The Office of Service Learning and Community Action (SLCA) has enjoyed another productive and exciting year. During our first full year based in the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, there was never a dull moment. We connected dozens of local nonprofit partners with over 500 students in 25 courses across the College; we worked closely with almost 100 students serving in Jumpstart and Alternative Spring Break; and we collaborated with offices and student organizations on events addressing social justice issues.
We developed new service learning components for several courses this year, and added a few new faculty members and community partners to our ranks. Most notably:
• Betsy Baeten‘s Citizenship and Civic Engagement philosophy course allowed students to serve with local agencies that support immigrants through the naturalization process and help them engage in civic, political and social action.
• Rich West‘s Interpersonal Communication Skills students partnered with local nonprofits serving elderly populations to focus on intergenerational communication.
Writing, Literature and Publishing
• Tamera Marko developed Emerson’s first multilingual class within an invitation-only year-long Writing for Research course.
• Beth Parfitt‘s Writing for Research students worked with the Mayor Thomas Menino’s ONEin3, a program serving the one-third of Boston’s population that is between the ages of 20 and 34, to make public service announcements intended to connect young adults with resources related to things like professional networking and civic engagement.
• Christina Marin‘s Drama as Education II students partnered with 826 Boston, a tutoring and writing center, to design and lead writing workshops for schoolchildren using arts-based pedagogy.
Communication Sciences and Disorders
• Jon Honea‘s Energy and Sustainability students examined sustainability at Emerson by researching issues such as our campus’ recycling efforts and e-waste disposal; student research will be shared with Emerson’s Sustainability Committee.
Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies
• Deirdre Conlon and Diana Sherry created and taught a course called What’s Cooking, which included an off-site community engagement activity with a Boston-based nonprofit organization whose work addresses community issues related to food.
• Cindy Miller’s Community Involvement class had several students who completed their service for the course by helping with the “It Gets Better @ Emerson” Video Project, directed by filmmaker and service learning faculty member Bob Nesson (Visual and Media Arts). “It Gets Better” is a worldwide movement intended to assure bullied children that their situation will improve. The project was launched in the fall of 2010 in response to the growing number of teens—specifically within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Questioning population—who have committed suicide. Since that time, over 10,000 user-created videos have been viewed over 35 million times.
Various service learning courses participated in one of our office’s new annual events that introduces global nonprofits and non-governmental organizations to students searching for international service opportunities. Increasingly, students ask this office about international service opportunities so that they can work on applying knowledge and skills they have gained in the classroom while contributing to a local community. In response, we created a student position—the Global Citizenship Coordinator—to supplement and support the work of professors and students examining issues of diversity and global social responsibility.
In other news, courses with service-learning components are now identifiable on Banner with a searchable attribute type; this function will help students identify opportunities to earn academic credit for participation in service and civic engagement. We’ve also been working to employ social media in an effort to enhance our communication efforts. So that we can capture and share images of our students, professors, staff and partners engaged in social justice work, we acquired two digital still cameras, and two flip-cameras. We hope you’re enjoying the digital format of our newsletter and the Facebook and Twitter posts. Stay tuned for the launch of our website overhaul this summer.
Great advances were made in terms of Emerson’s own sustainability. President Jackie Liebergott’s legacy at Emerson may well be its migration to the Theatre District; but her formation of Emerson’s Sustainability Committee leaves us a tremendous and enduring challenge to explore how we can reduce our carbon footprint and protect the environment. And through the student-generated Full Food Initiative, Emerson is now examining sourcing methods, nutritional options, the diversity of ingredients and freshness of food in the Dining Hall.
This letter serves as my own reflection about the schoolyear and I would like to share some of the high points with you. I began this schoolyear in Medellín, Colombia, working with Tamera Marko on the Proyecto Boston-Medellín. I taught a Communities and Race Relations course in the fall with an Emerson community engagement theme that took us out of the classroom and around our own campus and the City of Boston. I got to attend a lecture by one of my idols, Angela Davis. And I also went on my third Alternative Spring Break trip, spending a week with students in Niceville, Florida working on community initiatives and ecological projects.
A special thank you and congratulations goes to our graduating seniors here in the office. We will certainly miss the contributions of Katie Woods, Student Leadership Coordinator, Binsen Gonzalez, Global Citizenship Coordinator and Sarah Cadorette and Rachel Freedman, Arts & Lectures Coordinators. Our student workers contribute a great deal of talent and skill to Emerson and to our community partners, and many of them continue to stay in touch with and even collaborate with our office. These outstanding students leave very big shoes to fill.
Congratulations to Jennifer Greer-Morrissey (the SLCA’s founding director) and husband Brian on the arrival of their second son Benjamin in February, and to Heather Flynn Whitney, a longtime force in the SLCA, on her recent marriage and new position coordinating service learning at Providence College.
We offer our enormous gratitude to President Liebergott for her leadership and support. During her tenure, the SLCA has enjoyed almost a decade of existence helping Emersonians address issues of diversity and social justice by helping them take action through service-learning, community-based and civic engagement initiatives. We wish the President and her family well in their new endeavors as we prepare to welcome self-proclaimed “helicopter dad” and longtime friend of service learning, Dr. M. Lee Pelton, whose Willamette University was one of the top six service-learning schools in the nation last year.
And so we reminisce fondly while looking toward a bright—and sustainably lit—future.