Dr. Alissa Trotz is an Associate Professor who has taught in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at OISE and is currently cross-appointed to Women and Gender Studies (WGSI) and the Caribbean Studies Program at New College. Following a year of law school in the Caribbean, she completed her BA (Hons) at York University, and her MPhil and PhD at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. A Research Fellow at the Centre of Latin American Studies at Cambridge and a Queen’s National Scholar in Women’s (now Gender) Studies at Queen’s University, she joined the University of Toronto in 2000.
Described by her students as an inspiring and dedicated teacher who excels at both the large lecture format and the small seminar, Alissa has received the Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award (2010), the Award for distinguished contribution to graduate teaching at OISE (2007) and the SAC-APUS Undergraduate Teaching Award (2007). She has devoted much of her time to improving the classroom experience through curricular innovation. She played a key role in WGSI conversations about how they might better equip their students with the critical capacities to comprehend the uneven transnational processes that shape and give meaning to our lives. These discussions have profoundly shaped first the MA (2007) and now the PhD programs (beginning Fall 2013), both of which distinguish WGSI as offering “a particular focus on feminist colonial, post-colonial, diasporic and transnational studies.”
At an undergraduate level, Alissa was responsible for the transformation of the flagship introductory Women and Gender Studies course, securing a MacGraw-Hill Instructional Grant to integrate technology into the course. With her co-instructor and the Writing Instruction for Teaching Assistants Program, she developed a detailed tutorial manual for the course that significantly enhances students’ small group experience. As Director of the Caribbean Studies Program (2006-2012), Alissa proposed new joint courses with a number of programs, and was a key organizer of ‘South-South Encounters,’ a year of innovative programming across Caribbean, South Asian and African Studies. She was also a founding member of the Black Faculty Group that organized a cross-faculty conference, Teaching for Our Times, out of which came the proposal to establish a Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies; Alissa was a member of the Working Group that submitted the successful Academic Initiatives Fund Proposal that led to the Centre’s establishment.
Beyond the classroom, Alissa created a writing workshop with the support of the New College Writing Centre, the Ivey Library and faculty members, for students enrolled in African and Caribbean Studies. She led an initiative to create a graduate network for students working on Caribbean-related topics across the GTA, and proposed the creation of a Senior Doctoral Fellows Program to integrate graduate research into college life, now highly successful and in its second year at New College. As a teacher, Alissa is deeply interested in broadening access to higher education and deepening university-community engagement. She has taught sociology classes to high school students, appeared on panels at TDSB events, been invited to give the keynote address to graduating high school students, and helped to organize U of T educational outreach initiatives. A firm believer in the importance of public intellectual work, she participates regularly in community initiatives in Toronto and the Caribbean. For the last six years she has edited a weekly newspaper column in Guyana, opening it up to graduate and undergraduate students. She has partnered with colleagues at other universities, bookstores, theatre and dance companies, Caribbean consular offices and community organizations, to host events that make the university a welcoming crossroads for all kinds of new encounters. In 2012 Alissa received the Guyana Cultural Association Award (New York), as someone who has “taken an active leadership position in reaching out to groups who may not otherwise think of pursuing a university education and finding ways to create new opportunities for active intellectual engagement.”
Gavin Au-Yeung writes for U of T News spoke to Alissa Trotz about her approach to teaching. To read the interview between Gavin and Alissa please click here.