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School of Humanities and Social Sciences Critical Thinking (Newsletter): Our Students

On Critical Thinking

In each issue of Critical Thinking, we interview HSS students and alumni who reflect the breadth of our majors and programs. We learn where each is at this point in his, her or their life and how the experience at Brooklyn College has been formative.  We also ask what "critical thinking" means to each one.  

September 2017

For the first issue of our newsletter, we spoke to two Brooklyn College alumni, Shayne McGregor (MA 2016) and Kat Thek (MA 2013). Each has gone in a very different direction since completing graduate studies in the Department of English, but both reflect the encouragement their education gave them to engage in the social and political climate of their times. Here's what each has to say about "critical thinking:"

Shayne McGregor:

“Critical thinking is important because it's extremely freeing. When I began to interrogate myself, the world around me, the people around me, the systems and ideologies around me, I soon learned that I had mostly been defined by textbooks written by people who didn't know me. The world had defined me before I was given a chance to define myself, and that's what critical thinking allowed me to do. It allowed me to define myself.”

Kat Thek:

"Spending time in the Humanities exposed me to a lot of well written opinions that I totally diagreed with — it was so, so helpful. It taught me that being articulate is different than being right, that "right" is very subjective, and to not mistake confidence for accuracy. It also taught me to respect (and fear!) the seductive abilities of well written text and to constantly ask myself if what I'm reading makes sense. "

English Department (MA)







Shayne McGregor (MA, 2016)

Shayne McGregor is in his second year studying for a PhD in English literature at Yale University. He credits Ben Lerner’s fall 2012 Seminar in Postmodernism: Poetry and Politics as the class where he intellectually "grew up.”  It “turned me into the adult I am now,” he says. “When I think back on that class, I find that I sometimes still reel from some of the breakthroughs we had in grappling with poetry. Lerner's class sent me on a journey of self-discovery where I became obsessed with two questions: Who am I and what's my relationship to the world? This journey lead me to develop an interest in various authors and artists.” McGregor is studying the work of Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes and thinks a lot about liberation and freedom.  More specifically, “Afrofuturism has become a “springboard” that has allowed him to “think about how successive generations of African Americans, and various groups within those generations, imagined freedom.”


McGregor finds some similarities between Brooklyn College and Yale, though he admits that everything at Yale is on a bigger scale.  He praises the configuration of the Brooklyn College quad, similar to that at Yale, and the “intellectual kinetic energy generated….as humanities students in Boylan engage and encounter science students from Ingersoll.”  Building community is important to McGregor and one he hopes to further through his own teaching in higher education. His favorite model of community building is the Brooklyn College Black and Latino Male Initiative (BLMI). McGregor is a graduate of the program and still feels strong connections to it.


McGregor’s advice to current English majors?  “Pursue those studies as fiercely as you would any other degree, and you will get something valuable out of it.”

September 2017


English Department (MA)









Kat Thek (MA 2013)

Kat Thek has found a sweet spot for applying her masters in English literature.  By day she is a copywriter, but by night you will find her in the kitchen icing Twitter messages that boomerang to the evil trolls who posted them.  This successful founder of Troll Cakes, is also the inventor of Friends Forever Tampons, Cat Hair Pills and Inedible Arrangements. Kat praises her Brooklyn College education for helping her to understand the benefits of humor, more specifically satire: “the funnier you are, the more you can get away with,” she says. When she is not packing up a “Tiny Hands Special” (Bigly satisfying), a “Troll Cake of your preferred Trump tweet sent to the White House,” she writes ad copy.  Advertising is another medium, like cakes, that restricts your word count.  But that’s okay with this former English major.  “Maximum word counts and character restrictions — they turn the shill-est tasks into corporate haikus,” she explains.


On the topic of her chosen major, Kat acknowledges having been asked the perennial question, "what are you going to do with that?"  Kat was never discouraged by the question.  Rather she sees it as “the best/worst part of an English degree. There are plenty of reasons to major in something with clear lines to a profession, but there's also something really valuable about the deliberateness of actively choosing how you're going to apply (and sell!) your skills. There's a hustle to it, but that's good news—it gets you thinking about your strengths and reminds you that your talents can be applied to all sorts of operations.” 

September 2017