By Kristal Kinloch-Taylor and Ruth Osorio

Dr. Ruth Osorio, a California native, proudly calls Old Dominion University (ODU) her home away from home. With a deep-rooted commitment to research excellence and transformative teaching, Dr. Osorio embodies the spirit of the Monarch community.

As an integral member of ODU's academic landscape, Dr. Osorio's passion for compassionate teaching practices resonates throughout her classrooms. She believes in fostering not only academic growth, but also holistic development, creating a supportive environment where students feel valued and empowered.

Beyond the confines of her teaching responsibilities, Dr. Osorio's commitment to advocacy and community engagement shines brightly. In her role within ODU's Women's Caucus, especially as the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary, Dr. Osorio serves as a steadfast advocate and board member. With a focus on amplifying women's voices and addressing issues such as childcare and pay equity, Dr. Osorio is deeply committed to advancing gender equity both within academia and in society at large.

On March 21, Dr. Osorio will lead a workshop, "Implementing a Pedagogy of Care in Your Syllabus," designed to empower faculty to cultivate compassionate learning environments. In this interactive session, participants will explore practical strategies for incorporating empathy and support into their course syllabi to foster a culture of care and inclusivity.

CFD recently interviewed Dr. Ruth Osorio to learn more about a pedagogy of care.

1. Could you explain the concept of a pedagogy of care?

Osorio: Sure! For me, a pedagogy of care honors that each student is a whole person and that they bring their whole selves to each learning experience. A pedagogy of care includes and goes beyond honoring the individual accommodations our students may have through OAE and asks, "How can I make this class more accessible, more affirming for each student? Rather than seeing care and rigor as opposing forces, a pedagogy of care also asserts that grace and flexibility enable great student work.

2. What practical steps do you recommend for faculty who want to adopt a pedagogy of care?

First, I recommend moving away from a punitive mindset in classroom policy. So often our syllabi list the negative consequences of turning in late work, missing class, plagiarizing, having a cell phone go off in class. We often list the points or percentages that will be lost for each infraction-but this approach, in my own experience, actually increased my workload and discouraged students from asking for support and taking risks in their work. A pedagogy of care leads us to emphasize opportunities rather than negative consequences in our syllabi, so that students feel comfortable asking for support rather than hiding when things get tough.

3. Are there any particular books or publications that have had a significant impact on your pedagogy?

Absolutely! bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha's Care Work, Margaret Price's Mad at School, and the activist collective Sins Invalid's, “Access Suggestions for a Public Event” have all helped me rethink what it means to prioritize care and accessibility in my teaching.

4. In 2022, you received a $6,000 summer fellowship for your book "Am I Not a Sister: U.S. Women's Abolitionist Literacies in the 19th Century." How did this grant impact your teaching or research?

The funding allowed me to delve deeply into the antislavery collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Specifically, I focused on the meeting minutes of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS), an interracial women's anti-slavery coalition active from 1833-1870. In the meeting minutes, I learned not only about the goals and structure of the group, but also about the ways in which women interacted with each other and built solidarity across racial lines. This experience underscored something I've long known but need to be reminded of that: the work of activism often happens behind the scenes, in group settings with people who love each other but may disagree on tactics. Rather than avoiding disagreement, the PFASS women have met it with love and kinship, allowing them to sustain their anti-slavery and anti-racist work for nearly four decades.

5. What is your favorite class to teach and what makes it your favorite?

Right now, I really love my class, WMST 400: History of US Women's Activism! Rather than focusing on individual notable activists in history, we focus on understudied moments of collaborative activism - like Japanese mothers writing petitions from internment camps, Native girls resisting assimilation in boarding schools, and enslaved black women leading slave revolts. I hope that students will leave the class with a much broader idea of what "counts" as activism, and that historical research itself can be activism.

6. What drew you to a career in teaching?

As an undergraduate, I admired my professors. They were dynamic educators, strong and fierce women, brimming with knowledge and community. I admired how they integrated their intellectual selves with their activist selves, especially in women's and gender studies, and knew I wanted to do the same. I applied to Ph.D. programs right out of undergrad and was rejected from every single one. I was devastated, but looking back, it set me on a different path. I enrolled in a local MA program where I worked in the writing center. I loved coaching student writers, supporting their goals and voices, and for many, being a rare positive presence in their literacy journey. I then taught as an adjunct at a community college while also working in the writing center. Starting at a community college was essential to developing my approach to care pedagogy; there, I learned not to define students by deficits or personal struggles, but rather to see them as whole people with a wealth of experience to draw upon in their writing. I've carried this insight with me for the past fourteen years, developing it into a pedagogy of care.

The Center for Faculty Development invites you to attend The Pedagogy of Care workshop.

Date: 10 a.m. Thursday, March 21st 

Location: Library 1310/1311 or attend online via Zoom.

Register for the event here