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Goodbye Ms. Caddoo

By Lusely Martinez
On March 8, 2013

  • Caddoo (top right) and the author (bottom left) with American Studies students at the 2010 Yale Conference.

At press time, it was learned that Cara Caddoo has accepted a teaching position in the Midwest and will not be returning to Old Westbury in the fall.   

The Editors


She was sitting in the middle of Indie Food and Wine, wearing a slouchy grey sweatshirt drinking coffee from a large round coffee mug. She wasn't wearing one of her usual sharp and professional outfits paired with a practical heel.  Somehow she looked entirely in her element, looking over paperwork, completely comfortable at this café in Lincoln Center. In that moment she looked exactly like you might imagine a young professor would on her day off. In this moment, it was easy to understand why Cara Caddoo is one of most well-liked professors within the American Studies Department. Her relaxed demeanor makes her readily approachable and her lively honesty makes her easy to talk to.

If you've taken a single class with Caddoo, you do know that she is always available for questions regarding her field of study, but it might surprise you to know she used to hate history. Sometimes to students it seems irrelevant, like a whole bunch of boring facts being thrown your way. However, after realizing that all major social issues and inequality had roots in the past, Cara Caddoo became interested. In fact she has a B.A. in East Asian Studies, an M.A. in African American Studies,an M.F.A. in digital media, and a Ph.D. in American History. "I love being in school. I love learning and teaching," she humbly admits. She plans to continue her education too. What's next on her list? Learning Spanish "But who, knows?"

At the age of 34, she vacillates "between feeling like kid and middle aged." But of course, she agrees that "ideas of age are very genderized." However, it's hard to ever think of Cara Caddoo as middle-aged, with her youthful enthusiasm in the classroom and out, it's easy to confuse her for a student. In fact, this actually happened in 2010 when she joined her pupils on a trip to a Yale conference, when one of the historians asked the group where the professor was.

Although a total history buff, Caddoo is no stranger to travel. She shared with me that straight out of high school she backpacked through Europe with one of her closest friends and caught the travelling bug. Since then she's been to Thailand, China, India, Japan, the Philippines and most of Europe. This year her fingers are crossed for Turkey. Adopted as a toddler, by a banker and nurse in Minnesota, she has also returned to her native Korea to meet her biological father and sisters whom she stays in regular contact with.Her favorite part of travelling? Immersing into the culture; so she aims to stay with friends or family wherever she goes. She shared the "amazing experiences" she had during a trip in her twenties where she worked at a friend's father's hotel. Although it was hard work, she called it an incredible experience that was very rewarding.

Currently at SUNY College at Old Westbury she teaches various American Studies and/or Media courses. "I feel lucky" she said, "that I get to teach something I care about." She also is the faculty advisor for the American Studies club. However, that didn't stop her from also putting together the second annual Harlem Swing, her own undertaking during Black History Month on campus. Previously she taught at Hunter College and the College at Staten Island, but by far, she agrees that Old Westbury is the best. "The students here are terrific and the faculty has such amazing instructors. That is the exceptional thing about Old Westbury: the teachers also love what they do." It must be true, since she regularly takes time out of her schedule to meet with students and help them in their academic pursuits. She also creates catchy raps to make learning history fun and actively makes the classroom environment exciting.

After four years as an adjunct before landing a full-time position at the College at Old Westbury, Caddoo remains passionate about her job. "I believe in what I do" she said, "I believe in my students." It is this particular mindset that inspires her students to also give their best. This is exactly what brought her here to this café in the Elinor Bunin Munroe film center on this particular Wednesday afternoon. Professor Caddoo agreed to meet with me over lunch to discuss graduate school. And now that my basil pesto chicken sandwich is finished, and her utensils lie dormant on her plate, I have a newfound appreciation for my former instructor.

I feel more inspired than ever to pursue my Ph.D. in Communications. I also have the urge to hop on a plane to Europe. But most of all, I don't want to graduate yet; I want to enroll for another course with her. However, if there's anything I learned after lunch, it's that staying in one place won't help me move forward. I'll just take Caddoo's advice to "embrace your inner geek" and I'll keep on learning. Maybe someday I'll have accumulated a bunch of degrees and I'll be teaching college classes, loving what I do. If and when I do, I'll e-mail Professor Caddoo and thank her for encouraging me to do so.

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