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Imagining America Celebrates Syracuse’s Engagement Scholars Program

By Holly Zahn | July 05, 2016

To celebrate the success of the 2009-2016 Engagement Scholars program at Syracuse University (SU), students came together to reflect on the value of publicly engaged education in Central New York and to envision a future of action that strengthens local communities.

The Engagement Scholars program facilitated over 116 creative and innovative graduating seniors across disciplines to bring their energy and vitality to Central New York through deep, meaningful work with local communities. Jan Cohen-Cruz, former director of Imagining America (IA), and Bruce Kingma, professor of entrepreneurship at SU’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, created the program to provide recent graduates with an opportunity to move from undergraduate study to a publicly engaged career trajectory.

On April 18, 2016, IA hosted an event for Engagement Scholars, past and present, to share their stories about working in the region and pursuing graduate studies.

Camilla Bell shares how the Engagment Scholars program impacted her trajectory at the Community Folk Art Center. Photo by Hannah Stathis.

Camilla Bell shares how the Engagment Scholars program impacted her trajectory at the Community Folk Art Center. Photo by Hannah Stathis.

Whenever I think about Imagining America, I think about possibilities, and I think about the doors that have opened for me,” recalled Camilla Bell, a 20014-15 Engagement Scholar and a doctoral candidate in the cultural foundations of education at SU. “When I came as a master’s student initially, I never thought that I would be transitioning to a doctoral program, and really using what I have learned as an Engagement Scholar to think about what it means to work in the community.”

The 20 dialogue participants, including SU faculty, community members and Engagement Scholars, discussed ways to grow regional civic engagement in spite of the program’s completion. IA plans to use the model of the Engagement Scholars program at its member institutions across the country.

Alex Mantzoros, Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Bushra Kabir and Sally Safadi (left to right) in dialogue with Timothy Eatman at the Community Folk Art Center. Photo by Hannah Stathis.

Alex Mantzoros, Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Bushra Kabir and Sally Safadi (left to right) in dialogue with Timothy Eatman at the Community Folk Art Center. Photo by Hannah Stathis.

The dialogue took place at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse, New York, a community space dedicated to exhibiting work by artists in the African Diaspora and creating space for interaction among regional artists. The IA event featured an exhibition of photographs by Joe Librandi-Cowan, a recent Engagement Scholar and local photographer focused on the affect of the prison industrial complex on his hometown of Auburn, New York.

For more information about the Engagement Scholars model, contact the program’s director, Holly Zahn at hjzahn@syr.edu.