Turning the Pages to New Understandings: College-Bound Immigrants Share Their Art Book Journals at the Brooklyn Museum

Published: October 27, 2021

Turning the Pages to New Understandings: College-Bound Immigrants Share Their Art Book Journals at the Brooklyn Museum

October 2021 (Bayside, NY) English-language students from the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) at Queensborough Community College will present their art book journals at the Brooklyn Museum on November 6 from 2-4pm in the Museum Pavilion. Their work is based on the Museum's exhibit, Climate in Crisis: Environmental Change in the Indigenous Americas, currently on view through July 3, 2022.

Over six weeks 23 college-bound immigrant students, whose first languages including Spanish, Mandarin, Urdu, or Arabic, discussed works of art related to climate change, inspired by the Climate in Crisis exhibition.

CLIP students produced altered books--recycled books that incorporate the participants' artistic expression while further developing their English skills. The altered books are filled with collages, paintings, inserted photos, and writings that include expressions of their own journeys.

Ms. Caryn T. Davis, a CLIP instructor at Queensborough Community College since the summer of 2021, was an arts educator in NYC (New York City) for many years and then began working with ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

She said, “Art is a powerful tool for developing language speaking skills and relating one's own experiences.”

In 2010, Davis was awarded the New York Times ESL Teacher of the Year Award. She has also received recognition from The NYC Literacy Assistance Center. She received a City Artist Corps grant to partner with Brooklyn Museum for this project.

Mohamad Mazyar Nikoui-Tehrani, Ed.D., or Maz as he is known, began this semester at Queensborough as Director of CLIP. He has his own story that eventually led him here to Queensborough. “I am the proud son of immigrant parents who came to Queens from Iran as international students and stayed because of the Iranian Revolution which began in 1979.”

Maz was born in Queens in 1984 and raised in Queens until he was 13 and then his parents returned with him to Iran. “I couldn't speak a word of Farsi. This was the beginning of my own language learning journey and experiencing how immigrants feel at the age of 13!”

Maz's journey too has taken twists and turns. After Maz received his master's degree in Iran he continued to teach English there and in Dubai. He returned to Flushing, Queens in 2011.

“Being an English teacher, I decided to come to Queensborough Community College's Basic Education Department and hand in my resume.” About two weeks later he received a call from the Chair of the department and started teaching in 2012 as an adjunct. A few years later, Maz was accepted to the doctorate program in Education, Culture and Society at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He then relocated to Paramus.

“Rutgers helped me develop a larger philosophy: ‘What needs to happen in the classroom for immigrant students?'”

In 2021, Maz defended his dissertation on how to “Develop Professional Learning Communities to Foster and Retain International Students on American College Campuses”. Maz's journey came full circle when he applied for the CLIP position at Queensborough.

“I am extremely excited to be in this role. I envision a program where I can foster literacy needs and help students obtain the language skills needed so they can access higher education.”

He continued, “The core of education is to teach students to voice their opinions. Immigrants, like my parents and my students, have great thoughts but if they do not have the language skills to express those thoughts, they hold back. There is so much more to do to reach them in a lasting way that will enhance the quality of their careers, their education and their lives.”

“We are motivating students to move beyond the lagging pandemic,” said Davis. “They are collaborating with each other in English and creating these book journals. They are excited to present at such a prestigious museum in New York.”

“Students will have an artifact of a story within a story,” said Maz. “I am so glad to be part of this project.”

All visitors to the Brooklyn Museum 12 and older must show proof of vaccination and a valid I.D. Masks are required regardless of vaccination status.

This class partnership project, led by Caryn T. Davis, has been generously funded by a City Artist Corps Grant. Art supplies provided by Materials for the Arts. Books and additional materials donated by the Austin Book Shop and Susan Grabel.






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