“I had been teaching for twenty-plus years before I came to Guttman, and this framework completely transformed my work, which is really energizing. And Guttman is still quite new! I wanted to be a part of building something, to be there at the beginning, and to help nurture an institution grounded in creative ways to teach and to learn.”
Dr. Daniel Collins earned his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition; he has a Master’s Degree in Public Health. His current focus is composition theory and pedagogy, with a particular emphasis on linguistic justice and Abolitionist teaching. “I am also interested in the relationship between writing and well-being,” says Dr. Collins. “This relationship highlights the meaning-making possibilities of language and writing.”
Presently, Dr. Collins is co-authoring an essay on writing and student well-being with a colleague at SUNY Albany, Dr. Robert Yagelski. He is also writing a book on linguistic justice and pedagogies of joy and love with Dr. Meghan Gilbert-Hickey. Dr. Collins and Dr. Gilbert-Hickey have presented their work on this topic at several conferences this past year.
With the support and expertise of Courtney Stevenson from the Wellness Office, and the consistent funding from the Office of Academic Affairs, Dr. Collins co-founded Memorial Meals. “These meals are simple opportunities to bring students, faculty, and staff together to share a meal, and to support each other as we work through the grieving process,” says Dr. Collins. “It’s not easy talking about death, or grief, and I am always so impressed with the maturity and the courage of our students. Working with Courtney has been so inspiring; she acts with such grace toward our students. Together, we create a communal therapeutic space.”
Guttman’s dedication to student support and student success is what brought Dr. Collins to the college in 2015. He was particularly impressed by Guttman’s emphasis on learning communities and integrative and experiential learning. The use of instructional teams to support students and faculty, as well as the inclusion of Student Success Advocates (SSA) on the instructional team, further underscored the student-centric approach of Guttman. The important work that the Office of Student Engagement does to support students is one more reason Dr. Collins was eager to join Guttman.
A few years ago, with Dr. Rebecca Walker as well as other members of the instructional team, Dr. Collins organized a Community Days event that continues to leave a lasting impression on him. “Dr. Walker had connections with an organization called First Friends of New Jersey and New York. First Friends is committed to serving immigrants housed in detention centers,” says Dr. Collins. “They are strong advocates for upholding the human rights of detained immigrants and ending mass detention.” Dr. Collins’ students made folders, called “Stamp Out Despair Packages,” which consisted of writing paper, greeting cards, pens, envelopes, and stamps. Recipients of these packages were given handwritten personalized notes of encouragement. Students spent weeks soliciting donations of paper, stamps, and greeting cards from the Guttman community. They made hundreds of these Packages, working as a team in “assembly-line fashion.” “It was amazing to watch,” says Dr. Collins, “and incredible work for a deserving population. Our students learned a great deal about the horrors of immigrant detention. They were surprised that people can be moved at will, that they have no access to friends or family outside of these centers.”
Dr. Collins describes his teaching style as receptive and dialogue-centered. “I want to hear the voices of all students in the room,” says Dr. Collins. “I want students to own their work, to draw from a commitment to their work. From there I try to help them find or create the forms or genres that might work best with their overall purposes and goals.”
Dr. Collins teaches Reading and Writing; Composition I; Composition II; Introduction to Philosophical and Humanistic Thought; and Liberal Arts and Sciences Capstone. Currently, he is teaching ENGL203. The semester began with an exploration of an audio walking tour entitled “Fighting Dark.” The focus of the audio walking tour is the 1863 Draft Riots in New York City. The creator of the tour, Kamau Ware, is seeking his listeners to understand the riots as racially motivated. In Dr. Collin’s seminar, students analyze two stages of the walking tour. “Now, we are examining the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol Building, with a particular focus around how race played a role in the insurrection,” says Dr. Collins. “Ware’s work is a bit of an inspiration for us. I am teaching two sections of the course, and Dr. Meghan Gilbert-Hickey is teaching one section. So we put all of our students into one Blackboard shell, as a way of creating an energetic and energizing space. Students have responded with some creative work. I look forward to seeing their final projects.”
The trait that Dr. Collins is most keen to inspire in his students is curiosity: “A deep sense of wonder. A commitment to writing as a process of inquiry that students use to put that wonder to work, to use it as a catalyst for deep engagement and as a guide to what the writing says and does.”
Dr. Collins remains deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a member of Guttman’s community. “I’m part of an amazingly talented and committed group of professionals—faculty, staff, administration—working literally around the clock on behalf of our students. It’s inspiring and gratifying to be a part of this team.”