You can access the webinar on “Community Engaged Learning: Rust Belt Narratives,” at this link []. You can find the slides that accompanied the webinar GLCA-CTL-Webinar_04-17-19_FINAL.

As a community of educators, we are dealing with a growing feeling that higher education no longer serves a public interest; at one level, this is the next level of the old “town-gown” problem: there is a diminishing sense that higher education serves the communities in which it is embedded. This feeling is quite strongly felt in liberal arts colleges, not just because we have been made the objects of ridicule in the media for our seemingly greater concern for the things like pronouns rather than the truly important issues such as employment), but because LAC’s have come to exemplify the divide between haves (given the price of a private education) vs. the have-nots (more often than not, those who are long-time residents in the communities in which we are based).

What to do? Certainly, it is a very deep and complex problem, but rather than turning our backs on the communities in which we’re located, choosing to ignore the ways that students interact with community members or taking on the role of the “educated” partner in community affairs, etc.), for many years, we have been developing a variety of ways in which we can learn from and with our communities, foregrounding issues of inclusion and diversity and adopting the methodological and pedagogical advances of critical community engagement work.

This approach and its implementation is of particular importance for the GLCA, 13 colleges which are located in the so-called “rust-belt” where support for higher education (both private and public) has drained away. Our argument is that by embracing, rather than rejecting, our location we can begin to address and modify public perceptions of the importance of higher education, not only by connecting town to gown, but by pedagogically linking gown to town, reversing the out-migration of college graduates. Liberal arts colleges, and the GLCA in particular, can be effective players in this.

The webinar herein provided (which was live on April 17, 2019), was first offered at the annual meetings of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, in Atlanta, GA, on January 25, 2019. It is too brief to detail all the ways in which community engaged learning and research has developed and is being practiced on dozens and dozens of campuses, nor can we fully detail developments within the GLCA that address the mutual interactions of “town” and “gown,” whether we’re talking of Albion’s efforts to re-energize the downtown economy in its surrounding community by becoming what has been called an “anchor institution,” to Oberlin’s recent efforts to use new student orientation to link incoming students to the town of Oberlin and its surrounding communities, including Cleveland.

In our webinar, we look specifically at how community engaged teaching and learning can become a powerful mechanism for changing the narrative about the positive role higher education in general, and liberal arts education in particular, can play most particularly when we foreground the ways in which storytelling and oral history can be used to “make us better for others and ourselves.”

The webinar features three presenters:

Brooke Blackmon Bryan is Assistant Professor of Writing and Digital Literacy at Antioch College and Director of Oral History in the Liberal Arts (OHLA) for the GLCA. Brooke will offer a broad view on community engaged learning and teaching from the perspective her oral history project, stressing both its theoretical and practical sides, and offering oral history as a widely replicable, high impact practice that has already shown its ability to draw students and communities together.

Clara Román Odio, a professor of Spanish at Kenyon College, will explore the intersection of public humanities and community-engaged learning via her project on “Latinos in Rural America,” stressing the challenges facing academics as they search for ways to establish a mutually enriching link between academic learning and community engagement, ways that inform students and communities alike; and

Laura Reeck, Professor of French and Chair of the International Studies Program at Allegheny College, will offer a case study involving the Global Citizens Scholars Project in which students conduct oral history interviews with recently-resettled refugees in Erie, PA.

Once again, you can access the webinar on “Community Engaged Learning: Rust Belt Narratives,” at this link []. You can find the slides that accompanied the webinar GLCA-CTL-Webinar_04-17-19_FINAL.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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