This semester, three faculty were awarded Service Learning Innovation Grants to launch new projects, or to continue building creative partnerships with community organizations. The funding is unique at Emerson because, in the spirit of inclusivity, faculty members of all ranks and statuses are eligible to apply.
Jordan Pailthorpe, an instructor in the First-Year Writing Program (FYWP), teaches Game Design for Social Change, now in its third iteration. This course helps students to develop research writing skills while working directly with community partners to address their most pressing needs. Students design and develop games that help collect data and implement creative solutions to problems and needs identified by the community partners. Then they work with the community partners to implement the final projects.
“It’s important for my research writing students to understand the local game discourse and see how games are not simply entertainment, but powerful systems that can change ideas, perspectives, and assumptions,” said Pailthorpe.
Stephen Shane’s Boston Educational Outreach course partners with Charlestown High School, where students work directly with youth who speak English as another language, preparing them for state standardized tests and collaborating on writing projects. Shane, also an FYWP instructor, wants his students to learn about the various entrenched policies and societal pressures that shape the learning environment of high school students, and to witness the difficulties that standardized tests pose to certain learning populations.
“Hopefully our Emerson students will gain a little perspective on how our current system of public education evaluates students based on their performance of a specific set of trained skills (i.e. taking a standardized test), as opposed to their true drive for knowledge,” said Shane.
Students Emily Avery-Miller’s Writing for Change course work directly with either the Charles River Conservancy, Chinese Progressive Association, or the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) to develop research briefs and organizational and campaign materials. Creating these crucial texts allows the community partner to have well-written and well-informed materials to supplement their own staff resources.
“Problem-solving within the current events of the community calls on us to be flexible, open-minded and ready to respond—all qualities that good writers and good citizens cultivate,” said Avery-Miller, an FYWP instructor.