Michon Benson is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Graduate English Program at Texas Southern University. A proud graduate of Jack Yates High School and a native of Houston’s historic Third Ward community, Dr. Benson has been an educator for over 25 years, teaching high-school school English and serving as a middle school principal before returning to TSU in 2014.
Dr. Benson joined the Thomas J. Freeman Honors College faculty in the fall of 2018 and in Fall of 2019, she was inducted into The Golden Key International Honour Society, a distinguished organization, which emphasizes academics, leadership, and service. That three-fold mission is the foundation of Dr. Benson’s instructional methodology. All Freeman Honors College students enrolled in her African American, American, and World Literature seminars engage in rigorous, relationship-based, and relevant assignments that not only promote their academic development and self-esteem but that also encourage peer collaboration and foster pride in the Texas Southern University learning community.
Among her on-campus activities, Dr. Benson co-develops programming as a task-force member of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; sits on the COLABS Student Enhancement Committee; sponsors student-led organizations; and represents the Thomas J. Freeman Honors College on the TSU Faculty Senate. Off-campus, Dr. Benson serves on the Hermann Park Rotary Club's education committee, designing African American history curriculum for secondary schools in the state of Texas; and she is a long-standing member on the advisory council of the Community Artists’ Collective.
In spring 2020, Dr. Benson became a Visiting Scholar with the Rutgers University Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice, and in spring 2021, Dr. Benson’s scholarship about the relationship between African American visual art and political activism earned her a four-year appointment on Howard University’s Social Justice Consortium. Her most recent scholarship includes contributing to, editing, and publishing The Maroon Journal of Arts and Letters, an annual anthology of faculty and student interdisciplinary essays, creative writing, and visual art. Currently, she is writing about the impact of technology on “Critical Race Narratives,” she’s completing an essay about novel approaches to reading Zora Neale Huston’s short story “The Gilded Six Bits,” and she anticipates publishing her first novella Athazagoraphobia in the fall of 2021.
Dr. Erica Cassimere is an Assistant Professor of Biology in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Texas Southern University (TSU). She holds a B.S. degree in Biology with honors from the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology from Purdue University. Since joining Texas Southern University in 2013, Dr. Cassimere has taught several undergraduate and graduate level biology courses. Outside of her teaching activities, she works as an academic advisor and coordinates the introductory biology labs for the department. She also serves as Chair of the Curriculum, Planning and Evaluation Committee for the college. More recently, she joined the TSU Tier II Faculty team in helping with the college experience for first year students. Dr. Cassimere has an extensive research background in the area of cancer cell biology. Her work has been supported by the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and has led to authorship on ten published articles in prestigious journals including Science Signaling, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cell Death and Differentiation and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her current research interests focus on investigating the molecular mechanisms by which cell cycle regulatory proteins regulate breast cancer progression.
As a member of the Thomas F. Freeman Honors College faculty, Dr. Cassimere teaches the honors section of BIOL131 (Biological Sciences I). Using a blend of lectures, readings, web-based learning assignments, and experimental evidences, she incorporates the scientific method to address current research problems and trains the students to critically analyze data from published journals. Students research specific topics, convey their findings through a written paper and orally present to their peers. Using live polling applications, Dr. Cassimere challenges students to respond to questions germane to course content in real time. She continuously encourages classroom interactions and is committed towards helping the scholars reach their full potential.
Dr. Iris M. Lancaster earned her PhD from Texas A&M-Commerce in 2009. Her dissertation analyzes the cultural metaphor in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Since receiving her PhD, she has written: “Nanny, Signifying Empowerment: The Evolution of the Dispirited Black Woman in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God” published in Cultural Intertexts - Academic Journal of Literary Studies; Queen Sugar: A Book Review published in the CLA Journal; and “The Rose that Grew from a Legacy of Hope: A Study of Tupac Shakur’s Poetry” published in THE GRIOT: The Journal of African American Studies.
Currently, Dr. Lancaster is writing a chapter on the writings of Tupac Shakur for Reading Between the Lines: A Genealogy of Racial Discourse in American Literature from the 17th Century to the Present (A Critical Collection). Since 2004, Dr. Lancaster has taught several classes. American Literature, World Literature, Women's Literature, Graduate Writing Seminars, Studies in Literary Biography and Non-Fiction, Literature and Film, and African American Fiction. However, the courses Dr. Lancaster enjoys teaching the most are the Honors English 1301 and 1302 courses. Her teaching philosophy reflects her interests in collaborative authorship. Instead of the “sage on the stage” teaching method, she prefers student-centered teaching that encourages learning by both students and teachers. She favors classroom dynamics that permit dialogue and foster a degree of student input. Also, she supports students thinking about the class as a community. This means students spend a fair amount of time in smaller groups in which they not only talk and think together, but they write together. Her teaching philosophy fits the Honors student dynamic well because these students are excited to learn about writing, and they are ready to work in a collaborative setting.
In the Honors English courses, collaborative work is strongly encouraged. Honors students are ready to share their ideas and their insights, so the course work is structured to foster this type of learning environment. In Honors courses, special attention is given to the six core levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Students are taught these various levels and then asked to connect each level to the various assignments. The pace is rigorous, but steady, and the students enjoy being challenged at every level.
For Dr. Lancaster, teaching the Honors’ students is more than a privilege; it is a joy!