The English Department’s Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Committee hosted its annual interdisciplinary conference on May 2, 2019 at LaGuardia Community College (LaGCC). This year’s theme was “Body Politics.” The main co-organizers of this event, Dr. Meghan Fox and Dr. Anita Baksh, along with many more contributors helped in making this day a success. The […]
On a campus whose mission statement emphasizes diversity, one professor goes above and beyond to ensure that formerly incarcerated students get equal representation.
As one of the practicing academics at LaGuardia Community College, Dr. Cory Rowe, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, spends her time educating students at LaGuardia about the correctional system and those in correctional facilities about higher education, thus bridging the gap between two groups of people often thought of as polar opposites.
“I was born and raised in Jackson Heights, whichis a neighborhood known for its diversity. So as a kid growing up there in the 1980s, I saw a lot of firsthand racism against my friends and neighbors. I became interested in race and justice when I noticed that I got treated better by my teachers and law enforcement, even when my own behavior was no different,” says Dr. Rowe.
Throughout her 20 years of experience, Dr. Rowe mentions that for many incarcerated individuals, higher education seems to be either unattainable or uninteresting. Many expressed to her that it was when school became difficult that they had ended up in trouble with the law. They see themselves as not meant for college and falsely believing that the environment doesn’t suit them. Dr. Rowe does everything in her power to change their minds. “I go into Rikers, Horizon, Dobbs Ferry and wherever else there may be bright young people disconnected from school. I try to bring the education to them,” Dr. Rowe explains.
Between resource fairs at Rikers, Horizon, Dobbs Ferry and criminal justice events on campus, Dr. Rowe invites as many people as she can to get involved in showing these individuals that college is the right path for them. Alongside other faculty members from the Humanities Department, Dr. Rowe volunteers to teach a public speaking class in those facilities. Together, the professors cultivate the exact rigor of a college classroom. “Once they experience the classroom environment, they realize they’re not only smart enough but it’s a place to find connections to other people, jobs and resources they were missing before,” Dr. Rowe reveals.
Dr. Rowe also encourages LaGuardia students to become involved at resource fairs and classes, to volunteer and help out at tables, hand out flyers or otherwise simply raise awareness to her cause for incarcerated students.
Acting as a bridge for those interested in higher education, Dr. Rowe ensures a follow-through. If any incarcerated individual expresses interest in attending college, she assists them with registering for their GED or college upon their release. In some cases, she helps future students hit the ground running by helping them sign up for preparatory classes while still in prison. She gives them a tour of LaGuardia, letting them get a feel for the campus and the culture. They sit in on her classes to see what a college classroom looks like, to get comfortable with the setting they might be entering soon. She also walks them through admissions and financial aid, connecting them to the people there to demystify the various processes involved in enrolling in college.
When asked whether she sees those students around on campus once they begin their studies, Dr. Rowe answers with a laugh, explaining that they’re easy to spot as they’re always in her office.
With a bright yellow flyer proclaiming the small office as a safe space welcoming any and all who need help or simply a peaceful oasis on a busy campus, the office has become a haven for many students.
Opening her office to students had been a way for Dr. Rowe to introduce new students to students already far along in their journey at LaGuardia. By connecting new students to more experienced ones, she facilitates a support system for incoming students to help them feel more comfortable on campus.
At LaGuardia, Dr. Rowe, is renowned for her diligence in breaking the barriers between those who have been in the correctional system and those who haven’t. Drawing on more than twenty years of experience in corrections, Dr. Rowe educates students and faculty alike about justice diversity, a term that refers to a group of people who aren’t spoken about as often as other marginalized groups. This group of people are those who have had different experiences with the justice system. Such groups are often stigmatized and stereotyped, and their contributions aren’t taken as seriously.
Dr. Rowe hopes that her efforts will result in our college becoming more willing to invite these potential students here, to show them that they have a place at LaGuardia as great contributors to the campus’ culture.