My Information

Presently on the Faculty of the Women's Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. For the Spring 2012 semester I am teaching the following course:

I am a scholar of the Caribbean, a region which is among the more important and underdocumented areas for the study of women's empowerment because of its long tradition of electoral democracy. My field of inquiry aims to:

  1. Contribute centrally to the debates within feminism and development studies.
  2. Offer an alternative model for the process of development implementation which places women as center. This is as opposed to existing models of development defined in terms of modernization.
  3. Doing feminist social research.

The Promise of a Proactive Perspective to Advising

Undoubtedly, one effective strategy for improving student retention is to offer purposeful advising to students. I strongly believe that effective advising relies on some of the same skills as effective teaching. As faculty advisor, I find that I have a more accurate sense of students' intellectual capabilities and higher expectations for their performance. I can offer guidance on selecting courses and majors as well as help students explore career choices and opportunities. I am also very partial to advising and mentoring first year and undeclared students. That personal contact is so crucial. We need to understand that patience is a key element here since their moods can range from over self-confidence to self-doubt about their chances of succeeding in college.

My commitment to advising students is to pay attention to the many dynamics of their lives, their environment, their world view, and to create a context that offers "space" and "safety", to listen without being judgmental or accusatory; to be gentle and humane without it being a form of paternalistic coddling that can lead to laissez-faire and accommodation.

I focus on empowerment which embodies a concept of power as energy, capacity, and potential rather than domination or authoritarian. I want to allow students to find their own voices, to discover the power of authenticity. That power arises from the collective self-confidence in a people's capacity to act and effect their fate. I need for students to voice their visions, their hopes, their strengths, so that there is a sense of mutuality in the "advising" process.

The Praxis

If my advising process means moving even a little outside the domain of conventional textual practices and restricted theoretical practices, I am willing to take that chance. The demographics of this university and our classrooms reflect diversity not only in terms of race, gender and class. It reflects many returning (non-traditional) students, mothers (single and with partners), ethnicity, first generation college students.

I am concerned with "voice", with the "word", with "expression". I believe that nothing happens without the influence of "active reason" which cannot be accomplished unless we can "voice" in whatever way possible, our passions, our visions, our realities. What we cannot conceive of is unreal - it does not exist. But naming it, the "word" holds the course of things, changes them, and transforms them. If "word" has power, it has consequences. The force, the responsibility, and commitment of the word, and the awareness that the "word" alters the world....that force is what is "transformative".

The above philosophy is my "thinking the practice". I say to students, "Speak to me," "What's so compelling and exciting about your goals?" I enter into a dialogue, a conversation. I can have a rapport with them but still keep the relationship professional without them being merely the recipients of advice. I must add that there is a place for "intrusive" advising. Some students do need structured intervention strategies - but that rapport must still be established.

A Cautionary Note - for Myself and Others

The above argument and praxis are intended to be neither exhaustive nor prescriptive. Pedagogical moments arise in specific contexts: the social location of my students, the historical and geographic location of the institution, the political climate within which we work, the personalities and personal profiles of the students, all come together in ways that create the specifics of the moment.

I work most successfully with students when I listen with heart and mind, and urge them to give "voice" to their visions and goals and thus "speak themselves into existence" in their pursuit of higher education, in their quest to improve the material conditions of their lives, in their understanding of "giving back" something to their community, and in developing competencies for effective participation in the world.

Courses Taught

University Of Massachusetts:

Mount Holyoke College:

Smith College:

Research Interests