Every semester, the Emerson College Office of Service Learning and Community Action awards seed grants to professors. This funding (up to $700 per course) supports the creation of new service learning components within existing courses and fosters the development of existing service learning initiatives. Said associate director of the SLCA Suzanne Hinton, “While this funding is nominal, it is one of the few sources of funding available at Emerson to all faculty—tenured, tenure-track or line-term–who need assistance and administrative support in order to develop meaningful and impactful projects that benefit our community. The essence of the seed grants is that they help facilitate the development and deployment of innovative pedagogy across the College.”
Here are some of the ways seed grants have been used this year:
Professor: Tamera Marko
Course: First Year Writing Program (research writing)
Proyecto Boston-Medellín (PBM) Book & CD Project. During the 2008-2009 schoolyear, Tamera Marko designed service learning components for her Writing for Research courses within the First Year Writing Program. Their research writing was geared toward learning how to research and identify funding opportunities within the arts—a critical skill for today’s artists. Specifically, students wrote grant applications for funds that would help produce an art exhibit of the work of emerging artists and architects visiting Emerson from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, sede Medellín. The artists’ multi-media work projects images of everyday life as a peace force, demonstrating that there is more to know about a place than what the media portrays in mainstream media outlets; in this case, there is more to Medellín than a reputation for drug-trafficking and violence. While at Emerson, the artists engaged with those students who worked to bring them and their art to Emerson. They participated in workshops with Emerson students and professors, spoke in classes, and also produced three major art exhibits in Greater Boston featuring more than 200 photographs, 17 films, and dozens of drawings and written word texts. The Emerson exhibit was attended by over 400 people.
Several Emerson students from that course chose to continue working with the project on their own time. These students created four documentary videos and helped curate a full-color, bilingual book about the Exhibition. They continue to work on the transnational Colombia-U.S. team through real-time video conferences and Facebook exchange to help curate this book. The book and all of the Emerson videos are in Spanish and in English. The purpose of this book and DVD is to (1) document the project in written word, image and film; (2) situate the behind-the-scenes pedagogy, artwork and exhibition moment itself within a critical ethical and academic argument for why it matters; and (3) provide a pedagogical and archival resource for the exhibition and its process to continue to be in circulation among educators, activists, artists and scholars throughout the Americas.
Professor: Tamera Marko
Course: Writing for Research (RW121)
In this multilingual research writing class, students focus on negotiating Spanish and English languages as one of the core rhetorical situations in the classroom and in all of the class projects. One half of the class includes native Spanish speakers from countries where Spanish is the official language and the other half has some-to-no fluency in the Spanish language. These students, over the summer, received information about the pilot class and applied to participate. Out of 60 students who applied, 18 were selected. Students, working in small groups, have been researching Latin American restaurants in Boston and ways their presence impacts the cultural life of the surrounding community and beyond. Students have been conducting background study by researching texts in the Iwasaki Library and popular databases, writing their own cultural food autobiographical narratives, analyzing a Latin American novel and a documentary on food, as well as conducting field research by eating in Latin
American restaurants and cooking a meal based on their own shopping research at Latin American food markets in Boston. Before interviewing Latin American chefs, the students had to cook and eat a Latin American meal themselves. Students are currently interviewing chefs and staff at five Boston Latin American eateries and writing their invitations to these chefs to come speak to (and feed) our class. The seed grant was used to help pay for food items and to compensate visiting chefs-as-teachers.
“Students in my class decided to make the trip to the Latin American community in Maverick to share a meal and collaborate with chefs at the Colombian family-owned and operated restaurant La Sultana Bakery. My students, the chef, the staff and I are collaborating on creating an oral history of the food and ritual of La Sultana’s two most popular dishes that are the pride of their cocina (kitchen): the arepa and el típico. The students will collaborate with La Sultana chefs and staff to create an oral history of the restaurant in written-word, photographs, and video. The main chef and his family will come and present their food and writing about it at our First Year Writing Program end-of-year showcase on May 3rd. ”
— Tamera Marko
The heart of this two-semester project is to gain a deeper understanding and engagement with questions of why and how people immigrate from Latin America and the role that food plays in Latin American cultures at large, and in Latin American immigrant communities in Boston in particular.
Professor: Christina Marin
Course: Drama as Education II (TH461)
Christina Marin’s Drama as Education II students partnered with local tutoring and writing center 826 Boston. Her students were able to participate in the development and implementation of writing workshops employing dramatic activities as the basis for arts-engaged pedagogy.
“After our volunteer training and orientation at 826Boston, I can’t wait to begin collaborating on a workshop for their Saturday program! The 826 mission is vital to the community they serve. They use fun and positive reinforcement to strengthen reading and writing skills for students [ages] 6-18. Select members of our class will create a workshop using drama activities to teach writing skills. We’ll be using the supplies we were able to purchase through the Seed Grant, like markers, big paper and more to facilitate a fun and educational afternoon for students at 826 Boston.”
— Jillian McLeod-Tardiff (Theatre Education 2012)
“As theater educators entering writing workshops, we are looking for the students’ imaginations to jump off the page, fly through the air, and land somewhere in their bodies. The stories and characters they created through brainstorming, journaling and illustrating allows students to see their words come to life on stage. Simple hands-on materials such as poster board and markers can take on new roles when they transform into key costume pieces or elaborate scenery. By using various media and tactile elements in conjunction with theater activities, students will be able to learn important writing techniques in a collaborative and creative atmosphere.”
— Rachel Liptz (Theatre Education 2012)
Professor: Elizabeth Parfitt
Course: Writing for Research (RW121) (2 sections)
With seed grant funding, 36 students in two classes will work with hired Visual and Media Arts students to create public service announcements about the City of Boston and what it holds for one-third of Boston’s population: young people aged 20-34. This work will be able to be viewed by thousands of city residents, including employees at City Hall and possibly even Mayor Thomas Menino and his administration.
“The funding from the SLCA has a huge impact on the way that we’re able to interact with the community and our partner organization, ONEin3 Boston. This public exposure is important because it allows students to see how their creativity, vision, writing and hard work can have an immediate impact on the community. The funding also allows the students to develop a working relationship with a student producer who receives the funding and is responsible for putting the class vision into action. This professional working relationship elevates the importance of the project beyond a “class project” to a “community project” that becomes tangible in new ways. The collaboration with the Office of Service Learning and Community Action is valuable because it fosters a public audience for student work. One of my key objectives with this course is getting students to understand their roles as both scholars AND citizens in the Boston community, and the seed grant makes that possible.”
— Elizabeth Parfit