Energetic, passionate, innovative. These are just a few words to describe the essence of longtime Hostos Associate Professor Gail August.

When she is not educating students in the classroom you can find her educating students in a dance studio. As a professionally trained dancer, August uses her gift of dance and creation as a strong suit in her teaching abilities.

Let’s get to know more about Associate Professor August:
 
What is you full title at Hostos?
I am an Associate Professor of Language and Cognition

How long have you been at Hostos?
I started at Hostos in the 1990s—so that means I’ve been here for over 20 years. When I started I was an adjunct. I was so inspired by the students at Hostos that I decided to go back to school, get my PhD, and to try to become a full time professor.

It took a long time, but in 2001 I had my PhD and a few years later I was made a full time professor. So I’ve been part of the faculty, as a full time person, for about 15 years.

What would you say is your driving force to be a teacher for this long?
Really, it is a lot of fun! I like teaching and sharing ideas with students. I learn from my students and I am motivated by the way they are trying to improve and change their lives. Also, as I teach, I find new topics to engage in and that energize me.

Several years ago I created a course in Bilingualism (LIN 102). It was based on one of my favorite courses in graduate school. I like it because it presents a broad view of language and encourages all students to understand and respect their own linguistic abilities. I have been working for years on this topic and am writing and developing materials to enrich this course. I hope that someday, many students in many colleges will also be able to study this discipline.

Are their any additional educational projects you are involved with?
Recently, I have been working in one of our ESL links, where my Advanced ESL course is linked with a Sociology course. As the students learn English, they also learn an important academic topic. We use the ESL class to make sure they are understanding the material. I encourage the students to use their new sociology knowledge in their ESL compositions. And as we progress, I am learning more about sociology.

One of my new teaching interests is in how global changes are affecting the use of language. I am developing a new linguistics course which focuses on the use of English and other languages in Africa and Asia. I believe that students need more information these parts of the world. In the course, I will also teach about how the global use of English has begun to affect our ideas about correct English and Standard language and how these new trends may eventually affect how we communicate with each other.

Can you explain any challenges you have faced as a professor and how you have overcome them?
The biggest challenge I have had (and that we all have) is that our teaching obligations and our committee work take A LOT of time. I really do not feel that ever I have enough time to develop new materials, write up my research, and to spend time hanging out and talking to students.

I am afraid that I have not been able to overcome this challenge.

How do you parallel your teaching style to where technology is today?
I believe teachers should always be in the know on where education is headed.  I believe in using social media as an aid to my teaching style. YouTube has been (and continues to be) a wonderful tool for me to reach my students. I feel it’s important as educators to meet students where they are.

How did you come into the art of belly dancing?
For many years I worked as a modern dancer. With my dancing, I also trained in ballet and jazz. At some point I met a very inspirational teacher who was devoted to promoting the dance culture of the Middle East. Ibrahim Farrah is considered one of the prime figures in bringing the artistry, culture, and history of this dance to New York. I studied with him for many years, and as he became more famous, I was able to meet people from many parts of the world who came to New York to learn from him. I guess I would say that I know belly dancers in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Germany, Italy, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Israel, etc. etc. He also established workshops where he brought the current stars from Egypt and Lebanon to instruct us.
 
What misconceptions about the art of belly dancing do you want eradicated?
Most people know Middle Eastern dance as belly dance, but it is important to realize that belly dance is a cabaret form of the dance that evolved from many older folkloric forms. I love belly dance, the cabaret form, but have performed in several companies where we do the folkloric form—wearing a folkloric costume.

I understand that there are many misconceptions about belly dance, and in particular about its relationship to ideas about women and gender. I consider myself a feminist, and I would like to emphasize that belly dance is an artistic expression, done by both men and women.
 
What else do you want the Hostos family to know about you?
I think that as a dancer I have always been a student. Dancers train all the time, so they are always in a situation where they are learning something new. I have studied many forms of dance, and I know the experience of struggling to figure something out or learning something new. I think (or at least I hope) that this makes me a better and more compassionate teacher.

Ending quote?
“No matter where you are in life, you’re always a student.”