News from the Harward Center for Community Partnerships – Short Term 2015

In This Issue

Dear Friends,

As we shift into summer mode at Bates, it is time to bring closure to the just-finished academic year. For Harward Center staff, that means documenting the year’s activities and analyzing survey responses, focus group notes, observer reports, and other assessment data to try to understand what worked well and what needs improvement. It also means pausing to ask fundamental questions about the goals, methods, and impacts of our work.

One thing that has distinguished community-engaged work at Bates for decades is the degree to which that work is integrated into the academic program. Rather than being relegated to the “extra” curricular realm, civic engagement at Bates is at the heart of the teaching and learning enterprise. Even as Bates faculty members distinguish themselves as top-notch scholars in their respective fields, they are also superb and caring teachers, many of whom find community-engaged pedagogies to be highly effective means of motivating student engagement with course content while developing important academic and life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration across differences, and ethical reasoning.

To grow faculty members’ understanding of and appetite for community-engaged work, Harward Center staff offer a range of services and programs throughout the year. A highlight of our faculty development programming was last month’s progressive dinner event, made possible by a small grant from Project Pericles. Held in downtown Lewiston at the Nutrition Center of Maine, Bates faculty members rotated from one table to the next. At each table, while enjoying part of a delicious, locally-sourced meal, faculty table hosts led their peers in small-group discussions of different dimensions or topics of civically-engaged work. For example, one table invited participants to consider projects in partnership with local schools, while another focused on food-access projects; one table featured a discussion of small-scale projects while another focused on larger or longer-term projects. After these focused dinner conversations, faculty walked across Kennedy Park to a local business for dessert and continued lively discussion of community-engaged projects, partners, and possibilities. The event was a lovely way both to highlight and celebrate past and current community-engaged work and to invite faculty who may not have undertaken such work to consider doing so.

In this newsletter, we feature a range of academically-based civic work, most of it from the college’s Short Term, which ended a few weeks ago. First are brief articles by two students who share experiences from community-engaged learning courses in Ethiopia and Jamaica, under the guidance, respectively, of education professor Patti Buck and anthropology professor Val Carnegie. Staying with the international theme, we have a short “note from the field” from history professor Gerry Bigelow, offering a window onto an oral history project in the Shetland Islands, UK that also included a partnership with a local elementary school. Closer to home is our own Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area and Shortridge Coastal Center, where students and faculty engage in diverse research and learning projects, many of them linked to climate change and sea level rise. Finally, we have highlights from two Harward Center programs in which students cultivated and used their research skills in diverse publicly-engaged projects.

If you see something you like in this newsletter, or something that raises a question or prompts an idea, let us hear from you! We love to be in conversation about the college’s mission to cultivate “intellectual discovery and informed civic action.”

All my best,
Darby K. Ray

Exchanging Personal Stories and Perspectives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Barbara Crespo, Class of 2015

“Ba! Ta! Ja! Ha! Da!”  The room at B Street Community Center was filled with the sounds of the Somali alphabet letters. “Mahadsanid!” The class repeated after the charismatic Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services founder and instructor, Jama Mohamed. For five days, a total of fourteen Bates College students, Professor Patricia Buck, and Teacher Assistant, Barbara Crespo gathered at the Center to learn the Somali alphabet, dozens of Somali vocabulary words, and phrases that they would utilize in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While there are eighty individual languages of Ethiopia including Amharic, the official language, students were preparing to teach English in schools serving a Somali immigrant population.

Once in Addis the students worked in one of three school settings. They wrote daily journals about their experiences, developed and implemented lessons, and explored the rich and warm culture of Addis Ababa. Aware that they only had a short time in the city, students were quick to put the Somali phrases into use in vibrant lessons.

Everyday groups of students would make their way through the busy streets of Addis to their school sites. Some would walk through winding streets; others rode multiple mini buses through thick traffic. After a few days, students figured out the best shortcuts and claimed favorite restaurants. They taught talented and energetic Somali students who longed to learn as well as exchange personal stories and perspectives. Students faced the difficulties of time management, daily lesson planning, and adaptation to the challenges of teaching in under-resourced circumstances.

On days off the class visited an international training center for Ethiopia’s renowned marathon runners, climbed nearby Entoto Mountain taking in breathtaking views of the city, played football (soccer) with local youth, and went to national museums highlighting Ethiopian history and culture.

As their time abroad came to a close, some vowed to return to the rapidly developing country to continue the work they had started. All reported that they were deeply moved by the experience and came to understand poverty, privilege, the politics of teaching English as a foreign language, international aid work, and human resilience in new and, hopefully, enduring ways.

Place, Community and Transformation in Kingston, Jamaica: A Study of Space

Keenan Shields, Class of 2018

Place, Community and Transformation in Kingston, Jamaica was as broad as the title suggests. There were class meetings and activities, but no formal class. From the moment we woke up to the time we went to bed we were in class. Anthropology honors and studies everyday life; as budding anthropologists, existing was learning.

The focus of the course was on space: how people use space; why spaces affect people in the ways that they do; how space can be repurposed, reimagined and revitalized for social renewal. Although we considered all kinds of public space, we accorded special attention to green space and the potential it had for breaking down divides and bringing people together. Professor Carnegie laid out the course in flexible enough terms as to create a dynamic frame so that no matter what we studied and observed, we could fit it into the course.

We traveled to Kingston early on Monday, April 27, the first day of Short Term. A long day of flying, busing and lay-overing finally brought us to our homestay families’ homes late that night. For the next week and a half we moved around as a class, touring several downtown, economically disadvantaged communities, listening to a host of guest lecturers, and getting familiarized with the spaces and movements of our new home. The lecturers we heard from included community organizers, architects, engineers, urban planners and developers, social workers and professors, all of whom built upon the readings and studying we did in the months leading up to the course and laid a new foundation of what had already happened and was happening to create social renewal in Kingston.

After our orientation time, we broke into pairs to do ethnographic field work, a research technique practiced by anthropologists that involves learning cultures, communities and people through conversation, participation in daily life and observation. All seven pairs were assigned to different communities or public park spaces to conduct their research. In the spirit of experiential learning, Professor Carnegie gave very little instruction to how we would go about learning and being in these communities, giving us the freedom to develop our research and contributions as we saw fit.

A challenge we encountered early in our field work process was negotiating what exactly we would be doing for the people we were learning from–how would we reciprocate the time and knowledge they were giving us? This question became the driving force behind the community engaged learning aspect of the course, challenging us to redefine and reimagine our reciprocity. Each placement, whether in a community or park space, had different opportunities and organizations to engage with; some required more creativity to find ways to reciprocate the attention and care we received. Eventually, we found ways to reciprocate, whether through participating in the local economy or creating time to listen to the stories of people who are often ignored.

News from the Coast: Picking up the Pace in Phippsburg

Laura Sewall, Director, Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area and Shortridge Coastal Center

Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area (BMMCA) served as both a study site and an opportunity for community engagement for Brett Huggett’s class, The North Woods, during Short Term. After learning about the Spruce-fir forest at Morse Mountain, the class led a tree walk for Phippsburg Elementary School students, beginning with spontaneous entertainment from Nathan Stephansky ’17, BMMCA’s gatekeeper for the summer. Huggett’s students also identified the presence of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, an invasive insect that eventually kills hemlocks, and updated a brochure that allows visitors to take a self-guided nature walk. All of these activities support the environmental and educational missions of BMMCA, and are much appreciated by the Town of Phippsburg.

Short Term also provided the opportunity for Adam Auerbach ’16 and Nate Dana ’17 to map boundaries between vegetation zones in the Sprague Marsh. Their final map constitutes baseline data for tracking vegetation changes in response to sea level rise. In the future, this work may complement other on-going research, conducted by geology professors Bev Johnson and Mike Retelle, including measurements of sediment accretion, beach erosion, and carbon storage and emissions at BMMCA and area beaches.

By the time summer is underway, five geology students (Cailene Gunn ’16, Dana Cohen-Kaplan ’16, Nicole Cuelli ’16, Ian Hillenbran ’16, and a student from Smith College) will be continuing much of this research while living at the Shortridge Coastal Center. Other summer residents include Madeleine Hart ’18, Assistant to the BMMCA Director, two research technicians working for the Salt Marsh Habitat and Avian Research Project (SHARP), and Nicole Dubois, a technical assistant for Marine Mammals of Maine. Visiting researchers include Jim Tang and two graduate students from The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. They will work with Bev Johnson to measure the flow of carbon through the Sprague Marsh over a two week period. This work contributes to our understanding of the role that coastal wetlands play in the carbon cycle–and consequently, in climate change. Tang’s work is also focused on “Bringing wetlands to market”, or monetarily valuing marshes for their capacity to store carbon.

All of this represents active involvement in both globally-relevant research and the life of a vibrant coastal community. Please contact Laura Sewall if you would like to be involved.

Notes from the Field: Community Engagement in the Shetland Islands

Gerald Bigelow, Lecturer in Archeology

Hi Darby,

This is just a fast note to say that our work in Shetland has been going very well, and that the students are having a great time with their activities. We just finished the first ‘internship’ type experience for Gary Kersbergen at the Dunrossness Primary School yesterday, and he and I will also be there on Thursday giving talks and working with the students and teachers. Tonight we will interview an elderly resident of our scientific project area for traditional ecological knowledge and much more, and on Thursday night I will give a public lecture on the research project at the Boddam Community Hall. Tomorrow morning I will be interviewed by BBC Shetland Radio. And along with all this we have been doing archaeological surveys out in a variety of sheep pastures, in a variety of weathers! Last Saturday we traveled to the UK’s northernmost inhabited island, and collected limpets that are part of a biology project that Will Ambrose in Biology has been doing as part of the larger research.

We are coming back on Saturday, and I wish we had a week longer, and I know the students feel that way too. I have attached some photos: the students conversing with members of the South Mainland Community History Group, Casey collecting limpets on the island of Unst, and Gary at the school yesterday.

Best regards,

Short Term Action/Research Team Completes Fifth Successful Year

Holly Lasagna, Associate Director, Community-Engaged Learning Program

In its fifth year, the Harward Center’s Short Term Action/Research Team (STA/RT) program continues to collaborate with community partners in a unique way. Bates College’s Short Term–a five-week spring term in which students take one intensive course instead of the usual four–allows for the exploration of subjects in a deeper and more sustained way than might be possible during the regular academic year. In addition, because virtually all Bates students have some type of research experience thanks to a required senior capstone project or thesis, the STA/RT program matches students’ research skills to community-developed research needs during the focused five-week program. After a competitive application process, the small team of students works approximately 20 hours per week on community-engaged research projects and research-based action projects that are identified by staff at the Harward Center in consultation with community partners.

This year’s STA/RT program engaged eight students in diverse community-engaged projects that ranged from background research and initial data collection to data interpretation and project completion. These projects included:

  • Final analysis of a three-year pilot program to assess the Outpatient Family Medicine Teaching project for the Central Maine Health Center Residency Program.
  • Synthesis of existing literature on community paramedicine (CP) and the creation of a video and report on CP’s ability to reduce emergency department visits, developed in collaboration with the Muskie School and United Ambulance Community Paramedicine Program.
  • Creation of an asset map of community resources and the continuation of community lead poisoning programming in conjunction with the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative.
  • Development and implementation of an aspirations-themed day of programming for students from the 21st Century after-school program at Lewiston Middle School.
  • Analysis of the impact on student reading levels of the Project Story Boost program at a local elementary school.
  • Implementation of a parking study to compare the number of on-street parking spaces available in an area of downtown Lewiston with the number of cars actually utilizing those spaces–data that will inform city policy on parking requirements for downtown housing units.
  • Research for the Lewiston superintendent of schools and the Lewiston School Committee on innovative approaches to public education in other communities.
  • Assistance in the development of a database of employers willing to hire and train local youth for internships and potential future jobs. The resulting database will be used to develop a sustainable, long-term strategic plan for youth services in the city of Auburn.

Community-Engaged Research Fellows Program Fosters Interdisciplinary Peer Community

Darby Ray, Director

Community-engaged research–academic research that addresses public needs in dialogue with community partners–is an important part of a Bates education and the College’s commitment to informed civic action. The Harward Center for Community Partnerships sponsors the Community-Engaged Research Fellows program to support students’ pursuits of significant research projects with the off-campus community. Through seminar readings and discussion, students are exposed to the history, methods, and ethics of community-engaged research across different disciplines. These discussions engage them in thinking about the distinctive values and challenges of community-engaged research while creating an interdisciplinary peer community for sharing their work. Among this year’s Fellows was senior Jess Nichols, who researched the process of building and sustaining mutually beneficial campus-community partnerships through interviews with community partners and students. Jess concludes that the key ingredients needed to building and sustaining effective partnerships are a deep understanding of local context, thoughtfully cultivated reciprocal relationships, and structural supports such as those provided by the Harward Center. Another CER Fellow, Senior Martha Schnee, used methods as diverse as historic discourse analysis, cultural ethnography, creative nonfiction, and photography to investigate the small desert town of Marfa, Texas. Martha researched the question of how a burgeoning arts community created by an “outsider” links past narratives of “going west” to present day experiences in the region. Reflecting on the program, Martha commented, “The Community- Engaged Research Fellowship is one of the best academic resources I have experienced in my time at Bates. My year-long honors thesis project was an incredibly challenging project, and this seminar allowed me to feel heard and nurtured throughout the process.” Along with the STA/RT program, the CER Fellows has enjoyed the generous support of The Endeavor Foundation.

In The News

Want to know more about something in this newsletter, or have questions about the Harward Center or the civic mission of Bates College? Please contact Kristen Cloutier or visit us online.