During her time here at Rowan University as both an instructor for the Africana Studies department and assistant director at the Office of Career Advancement, Dr. Alicia Monroe can be seen as a beacon for students who are facing uncertainty in their own careers and futures. In her perspective, Dr. Monroe wants to let students know that she understands the trials and tribulations that they might be facing and wants to create a safe space for students to be able to flesh out their own ideas in a safe environment.
In this Faculty #PROFile we learn more of Dr. Monroe’s thinking on her self-created course around Black Lives Matter as well as her own thoughts on academia for students.
For Dr. Monroe, education is a pivotal part of the academic journey. By being able to comprehend and understand the perspectives of others, Dr. Monroe would argue is just as important. The effervescence of this idea inevitably gave foundation to Monroe’s Black Lives Matter course here at Rowan University, where it explores different dimensions of society that is often overlooked due to it being controversial or tucked underneath the carpet. However, the current state of the Black Lives Matter course came through not only the preserving of Dr. Monroe, but also through the request of the student body.
Originally, the course was a part of a coordinating project used to supplement and help students in poor areas. Although many of the different aspects of the project had drastically helped enrich the education of the students involved, Dr. Monroe wanted to give these students opportunities to gain college credits that would help them further along their academic journey.
“[W]e really wanted these students to have opportunities to earn college credits. So, I was asked, ‘Dr. Monroe, you’re the educational guru, you’re the educational wizard, can you develop this course?.’ I already had a lot on my plate but I replied that I would consider it. I was told that I needed the course in two weeks. You don’t develop curriculum in two weeks, especially not a credit-bearing course curriculum. However, I had been doing extensive research on Black Lives Matter, such as the backdrop of Trayvon Martin and all of the unfortunate killings that had increased from there. I noticed that it was finally starting to gain traction and the media attention that it deserved.”
In Dr. Monroe’s perspective, she had wanted this course to not only be be just subjected to the Black Lives Matter cause but for it to apply to aspects that affected a wider population. Although the course may be titled “Black Lives Matter,” Dr. Monroe reassures students that the class affects the entirety and not just a selected group. This can be seen in the various amount of students and their different backgrounds attending each of her classes as they range from white, hispanic, Black and many other minority groups.
The course covers a wide range of different subjects that Dr. Monroe considers important to bring up through class discussion such as climate change, the recent rise of the AAPI (Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate) or even giving more context to cases such as Ahmaud Aubrey’s that wouldn’t be presented on television.
“When there were attacks on the AAPI community, we spoke about that. We don’t only focus on a specific race, we focus on the movement and what it is directed on. We had conversations on climate change. I argue that social media has skewed the overall appearance of the movement but if you look at the content it’s so much bigger. Although the core element is Black and brown lives, it’s so much bigger than that,” she explains.
In Dr. Monroe’s eyes, she looks at the bigger picture, the ability to have conversations with others and ultimately reach an understanding. This premise of respectability and the ability to have these difficult conversations is something that is primarily not taught in classes. For her, she wants to normalize these conversations and allow her students to be able to format their own thoughts and opinions on core events throughout the country.
“When I had offered this idea of the course, I had told the coordinators that the course was going to be focused on the research that I have discovered as well as focus on the constructs of race, class and culture. This is what it was all about, the respect of diverse world views, the respect that everyone has a voice, the respect of what is truly fair and just,” Dr. Monroe says. “We can have that level of conversation and it can develop into a credit bearing course.”
From her exhaustive research on the subject matter, Dr. Monroe was able to successfully undergo teaching the course in the summer semester of 2016. However, it was not green lit to continue for the upcoming fall semester. As a result, the course was shelved for multiple years until students expressed their desire to have a course that catered to their own feelings in 2019. In her recollection of the moment, Dr. Monroe states: “Dr. Chanelle Rose had approached me with the sentiment of her students. Dr. Rose had said, ‘I need a course, students are asking for a course that really reflects some of the contemporary issues that they are grappling with. They need a space to release but also be guided into the right formats of collective action.’ I replied, ‘There is a Black Lives Matter course that I developed two to three years ago.'”
Dr. Monroe’s harbored no hard feelings as to why her course ultimately was placed on the back burner for some time; instead, she saw it as a reflection of the status of the country and University at the time. During this lapse, Dr. Monroe kept up with her research with most current events that were applicable to the Black Lives Matter movement and bided her time; she says she knew eventually that it was going to be needed to further the conversation on injustice for those that didn’t have the ability to use their voice.
It’s with these students that motivated Dr. Monroe to keep upholding her teaching values and instill confidence in students and let them understand their own value and worth. Whether it’s through the classes that she is heading or even students that come to her for advice on their own future, Dr. Monroe places a great amount of emphasis for these students and how they come to mold her own futures through her guidance.
The education process can be seen as an ever moving and fluid system. Each stage of this system makes up an intricate cog of modern day academia. For Dr. Monroe, she’s played a vital role in almost every phase of learning; she states she is a “Pre-K through 20 educator.” Her experience is invaluable information for any student facing their own academic issues. Instead of treating each unit in the process of learning, Dr. Monroe’s motivation in progressing has been fueled by gaining an entire understanding of the developmental process.
“I’ve spent a number of years in pre-k through 12, starting off from the classroom and moving up to every level from department supervisor, assistant principal to a middle school, a principal to a high school as well as becoming an assistant superintendent. I had moved up deliberately because I wanted to identify each role in this whole hierarchy of learning,” she says.
As a result of her dedication to her work and her students, Dr. Monroe has exemplified the characteristics of a model educator. Whether it’s through her own spread of her research and rhetoric or through her own unique framework through the educational process, she’s committed herself to create an effect on her students that goes beyond teaching and guidance.
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Lucas Taylor, Senior English education major
Valentina Giannattasio, first year dance and marketing major