Dr. Lubna Chaudhry, SUNY Chancellor’s Award Winner for Excellence in Teaching

If I had to pinpoint a single educational experience that became a direct path to where I am today, it would be taking Human Development (HDEV) 400: Social Justice with Dr. Lubna Chaudhry. My first experience with Dr. Chaudhry was in spring of 2011, my first semester at Binghamton University as a junior in the department of Human Development. As a non-traditional transfer student from the local community college, I was enrolled in her senior level course in Social Justice, and worked harder than I have ever worked before. EVER. The materials were challenging on many levels, and the output requirement was like nothing I had ever encountered at the community college. There was a main, theory based text that set the foundation for the supplemental readings we did throughout the semester, and it was through those scholarly works that the theories and policies we learned about were demonstrated in the lived experiences of people. It was the first time in my academic career that I had read these types of narratives of hardship, loss, and eradication of rights of people. She allowed space for reflection, as well. One of our assignments was a developed examination of our social positionality, through which I was able to contextualize myself and my relationships within and because of axes of power structures. It was through this assignment that I began to refine the critical ability to question structures of power from the intersectional perspective of a woman, a parent, and a non-traditional college student. Though the course was large, we had dynamic discussions about the meanings we were making with the presented materials, discussing ways these might impact us as future practitioners. These were both small and large group, and developed through critical questioning and engagement of the reading materials. Her instruction went beyond theory and allowed for active application in the community. Through a group project, I worked with peers on an assignment with a local shelter for battered families. This project was important to the learning process in that it encouraged active engagement with the community to become an advocate for justice, as well as to become more critical of the systems that perpetuate injustice. The depth of learning that was accomplished that semester was transformative, and laid the foundation for the educational track that I am on now.
My second semester with Dr. Chaudhry was the last semester in my graduate program. I was actively searching for PhD programs, and had sent Dr. Chaudhry an email requesting to enroll in her doctoral level seminar in Cultural Competencies and Social Justice. She was happy to register me for the course, and I am very grateful that she did. I had spent the last year and a half in a professional program that had a very specific focus, and Dr. Chaudhry’s course afforded me the opportunity to be more critical of the theories in my professional preparation, contemplating ways they were insufficient and identifying how structures and systems operate to keep people in the margins. This was done in an environment that allowed me to work through the material with her guidance as well as feedback from my peers, along with space for reflection on the material and its applicability to my own work. Unlike the undergraduate course taken with Dr. Chaudhry, this doctoral seminar was intimate, with only seven students. This gave us ample time and space to dig into the readings and discuss their relevance and applicability in our own work. Class sessions were spent actively engaging with each of the assigned readings and relating them to events taking place in society, as well as our own research interests.
Through a semester long project, I was able to explore a new research interest in a supportive environment with appropriate feedback. Dr. Chaudhry was available to me for my seemingly never ending questions, and it was this course experience that helped me visualize my own career trajectory. My experience in Dr. Chaudhry’s course was the deciding factor as to which PhD program I would matriculate into, along with what specific focus my work would take moving forward. The cohort of students that were enrolled in Dr. Chaudhry’s doctoral seminar feel very much the same way, and many of us have continued to seek out Dr. Chaudhry as a source of support and guidance even when not actively registered in a course with her. Simply put, Dr. Chaudhry is always teaching.
I am finishing my third semester with Dr. Chaudhry. I reorganized my initial schedule when it was announced that she would be teaching the qualitative research course in our doctoral program this spring (if you are unfamiliar with Dr. Chaudhry’s research in Swat Valley, Pakistan, you can read a bit about it here; she is a great instructor to learn qualitative research methodologies from). The experience has been intense, and I am a better researcher for it. I have also asked her to work with me as part of my dissertation committee and primary advisor because I know that, through her input and teaching, the learning experience this will be is invaluable to my education and my role as a practitioner.
Dr. Chaudhry has made me a better student, and she has also made me a better teacher. I teach at SUNY Broome, the institution that I came from as an overwhelmed nontraditional college student who was afraid she had bitten off more that she could chew. I now teach courses that reflect on the intersection of race, socioeconomic status, and gender and the myriad of ways these are depicted within the media. Much like Dr. Chaudhry, I begin with presenting theory based information from the main texts, along with supplemental materials that illuminate the lived experience of people. Very similar to Dr. Chaudhry’s teaching style, I present students with the information and then assist in reflection and active engagement. In order to begin to facilitate this, I assign my students a version of a social positionality paper. It is in the moments of reflection and engagement that meaning is made, and for me, Dr. Chaudhry has been essential in this.
Dr. Lubna Chaudhry has been awarded the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She received her letter Monday, right before our scheduled class meeting. In true Dr. Chaudhry fashion, she mentioned it, beamed a little, and immediately went to work, helping us individually and as a class move forward with our research. As she does. I am honored to call Dr. Chaudhry my advisor, my mentor, and my friend.

Stephanie Malmberg
Doctoral Student, College of Community and Public Affairs at Binghamton University

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