April 9, 2014

PAGE is accepting applications for 2014-2015 Fellows!

PAGE (Publicly Active Graduate Education) is Imagining America’s network for publicly engaged graduate students in humanities, arts, and design. PAGE enhances the theoretical and practical tools for public engagement, fosters a national, interdisciplinary community of peers and veteran scholars, and creates opportunities for collaborative knowledge production. The PAGE consortium, made up of alumni and allies of the program, promotes opportunities for mentorship and peer support from IA’s network.

Imagining America (IA) invites graduate students with a demonstrated interest in public scholarship and/or artistic practice to apply for a 2014-2015 PAGE Fellowship. Awardees receive $500 to attend a half-day Fellows Summit on October 8th and the 2014 Imagining America national conference, October 9th-11th in Atlanta, Georgia.

Fellows also commit to participating in a yearlong working group to promote collaborative art-making, teaching, writing, and research projects. PAGE alumni and Fellows will work together to organize monthly conference calls around themes and questions relevant to the needs of publicly engaged graduate students. In doing so, PAGE looks to foster a cohort of Fellows interested in pursuing collective and innovative scholarly practices. Fellows are asked to be active participants in the Imagining America network through posting on the IA blog, presenting at regional meetings or campus workshops, or other related professional convenings. Additionally, each Fellow will be tasked with co-facilitating a webinar or workshop during the 2014-2015 academic year. Past examples include: book group discussions, virtual dinner parties, guest lectures, skill-building demonstrations, and music performances.

Learn more about PAGE from its 10th Anniversary Retrospective Video:

Graduate students from IA member campuses at all stages of their MA/MFA/PhD programs may apply to be PAGE Fellows.

The submission deadline is May 16th.

For more information and to apply, click here.


April 3, 2014

Call for 2014-2015 JGS Fellows


Are you a photography or digital media student engaging in community?

Are you looking for an opportunity to collaborate with peers and mentors as part of a national network?

Thanks to a generous grant from Joy of Giving Something, Inc. (JGS), Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life invites publicly engaged students of photography or digital media from our member institutions to apply for a tuition award and to join a national working group of students. The goal of the IA/JGS Fellows program is to elevate photography and digital media as a pathway for students to pursue their careers and make a difference in their communities.

Criteria includes:

  • Financial need
  • Artistic merit
  • Quality of community-engaged practice  (e.g., students with demonstrated leadership facilitating community-based photo or media arts experiences with people unlikely to  otherwise have access to art-making)

To be considered, we ask the student to contribute three work samples and write an essay (please see prompt below), and to have a faculty or staff member email a letter of recommendation with information about the student’s financial need to connect@imaginingamerica.org. The submission deadline is May 16thOnly one award will be given per school.

The 2014-15 JGS Fellows will receive tuition scholarships of $2,000 each and will commit to engaging in a yearlong learning exchange that will result in a collaborative media project. Fellows will be invited to participate in the 2014 Imagining America National Conference, October 9-11, in Atlanta, Georgia, and will be eligible for a limited number of travel stipends to attend the conference.

Fellows will be announced in July and the funds will be released shortly thereafter. Checks will be distributed to each Imagining America institution, and the faculty or staff nominator will be responsible for seeing that the winning student receives the scholarship funds.

Essay Prompt and Work Samples

Imagining America is a national consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities joining with publicly engaged scholars, artists, designers, and community members to advance the democratic purposes of higher education. We are the only national network working at the intersection of publicly engaged scholarship and the arts, design, and humanities. For context about the organization’s mission, please watch this video:

For the IA/JGS Fellows program, we seek students who are using their creativity and knowledge to address challenges and act on opportunities in their communities. We invite applicants to draw on their experience as publicly engaged artists and media makers to tell a story — through the essay and work samples — about their own lives and work. We are especially interested in stories that demonstrate the reciprocal value of having students and community members collaborate. Please consider at least one of the questions for the essay response and work samples:

  • What motivates you to use photography or digital media in your community engagement? (For example, was there something in your family upbringing that led you to this commitment?)
  • What was a pivotal moment that occurred for you doing this work?
  • What obstacles have you faced in realizing your community engaged art work?
  • In terms of the future – what’s at stake? what gives you hope?

Please write your story in less than 500 words and upload 3 work samples (e.g., photographs, videos, digital animation, stills from performances or installations). Be sure to curate your work samples to demonstrate your range of skills in art and community engagement. Fellows will have their multimedia essays published on the Imagining America website.

A webform by Podio


April 14, 2014

Oregon State University Extension: Engaging Communities with Arts, Humanities and Design

Extension Reconsidered proudly announces OSU Extension Reconsidered: Engaging Communities in the Arts, Humanities & Design”, the second of 13 events planned across the country. Oregon State University’s day-long forum invites students, Extension educators, non-Extension faculty, and community partners to imagine how the arts, humanities and design fields can further contribute to OSU Extension’s community revitalization work throughout Oregon. It is scheduled for April 15, 2014.

Participants will get a taste of how group artistic expression and facilitated deliberation can be effective community building and problem solving tools. Scott Reed, OSU vice provost for university outreach and engagement, observes that:

“This centennial year of the Smith-Lever Act is a pivotal opportunity to examine the way Extension serves the values of American society. Spending a day together in this way will stretch our collective thinking about the role of arts in the quality of our lives and communities.”

In the morning, Imagining America’s Scott Peters will offer welcoming remarks and place the event in the context of the national Extension Reconsidered initiative. Then, the “arts deliberarium” session will be led by OSU’s delightful Marion Rossi, director of the School of Arts and Communication, associate professor of theater arts, and associate dean of the OSU College of Liberal Arts. The session will incorporate a series of interactive exercises intended to offer an example of an arts engagement experience and get participants thinking creatively as a group for the afternoon discussion.

The afternoon will feature a facilitated group deliberation on several pressing questions about the future of OSU Extension related to the arts. Mary Arnold, OSU Extension 4H educator and co-lead of the OSU Extension Reconsidered planning team, will lead the participants in a conversation that considers:

  1. What is the role of the arts, humanities and design in a vibrant community?
  2. How is OSU Extension currently engaged through the arts? What additional opportunities are there for OSU Extension in this area, and what would it take to make it happen?
  3. What would communities look like if OSU Extension was more engaged in communities in the areas of art, humanities and design?

This forum is part of a longer term conversation within the University about how OSU Extension and the OSU College of Liberal Arts can collaborate in the future for the benefit of Oregon communities and the University itself.

The event is by invitation only. More information about the Oregon event—including video introductions—is available at the OSU Extension website. The national Extension Reconsidered initiative is described in more detail at the website and blog series, and on Twitter @ExtRecon.

April 7, 2014

My Glory Years at Extension: Remembering joy and spirit in the work

The Extension Reconsidered blog features posts from guest contributors who care about Cooperative Extension, the land-grant mission, community arts and humanities, civic engagement, and other issues related to the Extension Reconsidered initiative.

By Robert Kent, retired Interim Associate Director, New York Sea Grant, Cornell Cooperative Extension

I retired from Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2011 after working with the program for 33 years. In my files in the basement are representative letters I saved from constituents, thanking me for the help I provided them and their families over the years. I treasure them, and those letters reinforce to me that my career was worthwhile and made a difference.

One of the great pleasures for Kent in the "glory days" was the close relationships he formed with 4-H families.

One of the great pleasures for Robert Kent in the “glory days” was the close relationships he formed with 4-H families. Photo and caption courtesy of Robert Kent.

A colleague at another land grant college told me that when he was hired the dean said,

“Never pass up an opportunity to help someone.”

It comes down to that. Working with that principle in mind is where my sense of joy and mission in Extension came from.

However, I was recently struck by this sentence by Scott J. Peters, describing how he sees Extension today, in the preface of the reissued The People’s Colleges: A History of the New York State Extension Service in Cornell University and the State, 1876-1948:

“Yet, to me at least, things feel smaller and flatter today, less joyful and spirited than how I imagine they felt during the times we read about in the pages of this book.”

That sentence really resonated with me.

Recently I happened to be with some of the folks I worked with in the early days of my career and we all had the same thought: we had worked during the “glory days” of Extension. That got me to pondering what was so special back then that we felt that times were better.

Here’s a list of things I came up with that made Extension work seem so special back then.

  • Relationships

Extension staff based in counties throughout New York had very close relationships with each other. This came about through regular regional and statewide meetings. We all knew each other, we all worked together on regional and statewide programs, and we all supported and helped each other.

Extension staff had close relationships with faculty. Many faculty members regularly traveled throughout our state providing support to local programs. They formed relationships with local people. Locally based Extension staff served on committees to give input and guidance to faculty about their Extension efforts. We all felt part of one program, jointly created.

Joy and satisfaction comes from being part of a community that supports its members, and we had a strong sense of that. When I was with the 4-H program, I knew 4-H staff in every county in the state. I always knew if I had trouble on the road while traveling the local 4-H agents would help me out.

“Close and frequent contact with Cornell faculty led to a sense of being part of a larger state-wide program.” — Robert Kent with Dr. Samuel Sabin from the Animal Science Department at Cornell. Sabin oversaw the 4-H horse club program. He as well as many other extension faculty members traveled around the state frequently to stay in touch with local staff and programs. Photo and caption courtesy of Robert Kent.

  • Freedom to address local needs

Although we were part of a larger effort, our programs addressed local needs very closely, and we had the freedom to develop programs that our various constituents wanted.

  • Administrative support for a shared sense of mission

Our administrative leaders at the University also made us feel we were part of something special, and they stayed in frequent contact with us. I also don’t recall being always worried about the budget for the program.

Toward the end my career, however, I had an administrative position and often worried even at night how I was going to keep everyone working. Our funding became softer, relying more on grants as core funding shrank either through direct cuts or level funding over long periods of time. Staff need to have a sense of security to be happy and effective.

With funding cuts, travel decreased and we no longer could stay in touch with each other through regular regional and statewide meetings. I think the sense of being part of a large community diminished as that happened.

These days, I hear staff complain that their time available to help people and to develop programs is being squeezed by the time they have to spend doing reports. The amount of time spent justifying programs and documenting impacts has increased as budgets have become tighter.

Perhaps those were simpler times when I started my career.

But I do believe that the sense of joy and excitement in Extension work comes from having the freedom to develop programs that really address the needs of the people one is trying to serve, and from feeling one is part of a very important mission that has the support of the institution one works for.

Anything that Extension leaders today can do to instill that sense of mission and importance throughout the system can help either bring the glory days back, or keep them alive where they still exist. Perhaps the most important way to do that is to find ways to keep people in close contact with each other so that they feel part of something larger than themselves and their own programs.

The issues today are as pressing and important as they were in the beginning of Extension and “the glory days.” The land grant colleges have much to offer in our changing world to help communities find solutions to today’s problems. The work is certainly no less important than it was in days gone by.

Robert Kent is retired from Cooperative Extension and still lives in New York State.

Opinions presented on the Extension Reconsidered blog belong to the authors. Contact Jen Jensen (jkj37@cornell.edu) to contribute, or comment here to share your thoughts. Follow @ExtRecon on Twitter for blog updates.

April 2, 2014

Community Arts University Without Walls Certificate Program

Imagining America is passing along an excellent opportunity for students interested in engagement and the arts.

The Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Culture Center African Diaspora Institute are offering the Community Arts University Without Walls Certificate Program June 23-July 3. The program allows participants interested in the role the arts play in engaging issues of social justice to experience how this work is undertaken in Puerto Rico.

Classroom instruction and fieldwork opportunities comprise the experience, and students will be able to meet and work with community leaders, government officials, arts activists, scholars, and other local stakeholders involved in the engagement process.

Undergraduates will receive six credits upon successfully completing the course. Graduate students will receive eight credits. Students are responsible for assuring the credits will transfer to their home institutions. Non-matriculated students may also participate.

Learn more here.