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June 2016

 

Grammatically correct activism: Michael Iasilli
William Burns

 

michael iasilli
Michael Iasilli, a tutor in the Ammerman writing center, is a new Executive Council representative. (photo by Cynthia Eaton)

Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked that "Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve."

Bridging the gap between service and subject-verb agreement, Michael Iasilli is a professional assistant in the Ammerman Campus writing center. Although he has only been working at SCCC for two semesters, he has made an immediate impact on the students he has aided. Michael tutors students for their various writing assignments, encourages students to grow in their narrative voice and literacy skills and promotes high academic standards among those who are searching for success.

His background in teaching involves working with both high school and college students, connecting these two very different experiences. Michael tutors in the subjects of history and English and also serves as a substitute teacher in the Comsewogue School District. He feels that his work at the writing center has given him a robust experience in developing quality pedagogical approaches to address student needs.

Michael’s favorite part about working here is the student body. Being a former student of SCCC enables him to connect, empathize and understand the mindset of many of our students. Michael has found that student sentiments tend to be ambivalent. Because he has experienced some of the same feelings that our first-year students feel, Michael displays a keen understanding of their dispositions.

In turn, he tries to focus his approach by inspiring and encouraging personal development for each individual student. Michael feels that incorporating new ideas, nurturing dialogue and welcoming perspective can help push students to reach higher in their academics. In addition, because of his familiarity with the college, Michael can point students to critical resources for growth and assistance.

Michael’s immediate academic goals are to teach his own course at SCCC. He is an avid researcher of socio-political issues and his master of arts was completed in the discipline of social science. Specifically, Michael’s research deals with the influence of ideology on policymaking in America. He hopes to attain his Ph.D. and apply an historical analysis to help explain how ideology is a causal factor to these phenomena.

Connected with his research interests is his approach to tutoring. Michael’s strategy is to level himself with the students, inspiring them to find their voice and giving them a sense of freedom rather than anxiety. Michael believes that students should feel free to question, engage in dialogue and ask what they don’t yet understand. In this way, students feel empowered to take to the rigor of higher education.

Michael’s approaches to education are clearly working, as he has seen many students grow. Through his tutoring he has helped students not only improve dramatically in their literacy skills but also in reasoning and analytical abilities. Michael's students often continually sign up with him because they feel he empowers them, and they notice improvement in their competence as college students. ESL students have found Michael’s pedagogical approach to be useful in their developmental and introductory level courses. He feels a sense of pride for these students when he sees the improvement and the confidence growing within their demeanor. Many have claimed that Michael’s central focus of student engagement allows them to discover more, not only about the subject but also about themselves.

Michael is an academic who believes in service. Being an alumnus of St. Joseph’s College has taught him the importance of helping one’s community. There are so many who need our help and guidance; so many have a voice but cannot find the proper words to express themselves. This need gives Michael the drive to be a public servant in most aspects of his life. He is able to transcend these two parts of his life not only through education but also through social and political involvement.

Michael is passionate about being an advocate for students with disabilities. His sister has a learning disability and has struggled throughout most of her life. Through the encouragement of family and loved ones, she has found her place. This private life experience encourages Michael to reach students in similar predicaments, to help inspire them, to let them know that they have a place and a purpose.

This activism has found a place in the FA. For Michael, the FA represents the faculty of SCCC coming together as a collective to promote positive approaches to learning and civic involvement. FA might literally mean Faculty Association, but for Michael it also denotes the Freedom of Association. He feels strongly that we must be able to lend our constitutional rights as leading figures of higher education. Through the FA, Michael sees a way we can be facilitators of change who build new ideas for fellow professionals and students, which brings the world of higher ed closer together and intertwined with the love of service.

Looking toward the future, Michael hopes to teach a political science course. He wants students to see that they have the ability to make a mark through service and political involvement. Additionally, he wants to enlighten students on the injustices in our history and the movements that have responded to them.

Michael sees his mission as a twofold process. First, he wants to grow as an educator, continuing to work with his colleagues and integrate many of their techniques that he finds fitting and useful to his pedagogical approach. Gaining experience teaching a course and become a leading educator in the discipline of social science, Michael believes that he has a great deal to offer the department and student body. Second, Michael wants to be engaged and involved in the varied aspects of service of SCCC. As a leading institution of the community, it is important to involve ourselves in many different efforts that assist the underprivileged and sustain the integrity of the county.

Michael Iasilli should give us all faith in the next generation of academic activists.