and have done with it, but this seminar seeks to take us further as students of U.S. literature, culture, history, and politics, by exploring the ways the U.S. literary canon and the attendant body of literary criticism that elevates works to canonical status participate not just in endorsing violence and cruelty but “selling” it to us as, or confusing it for, freedom, democracy, and equality. Looking at critical reception of Huck Finn, for example, one routinely sees the novel elevated as a classic anti-slavery novel narrating the moral quest for freedom, when in fact the novel is a relentless representation of the way American cruelty unforgivingly denies freedom and equality. This critical confusion forwards what I’ll suggest is a dominant cultural vision that manages to figure cruelty as in fact realizations of freedom, democracy, and the American way. In the seminar we will look at range of examples from criticism and literature, and my hope is that we have a wide-ranging discussion interrogating commonly taught works from the canon and thinking about the role our textual “choices” in teaching play in transmitting values and influencing actions. The aim is in part to think about ways to make U.S. literature of any era come alive by connecting it to the practices, values, and policies animating contemporary U.S. culture.

Tim Libretti, English Department

Friday, April 9, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

Teaching Immigrants in the Classroom (522)

Being a teenager is hard. Being an immigrant teenager trying to navigate the challenges of a new language and a new culture is exponentially harder. As teachers, we play a significant role in our students' lives. How can we help our immigrant students shape their new identities while setting them up for academic success? In this seminar, I will draw on research as well as my own immigrant experience to outline the challenges of being an immigrant in the mainstream classroom with little ESL support. Focusing on language barriers and a shift in identity, this seminar will discuss how these challenges are directly related to academic performance and success in a second language environment. Finally, we will propose solutions through the use of scaffolding, plain language, as well as appropriate assignments and feedback.

Viktoria Nagy, School for the Advancement of English Language and Learning (SAELL)

Friday, april 16, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

What’s With the X? (523)

Identity is a big component of all our lives. However, sometimes language itself can be a barrier to expressing and representing our identities. Latina/o/x communities have struggled to express their identities over time in the face of many obstacles, among them language and gender. This seminar explores the history of the terms Hispanic, Latina/o and Latinx through the analysis of representative cultural products from Latinx communities such as TV shows, music and comedy. Our goal is to better understand the experiences and struggles of our Latina/o/x students and to learn new ways of facilitating discussions of their identities in the classroom in a respectful and inclusive manner. Taught in English.

Dr. Catalina Rincon-Bisbey, World Languages/Cultures

Friday, april 23, 2021, 9 a.m.-noon

The Search for the “Good” Story: Making “Other” Lives Matter (524)

As teachers of literature, we are asked to expose students to the “great” works of literary and cultural history while also facing increasing pressures and a sense of responsibility to “diversify” the works we teach and create a more inclusive curriculum. From what I hear from teachers, a tension often exists between these two charges, as if there is a canon of great works and then a body of works whose function is primarily to serve the purpose of making the curriculum more representative of our population. This tension may, at times, manifest itself only implicitly, or with varying degrees of explicitness, in curricular discussions. This seminar aims to confront this tension and provide a forum for discussing ways to alleviate it by interrogating aesthetic value systems themselves. What criteria have been used to elevate literary works to canonical status? We will explore ways in our discussion that these sets of criteria themselves work to exclude works by women writers, writers of color, working-class writers, and gay and lesbian writers; and by extension we will explore ways the development of aesthetic criteria play a role in larger socio-cultural processes that devalue the lives of particular constituencies in our nation, that make other lives matter less. We will explore ways we might need to re-conceptualize aesthetic values in culturally-specific ways to create a brave space for working through the teaching challenges we face.

Tim Libretti, English Department