Visiting Columbia professor to discuss ‘hip-hop education’ at GVSU

GVL / Courtesy -

GVL / Courtesy –

Rachel Matuszewski

At Grand Valley State University, students are working together to build stronger relationships between African-American students and faculty. As part of the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ (OMA) celebration of Black History Month, the Black Student Union (BSU) at GVSU has invited Christopher Emdin, professor of science education at Columbia University, to speak on the education of students of color at GVSU.

Emdin will be speaking at the “hip-hop education” event on Monday, Jan. 29, in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room at 6 p.m. Nicki Maclin, social coordinator of the BSU, anticipates a dinner and meet-and-greet with Emdin, followed by his presentation. 

Maclin said she could not have accomplished planning an event this large without the help of the rest of the executive board and BSU’s advisers, Juanita Davis, assistant director of the OMA, and Bobby Springer, director of the Pathways to College Office. Davis expects Emdin’s presentation to showcase his unique teaching methods.

“He has this hashtag that he’s coined called ‘hip-hop education,’ and it’s reality pedagogy as opposed to a more formal teaching method that has expired in terms of students and urban settings in particular,” she said. 

Davis said part of Emdin’s conversation will relate to the messages advertised in his book “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education.”

“It’s really a book about how (to) be responsible for your own learning and the success of your own learning,” Davis said. “I’m hoping all students walk away with at least one strategy that they can employ to be responsible, to be invested in a different way with their own education.” 

Emdin and Davis understand that today’s learning goes beyond the one-size-fits-all model of the classroom and teaching to the test. Davis hopes students will walk away with a strategy for their own success. 

“We’ve invited students who are currently pursuing education as a major in particular to take advantage of the speaker,” Davis said. “I think our goal is to make sure people feel empowered to take a proactive role in their education.”

Emdin will also be emphasizing practical, simple knowledge and revealing his seven strategies for students and educators to become more effective in their work. 

“He talks about in his numerous interviews and books that kids from different school districts go into (universities), but the people that are teaching them have no idea what reality they are facing outside of the classroom,” Maclin said. “So, I think (it’s) important to speak (up about it) because some of the professors may not be aware of the reality outside of the classroom before students have got to college (or understand) what they were going through. 

“It’s being able to connect with the educator and the student and how we can better that relationship between the two.”

Maclin and Davis hope students learn from Emdin’s teachings and begin to take control of their own educations and relationships. 

“Our hope is that students from underrepresented populations feel like someone is speaking their truth,” Davis said. “(As) for students who don’t identify with part of the underrepresented population or who may be a part of the majority, I’m hoping that you just walk away with an insight as to how someone else feels.” 

Emdin’s lecture, which is LIB 100/201-approved, will kick off Black History Month events at GVSU. For more information, visit