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

GENERATIVITY IN THE (NEIGHBOR)HOOD

We do different things with the bad things that happen to us than we do with the good things that happen. The good things go unnoticed after a while. The bad things we tuck away down inside ourselves somewhere and imagine that they too disappear from any continuing effect. Unfortunately, this is not the case for our negative experiences. Even though they might remain out of mind for the most part, they are quite active inside, causing ongoing and unrelenting stress. The energy required to keep negative memories out of conscious thought takes a huge toll on our psychological, physical, social, and behavioral health. I conduct research on a narrative intervention that leads people back to certain negative memories in order to work through and resolve them. This sort of narrative work has proven over and over again to improve people’s psychological, physical, social, and behavioral health.

The intervention I conduct is called Lifewriting.  It is a specialized method for writing through the life-story focusing on negative and unresolved attachment experiences – experiences that occurred within the emotional relationship between children and their parents during early childhood or between husband and wife or romantic partners during adulthood.  Lifewriting is a form of integrative reminiscence, a form of life review in which memories are recalled for the express purpose of examining, appraising, and coming to terms with the past.

In regards to psychological health, integrative reminiscence is associated with reduced levels of depression, perceived stress, reduced use of psychological and physical health services, and improved interpersonal relationships. In terms of physical health, it is associated with reduced symptoms of asthma, arthritis, hypertension, cholesterol, t-cell counts, and hepatitis. In terms of behavioral health, it is associated with reduced alcohol use and reduced smoking. Students who complete integrative reminiscence processes are hired more readily for jobs, earn better grades, and attend class more consistently.
My particular interest is in the effect of Lifewriting on social health, and particularly on something we call generativity, the unlimited and creative ways individuals demonstrate care and concern for society’s continued well-being in the domains of family, work, and community, thus sustaining the general society and the next generation. I’m curious about the new, creative, and resourceful ways individuals begin to improve their families, their communities, and society. This is why I’m so excited for you to meet Tim.

Tim participated in a Lifewriting intervention study in the summer of 2014. He engaged the work fully, working through some very challenging memories. Tim grew up in the city and had never gardened before this beautiful creation you see in the photograph. Hard to believe isn’t it? He started with one plot. That plot quickly grew too small for the proliferous plants you see here, so he started another one. He shared his fresh vegetables with neighbors and extended family and friends (including me).   You would have to hear him tell you how much pleasure he derived from growing and sharing food to gain the full impact of what is for him a new and creative and resourceful form of generativity. Thanks, Tim, for the collard greens and squash and peppers and kale…

Myra Sabir, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Human Development
College of Community & Public Affairs