I’m standing in front of my class, flat January light coming in through the tall windows. The desks are arranged in a long rectangle and the students face one another. The tables along the walls are metallic gray; the desks shine from plastic coating. All the surfaces, including the floor, are hard, bleach-washed, built for utility and repeated use.

The students at this state university are busy. Though many are of traditional college age, a significant number are older and have children, car payments, full-time jobs. The class I’m teaching, Family Studies, fulfills a second-year requirement. Some members of the class are just trying to get through it. But several tell me they’re here to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma.