Sonia Adams

In September 2020, the City University of New York announced that it had established a Commission to regenerate its Ethnic Studies programs across its campuses. The Mellon Foundation granted a 10 million dollar grant to CUNY to expand its academic curriculum in ethnic studies. Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and Executive Vice Chancellor José Luis Cruz are currently at work in establishing effective course design methods inclusive of learning objectives, projected outcomes, assessment tools, and curricular standards that center race, equity, and social justice. Academic reform efforts shouldn’t be limited to ethnic studies programs alone. English Studies Departments across the CUNY campuses can also embark on this initiative.

English Studies has the potential to foster social justice intervention through pedagogical and curricular reform. Moreover, it offers possibilities for transforming student learning in the classroom. Contemporary global literature by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) writers can serve as an agent of change within the English classroom.

As an Educator and Curriculum Design Consultant, I have identified critical areas for English Studies practitioners to consider––Diversity, Representation, and Equity:

CUNY represents diverse student populations across its campuses. It’s important for students from diverse backgrounds to see their life experiences reflected in the literature they read as well as the learning activities and writing assignments they embark upon. Even though international writers of color are taught in the academy, they’re often relegated to ethnic studies and comparative literature departments and programs. I’m advocating for contemporary global literature by BIPOC writers to have a stronger presence in the English classroom. I would like to offer pedagogical and curricular approaches for integrating global BIPOC authors and their writings in English Studies.

Pedagogical Approaches

Issues of Diversity, Representation and Equity can be addressed in the classroom by adopting Culturally Sustaining, Learner-Centered, and Social Justice Pedagogies.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP) acknowledges and validates students from diverse racial and ethnic communities. It amplifies students' voices in critiquing and questioning dominant power structures at work in society. CSP also strives to ensure equal access and opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and administrators from underrepresented groups. Below are strategies that align with CSP:

Learner-Centered Pedagogy (LCP) centralizes the learning styles, abilities, and interests of all students.

Social Justice Pedagogy (SJP) fosters awareness of how people, policies, practices, curricula, and institutions may be used to liberate rather than oppress others in society.

Interdisciplinary Framework for Curricular Development

Establishing an interdisciplinary framework for developing a curriculum centered on contemporary global literature by BIPOC authors requires critical thought and great effort. The following are guiding principles for establishing an interdisciplinary framework:

This is a crucial moment in time for English Studies departments across the CUNY schools to establish a trajectory of social justice for all students to follow with the hope that they can become change agents in the ongoing fight for democracy. English Studies practitioners can transgress barriers of social injustice by introducing students to contemporary global literature by BIPOC writers. This isn’t a mere possibility, but a living reality for educational and social justice initiatives to fully emerge.


Sonia Adams is an African American woman of Caribbean ancestry. She is brown-skinned, middle-aged with straight, medium-length black hair. In the photo, Sonia is wearing a blue denim jacket. She is smiling in the photo. The background of the photo is colored sky-blue.

Sonia Adams

Sonia Adams is an educator, writer, curriculum consultant and social justice advocate. Her scholarship centers on Contemporary American Multicultural and Global Literatures, Black Feminism, and Black Indigenous and Multicultural Studies. Ms. Adams’ d...