Each year, The Colgate Maroon-News chooses a topic to highlight for a Special Edition. This December, our theme is “People of the Year,” modeled after Time Magazine’s annual “Person of the Year” issue. In this special section, we have profiled sixteen individuals who have had made significant—and perhaps lesser-known—impacts on Colgate’s campus this year, be they in the classroom, at the football field or even on the Cruiser. Inside, read about what defines them as worthy of recognition.
During the first couple weeks of the fall 2018 semester, approximately forty students—two classes’ worth—gathered in the Ho Tung Visualization Lab for an immersive planetarium experience. They weren’t there to learn about the cosmos, though.
Instead, drone footage of North Africa, Russia and China illuminated the ceiling, in addition to virtual tours of mosques and 360° videos of the Hajj, Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The show was the brainchild of Professor Amanda Rogers, who joined Colgate’s faculty last fall as a visiting assistant professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. Since her arrival on campus, the once-tattoo artist has made a name for herself for her outgoing personality and for her alternative pedagogical approaches, such as this one.
Rogers created the VisLab display with the goal of deconstructing stereotypes about the Middle East for students in her CORE 183 (Middle East) courses. After asking students to anonymously submit words they associated with the term “Middle East,” Rogers selected footage that she thought might help students reevaluate what they were trained to understand about the region. One video, for instance, challenged the stereotype that the Middle East is only sand by showing ski slopes in Morocco.
“You have to realize that we’ve been trained to think certain things,” Rogers said. “[The VisLab show] is a great way to shatter what…everybody assumes by virtually taking you there.”
Last year, Rogers similarly used out-of-classroom settings to teach students about the Arab Spring. Her course “Media, Power & Protest” included regular class visits to Colgate’s “war room,” a little- known space in Alumni Hall. There, students spoke via video chat with activists, artists and journalists who participated in the Arab Spring uprisings. Phoning in from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, these individuals shared their experiences during the revolutions with students.
“So often, especially with the Middle East and especially with those revolutions, Americans have the information mediated for them but they never get the chance to actually hear from the people who made those moments happen,” Rogers said.
It was important to Rogers that she decenter herself as the professor by letting her students do the talking during these virtual sessions. Though a United Nations consultant, State Department expert on ISIS media, and fluent speaker of Arabic and French, Rogers stresses that she, like her students, is constantly learning.
“I’m the professor of Middle Eastern studies in the room and I cannot answer every question about the Middle East because it is impossible,” Rogers said. “So why should they feel stupid?”
This emphasis on comfort and openness is why Rogers wears her favorite rapper t-shirts on days when students give class presentations. Clad in an Immortal Technique tee during our interview, Rogers explained that she dresses casually so students feel at ease when they speak aloud.
Of course, presentation days are not the only times when Rogers rocks hip-hop apparel.
“I had a student tell me, ‘At the beginning of the semester I was so afraid of you. You were really scary. I was super intimidated. But then I drove by your house and I saw you taking out the trash in a Wu Tang hoodie, I figured you can’t be that bad,’” she said, laughing.
Experiences like this one are emblematic of the culture shock Rogers felt when she first moved to Hamilton from Atlanta, Georgia. Now more accustomed to the village’s small environment, Rogers spends her free time reading, creating art and practicing Arnis, a Filipino martial art that employs butterfly knives. She even has a black belt in the sport.
“Authenticity matters, so go big or go home,” Rogers said.
She is certainly here to stay.