Professional Pathways in Applied Performance

Imagining America is happy to promote this opportunity, open to all, to learn about incorporating applied performance practice into careers in diverse fields.

Professional Pathways in Applied Performance

Syracuse University Intensive Theater Course in New York City

The Fisher Center, 136 Madison Avenue at E. 31st Street, May 28 – June 5, 2014

This course introduces career options using performance in contexts and venues including education, the justice system, healthcare, the political arena, community development, museums, and social service agencies. Students encounter multiple performance methods—story-based, devised, adaptations, solo, site specific, dance, and musical—and glean how such work is used with participants of all ages, ethnicities, and circumstances. Mornings feature hands-on exercises, readings, and discussions; afternoons are for field trips to practitioners. The course—3-credit for undergrads, 1 credit for graduate students—is open to students from Syracuse University and other institutions.

Guest Presenters and Site Visits

Maria Bauman, Associate Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women, which seeks to bring the untold & under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance.

Lear deBissonet is Director of Public Works, a major new initiative of the Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators.

Tamara Greenfield is Executive Director of Fourth Arts Block, a neighborhood-wide coalition of 26 arts & community organizations in the East Village & the Lower East Side.

Terry Greis is Executive Director of Irondale Theatre Project, an ensemble that creates plays and makes theatre as a creative team.

Rosalba Rolon is Artistic Director of Pregones Theater, an ensemble that creates and performs original musical theater and plays rooted in Puerto Rican/Latino cultures.

Jennie Smith-Peers is Executive Director of Elders Share the Arts, a community arts organization dedicated to transforming the memories of older adults into art.

Helen White is Director of Creative Arts Team, a nonprofit organization at The City University of New York that uses the power of drama to inspire youth to learn.

Course Instructor

Jan Cohen-Cruz (PhD, NYU), editor of Public: A Journal of Imagining America, was director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, 2007–2012. Previously, Jan taught at NYU, directing a minor in Applied Theater and initiating socially engaged projects and courses. She wrote Engaging Performance: Theatre as Call and Response and Local Acts: Community‑Based Performance in the US, edited Radical Street Performance, and, with Mady Schutzman, co‑edited Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism and A Boal Companion. Jan is a University Professor at Syracuse University. She received the 2012 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Award for Leadership in Community-Based Theatre & Civic Engagement.

Course Expense

The course provides three credits of study to undergraduates and one credit to graduate students. Based on last year’s charges, the course will cost:

  • Syracuse full-time undergraduate students: $1037 per credit (total of $3,111)
  • Undergraduates from other schools: $703 per credit (total $2109)
  • Graduate students: $1,294
  • Auditors: $776.

For more information and to apply, contact Jan Cohen-Cruz at

Request for Proposals: Spencer Foundation, The New Civics

This post originally appeared on

Spencer Foundation
The New Civics
Request for Proposals

The New Civics initiative starts with the assumption that a central aim of civic education is to prepare young people to act with civic purpose and to do so effectively and with good judgment. Like others, we presume that individuals must be educated for citizenship and that schools have a historic mandate to develop young people’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions for responsible citizenship. At the same time, we expand the scope of civic learning for civic action beyond the school; community organizations, political parties, and many other groups have both the interest and the capacity to contribute to this critical aim. If the goal is to prepare young people to act in informed and mature ways, what civic knowledge, skills, dispositions, and attitudes do they need to learn or develop? How do young people learn these building blocks for civic participation? Broadly speaking, how can education, in whatever form it takes and wherever it occurs, contribute to more effective programs and practices to achieve this goal?

The New Civics initiative invites research proposals that ask critical questions about how education can more effectively contribute to the civic development of young people. As a start, we ask what experiences, environments, and contexts help young people, from all walks of life, develop the habits, skills, understandings, and dispositions that encourage informed participation in civic affairs. In so doing we seek to connect to a tradition of civic education inside schools, both to reassert its legitimacy as a primary aim of public schooling, and to reimagine what civic education might include. Yet civic development also occurs outside classrooms and schools, and we underscore our interest in research about civic action and learning in those contexts as well. Our ultimate aim is to contribute to educational improvement by supporting high-quality research studies that can lead to better-designed, more effective programs, policies, practices, and settings that prepare young people to act and to do so in informed and reasoned ways.

Central Goals

Our aim is not simply to increase the quantity of civic action, but also to improve the quality of young actors’ deliberations and participation, particularly by helping them to learn skills, knowledge, attitudes, and dispositions that support this quality. While the quality of civic action is central to our framing of this work, we highlight here as well our interest in understanding the pathways to civic action for young people from diverse political, social, and economic backgrounds. Thus, we wish to encourage research efforts aimed at three goals – action, quality, and equality.

Action matters.
We view civic learning – what young people should know and be able to do – in an expanded way. Civics (the “old” civics) tends to be associated with a rather staid preoccupation with historical, descriptive, and procedural knowledge about systems of government . The New Civics views the aims of civic learning as targeting not just or primarily the skills and knowledge associated with the old civics, but ultimately, the learning and other factors that contribute to well-informed civic actions. We encourage work that addresses action with the following characteristics: the action addresses systemic or social issues, or power relations; the action is, in some way, in the public sphere. Examples of such actions include voting, working together to solve a neighborhood or school problem, participating in an organization aimed at a broader social goal, writing to a newspaper or on a blog about an issue, producing art with social or political themes, or using the Internet to rally people around various causes. We seek to understand the developmental pathways to greater adult participation, but we are equally interested in how and why young people participate at different ages and in different contexts.

Quality matters.
We emphasize here action that results from informed, reasoned deliberation and a meaningful civic commitment rather than from fleeting impulse or ill-grounded conviction. Yet the challenges to well-informed and reasoned participation are many, including the extraordinary expansion of information sources, in many cases accompanied by a narrowing of points of view represented in those sources, globalization, and the increased demands of global and regional citizenship. We believe that successfully meeting these challenges may depend in large part on providing young people with formal and informal opportunities to learn particular skills, knowledge, attitudes, and dispositions relevant to civic participation. Thus, knowing more about learning that leads (or could lead) to quality civic action is a central aim of The New Civics.

Equality matters.
Of special interest are improved understandings of the avenues for and impediments to civic learning and civic action among young people who do not attend college, who reside in marginalized communities, who are recent immigrants or immigrants of different legal statuses, or who are less economically privileged. We are aware that individuals are members of social groups, some privileged and some excluded. We want to know how civic learning and civic action are influenced by the group context or by the individuals’ social ties that bridge these groupings.

Research Priorities

Our research priorities, while framed broadly enough to encompass a range of approaches and research questions, ultimately come down to understanding factors that promote the learning emphasized in The New Civics, as well as factors that discourage that learning.

Three sets of influences on civic learning and action interest us:

  • Powerful motivations and psychological influences: How and why do civic motivations and other cognitive and psychological influences – such as a sense of social responsibility, civic agency, and civic identity – develop and change? What role do they play in influencing civic action?
  • Enabling learning experiences and environments: What kinds of environments, pedagogies, curricula, and relationships are especially conducive to civic learning and to developing civic motivations and commitments?
  • Societal or group norms, political processes or events, historical and cultural trends, and other contextual influences: How are individuals, groups, and institutions influenced by the times, cultures, and contexts in which they live? How do political processes like elections, unique unifying events (like 9/11 or the Columbine shootings), national or local policies, and other potential historical or contextual factors influence civic learning and civic action?

The scope of research that contributes to this agenda is broad. We are interested in populations ranging in age from young children to early adulthood, in formal and informal educational settings and contexts (including ‘new media’ and the like), and in work that explores the implications for civic action of differing national political systems and cultures and of the globalization of citizenship, national identity, and agency. The portfolio will benefit from the perspectives of many disciplines and from diverse methodologies and perspectives. We encourage research that is theoretically well-grounded and that allows for consideration of alternative explanations and of multiple possible pathways to civic learning and civic action.

We invite scholars in education, the social sciences, and the humanities to consider the aims of the Initiative, the questions that animate the research priorities, and the opportunities for making a contribution to this important area.

Research grant awards range from less than $40,000 to $350,000, typically extending over periods of one to four years.

Call for Submissions to Partnerships Journal: “Spaces of participation and democratic engagement: The public life of higher education reconsidered”

Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning & Civic Engagement

Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 2013

“Spaces of participation and democratic engagement:
The public life of higher education reconsidered”

Partnerships is a multi-disciplinary, open access peer reviewed journal, exploring “effective partnerships between students, faculty, community agencies, administrators, disciplines” in higher education.

Abstracts due: March 15, 2014

Final drafts due: October 30, 2014

Expected publication date: Summer 2015

Call for Submissions

The field of community engagement has been defined by a general belief that civic and public work of the academy should advance partnerships that are reciprocal, mutually beneficial, and reflect an exchange of knowledge and resources (Carnegie). A general commitment to the community engagement framework, announced by the Carnegie classification system, has led to the successful integration and institutionalization of core community engagement principles across many spaces of higher education. However, as the field of community engagement has matured scholars and practitioners have applied the principles of engagement to a broad range of to civic and community-based public work. The different underlying purposes and expectations associated with these applications range from a concern for social justice to a desire to strengthen the practice of democracy to projects that address pressing social, environmental and economic issues in the broader community.

As community engagement practice continues to evolve, it is challenging our earlier assumptions about who should participate in the work and also what kinds of collaboration and interpretations of engagement are most appropriate for particular situations, problems, and spaces of involvement (Boyte & Evans, 1992). The assumed spaces in which the principles of community engagement are being applied are also beginning to shift. Some are applying the principles of community engagement to pursue social justice goals. The principles of community engagement have also been leveraged to guide diversity, access, and retention and successful degree completion initiatives. Our field is even beginning to see development officers apply the principles of community engagement to fundraising campaigns. Economic development programs designed by colleges and universities, have also adopted the principles of community engagement as a guiding paradigm. The growing range of assumptions that inform who participates in this work and how the principles of engagement are applied to the purposes and expected outcomes of various engagement efforts are beginning to raise a series of questions about who gets to participate in, define, and evaluate community-engaged work.

The growing acceptance and expanding application of community engagement principles is leading to the emergence of a wider range of civic, democratic, community, and public engagement paradigms. These emerging paradigms are being produced by a multitude of voices expressing, defining, and applying the principles of community engagement to their work. The way emerging community engagement paradigms are expressed, in practice, can define important professional boundaries but, also can construct arbitrary lines of demarcation that are ultimately unhelpful in supporting a robust public life. The goal of this issue is to explore emerging paradigms of community engagement and subsequent contested applications of community engagement practice. We are specifically interested in research articles, essays, and empirical studies that address the emerging boundaries and paradigms that are being produced by applying the principles of community engagement to different types of civic and public work. Papers that consider ways to expand participation from the widest range of campus and community participants will receive extra attention. This issue should help our field define useful parameters that delineate forms of community engagement practice and address unhelpful barriers that do not serve a meaningful purpose.

The following series of questions frame the type of research topics that have both theoretical and practical significance:

  1. How are the principles of community engagement being applied to problems and opportunities within the social, political, environmental, and economic sphere?
  2. How are the principles of community engagement being evaluated, assessed, and measured in emerging spaces of engagement? (e.g. economic development, technology transfer, fundraising and development, diversity and access initiatives, etc.)
  3. How can public scholarship and community-engaged scholarship be approached in ways that broaden the participation of all parts of the community in posing questions, conducting the research, interpreting the results and working out ways to apply the knowledge gained to understand and respond to community problems and opportunities?
  4. How can public scholarship and community-engaged scholarship be designed to help student, community partners, and other stakeholders learn the basic skills and democratic habits that will allow them to redefine systems, organizations and institutions to align with principles of democracy in all aspects of life in the community?What lessons can we learn from promising and successful models of campus- community collaboration that have broadened participation in the work?
  5. What kind of support systems are proving to be most effective in assisting faculty (contingent, tenure-track, and other), community partners, and students in designing and implementing various forms of community-engaged work?
  6. How can we best include a broader spectrum of members of the community in participating in both community-engaged scholarship and in high impact teaching and learning practices that address community needs? How can we best include a broader spectrum of members of the community in assessing the quality of both community- engaged scholarship and community-based learning experiences? What lessons can be drawn from current models of assessment of student, faculty, and community partner work?

Questions about this special addition and abstracts should be sent to by March 15, 2013.

Submission Guidelines

All work submitted should be original material not under review or publication elsewhere.

Recommended final manuscript length is 8-13 single spaced pages, excluding abstract, references, and appendices. Students and community members are encouraged to contribute as co-authors, with faculty or administrators assuming lead authorship.

For more information about Partnerships and about the length, style, formats, and formatting of articles see

Guest Editors

BRANDON W. KLIEWER ( or is an assistant professor of civic engagement and campus director of the American Democracy Project at Florida Gulf Coast University. Brandon is also an associate scholar with Points of Light in Atlanta, Georgia. Brandon holds a Ph.D. from The University of Georgia in political science and a Master’s degree in political science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

JUDITH RAMALEY ( (Ph.D. UCLA), is President Emerita and Distinguished Professor of Public Service at Portland State University in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government and President Emerita of Winona State University in Minnesota and former president of The University of Vermont. Dr. Ramaley holds an appointment as a Senior Scholar with the Association of American Colleges and Universities. In addition to her experience as an academic leader, she served as Assistant Director of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate at the National Science Foundation from 2001-2005.


Boyte, H. & Evans, S. (1992). Free spaces: The sources of democratic change in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved October 20, 2013 from Page 90.

2nd Spring 2014 NERCHE Virtual Think Tank with Farrah Jacquez

NERCHE is pleased to have recently launched its Spring 2014 Virtual Think Tanks, which will focus on community engagement in teaching and learning, research, and institutional structures within higher education.

The second Virtual Think Tank, titled “Promoting Health Equity through Community Engaged Scholarship,” will take place on March 5, 2014, from 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and features Farrah Jacquez, of University of Cincinatti. This webinar will present strategies—based on a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) orientation—for engaging community organizations and stakeholders in health equity teaching and research. Additionally, the presenter will explore how young faculty using CBPR as a framework for starting an academic career have the opportunity to not only meet the requirements of promotion and tenure but also impact the health of local communities. Challenges of engaging communities pre-tenure and specific strategies used to address those obstacles will also be examined. Webinar participants will have the opportunity to discuss CBPR as an orientation to teaching and research, how this approach can have both a local and academic impact on health equity, and both the benefits and challenges of engaging in CBPR as an early career faculty.

About the Presenter:

1 JacquezFarrah Jacquez is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. Her research, teaching, and service activities all focus on partnering with communities to address health inequities experienced by children and families. In partnership with Latino community stakeholders in Cincinnati, she is working to understand and improve the health and healthcare experiences of Latino immigrants in nontraditional destination areas. In addition, Dr. Jacquez is the academic partner in community coalition dedicated to fighting obesity in rural Appalachia. Together with her community partners, Dr. Jacquez has helped to secure funding for community organizations to develop health interventions for children and to disseminate the results of community-partnered work into both academic and community settings. Dr. Jacquez integrates community engagement into her teaching by working with her community partners to provide experiential pedagogical opportunities for undergraduates to learn about health disparities. She also mentors graduate students through community-partnered theses and dissertation projects. Dr. Jacquez completed her graduate training at Vanderbilt University, a clinical internship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and postdoctoral training in pediatric psychology at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami. In 2013, Dr. Jacquez received NERCHE’s annual Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty.

Register for this session.

Purchase a recording of this session.

2014 National Conference Call for Participation

Organizing. Culture. Change.

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life
2014 National Conference
Atlanta, Georgia

October 9–11th, 2014
Pre-conference workshops, October 8th

Co-hosted by Emory University, in partnership with Kennesaw State University and Alternate ROOTS

Call for Participation:

The 2014 Imagining America conference, to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 9–11, is animated by three keywords: Organizing. Culture. Change. These keywords represent concentrations of energy and activity across higher education and within the IA consortium—contested terrains that demand critical discourse and analysis. We invite and challenge Imagining America consortium members, and their institutional and community partners, to sharpen our collective understanding of the nature and promise of organizing culture change; to provoke conversation and debate around the many meanings of these keywords; to explore the distinctive contributions that methodologies, concepts, theories, and knowledge from arts, humanities, and design fields make to the work of organizing culture change; and to illuminate how organizing culture change can transform higher education’s role in the work of democracy.

Culture change is already a reality, both within higher education and beyond. It is partly the result of powerful and complex global forces that are restructuring our institutions and reshaping how we live our lives, for better and for worse. Our conference theme is an invitation to engage but also move beyond the work of analyzing and criticizing the kind of culture change that global forces are producing. Through careful and critical exploration of work that is already underway in our consortium, our central purpose is to advance our collective capacity to organize positive culture change in ways that align with IA’s commitment to cross-sectoral engagement and mutually beneficial partnerships. To this end, we seek proposals that will offer opportunities for conference attendees to take up one or more of the following key questions:

  • What forces for culture change are already underway in and beyond higher education? In what ways and to what extent are they products of intentional organizing?
  • What specific approaches to organizing are IA members using (such as action-research, cultural organizing, popular education, broad-based community organizing)?
  • Using the public narrative framework developed by Marshall Ganz, what is “story of us,” and “story of now” emerging within IA and among its members? How can these stories be used to ground, focus, and inspire effective organizing?
  • What practices, strategies, and tactics will inspire and support the work of organizing culture change in ways that help us close the gap between our own best judgments of “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be”?

Goals & National Context

Our main goal at this year’s conference is to facilitate a turn of IA and its membership toward the work of organizing culture change through narrative inquiry, analysis, and action. We seek to share and document some of the complex stories about higher education’s democratic engagement movement from the people within and outside of the academy. We anticipate personal and institutional stories that will illuminate the culture change IA stakeholders wish to bring about as well as the culture change that is already occurring. To sharpen our collective understanding of the “story of us” and the “story of now,” we invite critical analysis about the state of publicly-engaged higher education, in general, and the arts, design, and humanities, in particular. One projected outcome will be an exploration of what counts as meaningful action for IA as a national consortium, and the development of specific vehicles, avenues, and practices that can make such action possible.

This year’s conference builds on the IA consortium’s work during the 2012 conference in New York City and the 2013 conference in Syracuse, NY, focusing on the recognition that transforming the culture and the politics of higher education will require a multi-pronged organizing strategy that encompasses the development of public narratives, meaningful public relationships, scholarly research, and avenues for action.

We encourage prospective presenters and participants to draw from IA materials, including its Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals statement, Theory of Change, ongoing Research & Action projects, and the Conference Section in the last issue of Public: A Journal of Imagining America; to consider how you might use Marshall Ganz’s public narrative framework in your sessions; and to focus on this year’s conference keywords—organizing, culture, and change.

We hope you will also take the opportunity to submit to the special issue of Public on “Organizing. Culture. Change.” that will appear some months following the conference. The journal provides IA with a unique opportunity to share “the story of us” and “the story of now” more broadly than among those who attend the annual conference. For details, go to

Local Context

Having “risen from the ashes” after the Civil War, Atlanta rose to prominence as the capital of the New South—a south purported to be concerned more with business and industry and less the legacy of human slavery—in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite civil rights battles that included blockbusting and on-going challenges in school desegregation, beginning in the 1950s, the city embraced a new slogan as “the city too busy to hate.” While Atlanta struggled to shed its segregated past, it emerged as a diverse—and massive—metropolitan area. In the 1970s the city earned a reputation as an international business center just as Ebony Magazine labeled it the “black mecca” due to its black political power, prominent cultural institutions, and economic opportunities. The city likewise gained prominence as a destination for gays and a center for gay culture. And since the 1990s, Atlanta has attracted high numbers of Hispanic and Latinos. By the 2000s, Atlanta had become one of the nation’s most diverse metropolitan areas.

Sprawling across 10 counties and 3,000 square miles and home to 4.2 million people, metropolitan Atlanta boasts rich cultural traditions while still struggling to emerge from the more challenging aspects of its past. Host to the 1996 Olympic games, the city struggled to confront its homelessness issues while preventing more poor families from losing their homes to sports venues. At the same time, local implementation of federal housing policies resulted in the razing of traditional public housing communities and the use of housing vouchers to concentrate the poor in other sections of the city. In part as a result, Atlanta’s suburban poverty rate has increased 159% since 2000. Metropolitan residents’ love for cars and disdain for taxes and regional transportation solutions have meant on-going traffic congestion and lost business opportunities. And the region remains locked in a battle with Alabama and Florida over water access from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basins. Arguably still the capital of the South, Atlanta remains a city of dichotomies, a city that struggles to maintain the best aspects of its region while embracing change and facing up to its challenges. The city’s legacy as home to civil rights activists and organizations holds promise for those who seek to use the arts and humanities for democratic renewal and grassroots social change.

Session Formats

To provide greater focus for our collective efforts, IA is reducing the overall number of accepted proposals for the 2014 event.

We continue to encourage seminar proposals, which have the potential to include a large number of participants around an area of shared concern, and to enact the organizing principles IA is trying to cultivate.

Regardless of one’s preferred format, proposals should take the form that best facilitates critical and dialogic exchange around the proposed topic. Sessions may take, but are not limited to, the following formats:

  1. Seminar: An individual or team may lead a session with conference participants who have prepared in advance. Seminar proposals include strategies for pre-conference collaboration. We appreciate seminars with concrete goals for advancing work at the conference and/or for generating future collaborations among participants. After a limited number of seminars are selected, a call for participation will be announced on Imagining America’s website and via social media. Interested individuals will apply for admission to the session through the IA website. All confirmed participants are included in the conference program as presenters. Seminars that fail to attract at least 8 participants—excluding organizers—will be cancelled. Please note: Seminar leaders are responsible for convening participants, ensuring that they conform to expectations, and facilitating the session. Conference participants who have not prepared ahead of time but who are interested in the seminar will be welcome to audit.
  2. Media Session: The conference will include curated media screenings. We invite you to submit film, video, or audio clips, or excerpts from projects that utilize new media. Accepted submissions will be grouped and screened by themes and/or type of project. Sessions will be organized to allow for audience conversation with each presenter.
  3. Performance and Dialogue: These sessions provide the experience of particular performance-based engagement methodologies or innovative models of engaged performance. Sessions must include ample opportunity for discussion and critique.
  4. Poster: Conference attendees may present and solicit feedback on their existing and emerging projects by displaying a poster at a session dedicated to that format. Posters typically mix a brief narrative description with photographs, organizational or historical charts, maps, video, or other modes of presentation.
  5. Roundtable: Designed to generate discussion around a shared topic, issue, or action, roundtables begin with short statements (5–10 minutes) in response to questions distributed in advance by the organizer. The sessions are then largely discussion and feedback. Roundtables involving participants from different institutions, centers, and organizations are encouraged.
  6. Workshop: A facilitator sets the agenda, poses opening questions, and organizes participant activities and discussions. The session can focus on specific skill development, problems, resources for higher education-community partnerships, or work and conversation on particular issues.

Imagining America staff will facilitate additional connections among proposals once they are received. All accepted presenters must be willing to work with Imagining America to ensure that the session is integrated into the fabric of the entire conference and advances the conference goals.

Strong preference is given to proposals from Imagining America member institutions. The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2014.


Indiana Campus Compact’s Connecting Campuses with Communities

The IUPUI Center for Service and Learning and Indiana Campus Compact invite those interested in enhancing their service learning courses or advancing their research on service learning to the Connecting Campuses with Communities conference.

When: May 12-16, 2014
Where: Indianapolis, IN

  • Faculty/Staff: $250 per event, $450 for both
  • Graduate Students: $200 per event, $350 for both

The conference is a two-part event that focuses on building a network of scholars and practitioners and offers the following opportunities:

  • The Service Learning Institute (May 12-14) is ideal for those interested in gaining strategies used to improve the quality of a service learning course.
  • The Research Academy (May 14-16) is designed to strengthen one’s research on service learning while advancing their scholarship of teaching and learning.

Applications will be accepted now through March 3, 2014. Before starting the online application process, we recommend reviewing the questions before preparing your responses. Download a PDF of the application questions.

2014 Gulf-South Summit at Auburn University

Auburn University extends an invitation to one and all to attend the 2014 Gulf-South Summit at Auburn, Alabama. This year’s Summit is entitled “Creating capacity collaboratively: Connecting learning and civic outcomes.” The conference will be held March 26-28, 2014.

The mission of the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education is to promote networking among practitioners, research, ethical practices, reciprocal campus-community partnerships, sustainable programs, and a culture of engagement and public awareness through service-learning and other forms of civic engagement.

Now in its 12th year, the Gulf-South Summit has become one of foremost annual conferences on service-learning in the United States. Originally organized by several major southern universities, the Summit continues its tradition of meeting in the South for its hospitality and pleasant spring weather. However, the Summit is truly national in scope, annually attracting faculty, students and service professionals from all over America to network with colleagues and meet leading authorities on civic engagement.

The early-bird registration deadline is January 31, so click here to learn more and register.

Organizing Toward Atlanta 2014, Part 1

By Imagining America Associate Director Kevin Bott, this post is part one of two.

In just a few weeks, Imagining America will announce the Call for Participation for the 2014 national conference to be held in Atlanta,  Ga, October 8–11. But, even as we look ahead to the fall, let’s simultaneously toggle back and forth with where we’ve been, to take account of what we’ve been attempting to do through our annual event as a means of understanding where we’re trying to go.

At the end of the document, The End of the Beginning: Report on the First Two Years (2001), IA boldly concludes, “Imagining America is a Movement.” Well, those were heady days, what with the dawn of a new century and before 9/11, the housing bubble, and all that followed. But while IA never was a movement unto itself, I think it’s quite safe to say that the consortium exploded out of a concentration of spirit—at once dissatisfied and hopeful—from which movements are born. And that spirit continues to infuse the consortium today.

But what would IA look like if we were to take the idea of movement-building seriously? What would IA look like if the network went beyond analysis and discussion and moved boldly into the world of transactional power in order to attempt to transform the culture and politics of higher education? We know historically that people-led movements require financial support and advisors, but they also require leaders who do what the Civil Rights leader Ella Baker referred to as the patient “spade work” of organizing. So what would it mean if we viewed IA’s work as organizing culture change? How would the structure of IA change? How would the mission change? How would the relationships within the consortium change?

For the IA staff, these questions, which IA has been circling for the past several years, came into sharp relief recently when we attended a 5-day training led by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the organizing network founded in 1940 by Saul Alinsky. It was a challenging and provocative retreat for us, forcing us to superimpose the language and tactics of what IAF calls “power organizing” onto the uniquely complicated map of higher education. It was an imprecise mapping to say the least. One afternoon, teams were asked to present a problem they were dealing with in their community and to perform a power analysis of the various entities involved. After one group talked about the dismal living conditions and high crime impacting their community, and another talked about the unfair practices being carried out in their town by a multinational bank, the IA team got up and began talking about the role of higher education in democratic life. I feared our presentation would be received as an abstract, non-urgent “problem” of the Ivory Tower.

Much to my surprise, after some initial confusion, the group of about 35 people became quite engaged in our “problem.” And while the solutions offered by the others mostly served to underscore the differences between organizing in communities and in an institution like higher ed., it was clear that people cared about it. People “got” the connection between a vibrant democracy and an accessible, democratically engaged educational system. I was again reminded that the story of American higher education—the promise of it, as yet unfulfilled—is one that strikes people. It’s a story people want to see themselves in, which I’d say is a good sign if we truly want to take movement-building seriously.

The national conference has always been a site for experimentation with regard to what it means to be part of a movement. But the focus of that movement has shifted over the years. The early focus (2000–2007) on what was happening within higher education (namely building the network, challenging the faculty reward system, and making space for engaged graduate perspectives) expanded during what I think of as IA’s second chapter (2007–2011) to focus on the role of the community partner within the network. Throughout this second stage, consortium members were clear that they wanted the conference to do something. People wanted the IA conference to advance theory and practice about engagement. If this thing was supposed to be about building a movement, well, people wanted to feel like we were moving!

And so in 2012, just as IA was entering its third chapter, the conference in New York City finally asked a question that had not yet been asked: could those of us working for democracy and equity within higher education, and those at the grassroots working for the same, conclude that our “fates and futures” were intertwined and that the achievement of our goals lay in action emerging from the recognition of our shared self-interest? Or were even the “best practices” in the engagement field instances of appropriation and colonization?

The unfulfilled goal of the NYC conference was to name and analyze the historical moment, imagine possible futures using our collective creativity, and, finally, to articulate actions and directions for the consortium to take. This unrealized aspiration led directly to the 2013 conference in Syracuse, the theme of which, “A Call to Action,” doubled down on NYC’s desire for an action-oriented outcome.

So what happened? What action emerged?

Well, as the staff learned at the recent IAF retreat, action—in the organizing sense of the word—means a display of collective power intended to provoke a reaction from those representing the interests of the status quo. In that sense, no action emerged. Instead, we provoked scores of calls for activity, many of them the same kinds of activities the status quo very much supports: special journal topics, forums on particular issues, alterations in how the conference is run, etc.

But an action? A display of collective power meant to provoke? No, the conference was not properly organized to elicit that. But as a staff, we left the recent IAF training prepared to make the case that if this consortium is sincere about transforming higher education, we need to seriously consider transforming ourselves. We need to move from a network content to nibble at the fringes of change, far from the centers of power, to a network willing to make real claims to power and to push higher ed. “to serve a larger purpose.”

The goals that motivated IA at its inception, as named in The End of the Beginning, no longer capture the broader vision, nor the many dimensions, of the consortium and its members’ work. That document no longer reflects the urgency of the membership—an urgency that mirrors what is being felt among us all, in our cities, in the country, and on the planet: the crumbling of mediating institutions; the concentration of wealth and power among the few and the concomitant destabilizing effects of that concentration on democracy; the sense of living within a culture that is increasingly violent and seemingly unrepentant in its detachment from the suffering of others; the terrifying understanding that our natural world is being destroyed before our very eyes; and the too common feeling of paralysis as we witness and experience it all.

But what that early report continues to capture is the consortium’s urgent, restless, dissatisfied optimism, an energy that provides the sense of vibrancy and community that so many report experiencing at each annual meeting. Imagining America attracts a lot of brilliant, dynamic, passionate, creative, sincere people who come together to make things happen in the world. To move, through imagination and action, from the world as it is toward the world as it should be.

In the second part of this piece, I’ll write about the very specific and intentional ways we want to invite the consortium to start moving toward action, and the ways we see the singular powers of arts, humanities, and design contributing something unique and powerful to existing organizing theories and practices.

Year of the Rural Arts

Imagining America is proud to be a founding partner of the Year of the Rural Arts.

THE YEAR OF THE RURAL ARTS is a biennial program of events, conversations, and online features celebrating the diverse, vital ways in which rural arts and culture contribute to American life. This inaugural effort will connect citizens, artists, scholars, designers, and entrepreneurs and meet with audiences on the grounds of universities, museums and galleries, cultural organizations, and across rural and urban communities.

The Year is coordinated by Art of the Rural and organized by a collective of individuals, organizations, and communities from rural and urban locales across the nation. Art of the Rural fosters an open source philosophy of sharing resources and ideas, and it values exchange across regions, cultures, and disciplines.

The inaugural Year is a collaborative, grassroots effort designed to build steam over the course of 2014. To present a more equitable representation and a more comprehensive narrative of rural arts in culture, all online features will be freely shared across websites and social media.

To establish a foundation for future work, we are motivated by two goals:

  • Build an inclusive and engaged rural arts and culture network: During the Year of the Rural Arts 2014, we seek to expand participation in the national rural arts conversation by identifying rural arts and culture stakeholders and documenting their presence on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture digital project. Together, with this online resource as a road map, we can build regional face-to-face relationships that contribute resources and support to our local places and also help establish a vibrant national network.
  • Expand artistic, cultural, and historical understanding: We have yet to encounter a connective vision of American rural experience. The inaugural Year will begin the work of presenting these narratives and critical perspectives through partnerships with universities, academic and cultural organizations, and communities across rural and urban America. In collaboration with the M12 art collective, we will offer Open Action Workshops across the country, seeking to meet new friends and colleagues and learn what questions and insights are at stake in this conversation.

Defining the Rural: We believe that popular conceptions of “rural” often lack nuance. While the term has a demographic meaning, it is also a category of cultural identity: rural people have moved to large metropolitan areas, and many urban folks have physical or philosophical connections to the country. We seek to celebrate rural places while also including perspectives along the rural-urban continuum.

Five Ways We Can Collaborate

  • Events, conversations, and courses conducted in collaboration with multiple departments on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis and within the region – accessible online to a national audience.
  • Field-building and documentation of the rural arts and culture landscape through the online Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture. This digital resource is a gateway to the creation of new, on-the-ground relationships across regions and disciplines.
  • The Year of the Rural Arts national calendar of events created in collaboration with pre-existing activities across the landscape of the American rural arts field, and visualized as a project within the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture.
  • Open Action Workshop discussions hosted by partnering universities and organizations. Designed by the M12 Collective, the Open Action Workshop is an informal and unstandardized learning network that actively creates environments where boundaries between students, teachers, and institutions are consciously blurred.
  • A series of featured Year of the Rural Arts projects, interviews, and exhibits hosted on the Art of the Rural site and freely shared with all collaborators.

Visit Art of the Rural for more information on what’s coming up in 2014 and to collaborate and support the work.

Spring 2014 NERCHE Virtual Think Tanks

NERCHE is pleased to have recently launched its Spring 2014 Virtual Think Tanks, which will focus on community engagement in teaching and learning, research, and institutional structures within higher education.

Patricia Krueger-Henney (UMass Boston) will be presenting the first Virtual Think Tank of the new series on January 29th, 2014, 12:00-1:30 PM (Eastern).  She will be speaking on participatory action research (PAR) as an epistemology by discussing key moments of one of her own PAR projects, which invited New York City public high school students to serve as both research architects and participants in a participatory mapping project that visually documented the purposes of education. Webinar participants will also have the opportunity to advance their ideas for new and ongoing PAR projects, discuss the conditions for building participatory and mutually benefiting research collaborations, and consider the logics of PAR to apply them to different educational settings.