Black History Visionaries

Take 33: Lauren Whiteman expanding concepts of learning using Hip Hop pedagogy

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DALLAS - The way educators connect with students is important, especially because not all students learn the same.

Lauren Whiteman, a Student Services Coordinator for the Multicultural Center at the University of North Texas,  is expanding the way educators connect to students in higher education using a not-so-traditional method: hip hop pedagogy.

You may have seen pedagogy, or the science behind the way people educate, on social media by a teacher reading over a student's beat or a principal dancing with his students. 

A southeast Dallas native, Lauren uses hip hop "culture, not just the music, not just the lyrics, but what it means to really be ingrained... to help students make connections." 

Running the beginning stages of the Men of Color Cohort Program at UNT, Lauren helps educate a small group of African-American students using these methods. The goal is to expand to Latinx, Asian-American and Native-American students to self-select in each cohort by race and ethnicity.

"Hip hop has been one of the major languages that we use," Lauren said. "It's what we connect to each other with so often and it's what so many of us know and what so many of us find love in."

Lauren learned that she wanted to incorporate hip hop in her educating when she stumbled upon rapper J. Cole's mixtape "The Warm Up" in college, which speaks on topics including what it's like to be a college student and knowing your value. She's used albums including Jay Z's "4:44" and brought Hip Hop Book Club, a group that discusses influential rap albums, to engage with students on campus.

"For 4:44, I was watching the documentary and he was hitting on so many things like going to therapy and counseling which is something the black community needs to be talking more about."

Using hip hop, Lauren has been able to speak on community panels, conferences, at schools and even a Ted Talk at the University of Oklahoma.

"It seems a little weird at first, even for [students], because they think, 'can I even learn something by looking at 4:44, can I learn something by looking at [Big K.R.I.T.'s] K.R.I.T. Wuz Here?' And you can, but it's positioning it differently and tying it to whatever concept you're trying to get them to."

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