In Their Words: Where Education Is Couture: The ‘Dr. Muhammad Experience’ at Howard

No boring pedagogy here. These courses are one of a kind. Contemporary, rare and made to order. “Policing Inside Out TM” was born out of desperation. A mandate from the student body. We need to do something about all these police killings of Black bodies, students cried. For a week, students protested during my office hours in groups, one after the other. Offered only at Howard, this class brings officers, students and community members into a single class with cultural excursions to be explored off-campus and experienced alone. Through a buddy system, students and officers are paired in teams and sent out into the world to explore. One in a police uniform and strapped with a Glock 19. The other in lightly torn jeans and a fashionable HU sweater from @lastbisonstanding. Both built from the same human cloth.

Through this simple commonality, they are required to communicate on their own terms as they navigate shared experiences to a variety of trust-building field trips. Trips include visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, specifically to view the Emmet Till Casket, the Martin Luther King Memorial and the Law Enforcement Memorial. In addition, students complete 16 hours of ride-alongs with law enforcement officers, a shooting simulation and tactical training. Through this journey, students, officers and community members humanize, empathize and learn to respect one another.

Designed for the student’s specific requirements and needs in mind, these opportunities transform traditional classes into experiences filled with durability, accuracy and versatility. The common thread at the seam: truth and service.

Comprehensive research is redefined and given an applied approach at Howard University, an anchor institution in a growing metropolitan space. After a decade of exploring the lived experiences among children of incarcerated parents, I took 15 brave undergraduate students to live on the grounds of a federal prison as part of my course curriculum. Through our flagship Alternative Spring Break experience, students spent seven days at Alderson Federal Prison Camps in West Virginia being of service to incarcerated mothers and their children. At Howard, I have been able to bring my scholarship to life by working to reunite families of the incarcerated and create experiences where students battle with dualities emerging from research and life.

At a time when the world has become more divided and indecisive, Howard is one.

Bahiyyah M. Muhammad, Ph.D., Franklin Fellow, is an assistant professor at Howard University’s Department of Sociology and Criminology.

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