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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The effect of a life-changing educator


A thank you to formative educator, Tia Pratt, Ph. D.

To say that Tia Noelle Pratt, Ph.D., is a life-changing educator would be quite the understatement. Something in the nature of the classroom environment Pratt has created poses a challenge that students are jumping to take on.

Often times, going through the motions of completing required classes feels more like checking off a box. I had no awareness of the field of sociology until it was time to check off the “Social Science” box on DegreeWorks.

With the encouragement of her past students, I registered as a first semester sophomore for “Social Problems,” an introductory course on sociology pertaining to the ongoing issues surrounding our society.

What was so striking about Dr. Pratt’s class was her willingness to work with her students as opposed to working alongside them. I wasn’t afraid to learn in her classroom. Discourse became essential to our learning process. She wanted to hear our voices, our questions, and our stories. Students felt safe voicing what concerned them or what enthralled them about our weekly readings.

I felt like a person in the eyes of Pratt. She is someone I could walk up to and admit I was struggling at times without feeling shame. Most importantly, Pratt felt like a person to us. She is strong willed, highly intelligent, and always a woman for others.

The content of “Social Problems” was meticulously chosen, and no moment in Pratt’s classroom felt fleeting. Pratt unified students of all political, social and economic backgrounds with each lesson at hand.

The classroom felt like a community, one where we knew the names and the faces of the voices posing questions. “Social Problems” was eye-opening, as someone who so often experiences the utmost privilege in life. What we learned about poverty, gender inequality, racism, and violence in today’s world felt personal.

As students, we couldn’t relate to all of the problems at hand directly. Pratt showed us, without simply just telling us, how interconnected we are with the happenings in our world. Through the sociological lens, we investigated injustice and realized the urgency for change and understanding. Yes, many of us walked away from her course as the same privileged students. However, we walked away with validation as intelligent thinkers and thoughtfulness as members of the greater community.

By the time registration rolled around that winter, everyone around me was buzzing to take another one of her classes. Pratt had started us on a powerful wave of learning, and we craved more. Of the four people I sat beside in “Social Problems,” all four registered for her “African-American Catholicism” course for the following semester.

It is vital to note that none of us were sociology majors, and only did we become interested in Sociology after taking Pratt’s class. We made room for this class in our schedules, and anticipated the start of the new semester for months. I encouraged two of my closest friends to take the class as well; “She’s life-changing. I swear.”

I learned about two vital things from “African American Catholicism:” The apparent, historical racism in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and the University’s definition of a professor’s value.

If you asked Pratt’s students to give you an amount of how much her teachings are worth, many of them would not be able to put her value as an educator into numbers. It seems as though our university can, and the number they came up with was “zero.”

I question both the standards and the goals of our learning environment now that  Pratt is not recognized for her indefinable value. This being compared to professors who show inherent intolerance toward any diversity in their classrooms. I witness other professors leaving marginalised students in tears after mistreatment, and I see Pratt as a beacon of hope.

The decision not to renew Pratt’s contract leaves her students questioning the magis, questioning the community’s ability to live greater. Who exactly is living greater? Who gets to experience the magis?

Only those who are granted with blind privilege, it seems.

So thank you, Tia Pratt, for allowing everyone to feel safe in your classroom. Thank you for opening the eyes of your students to the reality of the world around them. Thank you for your honesty, your integrity and your kindness. Those who have been impacted by your grace will never forget it.

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