Congratulations on your well-earned retirement! When Ulises contacted me earlier this year to let me know you be leaving Ithaca College, I was momentarily surprised. Given your impact on me and countless other students before and since, I had cemented in my mind that you’d always be at IC, coaxing the best out of students, pushing boundaries among colleagues, and being a forceful writer, scholar, and advocate. Of course, I know that all things come to an end. My parents, all of them teachers themselves, recently retired and are enjoying all that goes along with their newfound time. I’m thrilled to know that you, too, will now have the time to go wherever your heart and mind lead you.
My first couple semesters at IC found me floating around, unsure of what college should be for me. My everlasting fortune is that I found a home in the Politics Department, learning from the wonderful professors in our department. Of all those incredible scholars, activists, and speakers, though, you, Asma, had the most profound impact on me. I loved learning from and with you. The first class I took with you was Third World Politics and it was there that you assigned me to read The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. You helped me understand Freire and his messages about how education, theory, and action are related. I still remember sitting in the Campus Center cafe, reading and underlining that book, then hurrying to you in your office hours to try to make sense of it. As I write this letter at my dining table, I can look to my left and still see it, red orange covered and sitting prominently on my bookshelf. Your ability to help me understand Freire has influenced me even today as I try to make sense of how to teach secondary students.
All the insights of that book and all my learning in your classes came through the in-class dialogue that you intentionally cultivated and that you were so gracious to have with me during your office hours. The door to your office was always open to me and I was eager to sit down with you to talk about our class, activism, current events, my future plans, everything. I learned as much, if not more, from you in those moments as I did in class. I deeply value those conversations, your mentorship, and your kindness to me.
In all the classes and all the hours spent in your office, Asma, the one lesson that has stuck with me the most was that there is so much I did not know; that all of the world has ideas that are formed differently, from different experiences, and from different vantage points than my own. When I entered college, I thought I knew everything. But when I left, thanks to all my professors but especially you, I understood that it’s not knowledge but the process of learning about what we don’t know that makes us human. And when we learn from people who believe in justice, we are more human still.
I am so lucky to have learned from you, Asma. As I continue my career in education, I am hopeful that I can have one half of the impact on my students that you’ve had on me. If I can manage that, I will count my career as a resounding success.
Very best wishes,
Class of 2002