Profiles in Community Engaged Learning- Nicola McClung

Nicola was asked, what inspires you to integrate service-learning or community-engaged pedagogies into your courses?

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Nicola McClung

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco- School of Education

Excerpt from the August 2016 Profiles in Community Engaged Learning. Professor McClung teaches Early Literacy.

I was first inspired to integrate community-engaged pedagogy into my course when looking for books for my daughter. She is a beginning reader, and I had difficulty finding books I wanted her to read.

Although multicultural children’s literature clearly makes an important contribution to the pursuit of equity and justice for all, it continues to be limited in several ways. Enter any classroom, home, or pediatrician’s office where an effort is being made to include diverse perspectives, and one will typically find books about able-bodied heteronormative white children living “normal” lives: a new puppy; bedtime; mom, dad, and baby; expressing emotions; going to school. In the same room, recent titles reflecting diversity might include: Heather has Two Mommies; Don’t Call Me Special; Black, White, Just Right; It’s Okay To Be Different; I Love My Hair; Day of the Dead, The Skin You Live In, Some Kids are Deaf, or Everybody Cooks Rice.  That is, few books include characters that come from diverse backgrounds in which their social markers (e.g., the disability, being black, having gay parents) are not the focus of the book. Furthermore, when diversity is reflected, many authors fail to write in such a way that allows for independent reading and maximally supports children’s literacy skills. For example, although there are some picture books that contain anti-oppressive themes (e.g., African American History) they are almost always books that must be read aloud to children.

I also draw from my experiences as a teacher in San Francisco schools, including at Rosa Parks Elementary in the Western Addition.  The project is based on the assumption that having access to texts that reflect diverse perspectives is motivating; in addition to high quality multicultural literature, we need books that contain universal themes depicting minority characters living everyday lives—e.g., a scientist who is a black female, a school principal who is multilingual, a soccer player with a disability, a mailperson who is trans, or kids simply having fun! These types of books are greatly needed for children from minority backgrounds to identify as readers and to see themselves as valued members of society. At the same time, such books allow students who identify with the dominant culture to come to see their minority counterparts as central to a well-functioning society (Dean-Meyers, 2014).

At the end of the summer, seeing the Prince Hall students excited about being authors, and seeing themselves in the books, inspires me to continue to the project and sustain the community partnership. Likewise, knowing that we are in some small way closing the cultural/linguistic distance between teachers in training and students in urban schools provides a purpose to the work that is important to sustain.

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Ready, Set, Engage! The Authentic Video Guide to Community-Engaged Learning

Star Moore, Director of Community-Engaged Learning

Star Moore
Director of Community-Engaged Learning

The Leo T. McCarthy Center’s Communty-Engaged Learning team is currently developing a video series entitled, “Ready, Set, Engage! The Authentic Video Guide to Community-Engaged Learning”, designed to prepare undergraduate and graduate students for participation in community-engaged courses and activities. This series features University of San Francisco students, faculty, and community partners sharing their perspectives, insights, and reflections on their experiences with community-engaged learning.

Making its debut in May, this series will gradually be integrated into service-learning and community-engaged courses next fall.  A curriculum guide will be developed this summer to accompany the videos, and will offer an array of learning activities, discussion prompts, and additional resources that faculty can use to engage students more deeply with the themes and issues discussed in the series. We are also exploring the possibility of licensing and selling the series to other institutions.  For a sneak preview of the video series, we encourage you to watch the promo!

This series has been designed in collaboration with our creative and visionary filmmaker, Elizabeth Dausch, who has worked closely with us to capture compelling interviews and dynamic footage of our students in action on campus and in the community.

Sociology major, Mary Cruz is among the students featured in the series. She speaks passionately about how the community action project in the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Program fostered her academic learning, personal growth, and vocational calling.

We also interviewed community partner, Sam Dennison from Faithful Fools, who emphasizes the importance of entering community with an open mind and open heart.

Associate professor of sociology, Stephanie Sears described in her interview some of the community-engaged projects that have provided mutual learning and benefit for her students and community partners.

These voices, accompanied by many others, will guide students to think deeply and critically before they leave campus, so they can enter into their community-engaged experiences with humility, respect, enthusiasm, and a predisposition toward learning.

What does community-engaged learning mean to you? Share your answer in the comments section.

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Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Research the Western Addition’s Inspirations Murals

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This academic year the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) are gathering the stories of African American leaders depicted on the Inspirations mural outside of Ella Hill Hutch Community Center. In fall students drew names out of a hat and were tasked with researching individuals and writing biographies that they shared in their fall final presentations. This spring student teams are linked with living Inspirations so that all students have the opportunity to interview an African American leader. Bios and photos of individuals on the mural will be compiled into a book that will be shared with community members.

This project is a continuation of work started by community members Ms. Altheda Carrie and Mrs. Lynette White. Ms. Carrie and Mrs. White began collecting stories from the Inspirations mural years ago, when the City of San Francisco provided funding and District Supervisor Wendy Nelder was involved. That project was temporarily set aside during shifts in City leadership and funding sources, but it was eagerly picked up again when Ms. Carrie and Mrs. White brought it to USF as a possible collaboration. It is a natural outgrowth of the blossoming collaboration between EMDS, the Leo T. McCarthy Center and Engage San Francisco. Sociology Professor Stephanie Sears is the faculty director for the program and Leo T. McCarthy Center Associate Director for Community Engaged Learning, Andrea Wise is collaborating with Professor Sears on the partnership by facilitating class discussions on community assets and campus community partnerships.

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Life-long conversations on neighborhoods, housing and gentrification

David Donahue, Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center

David Donahue
Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

Community-engaged learning claims many student benefits like making learning relevant by bridging theory and practice, promoting openness to multiple perspectives, and fostering dispositions to further community involvement. As I reflect on my community-engaged learning in college over three decades ago, one measure of that learning’s value sticks with me — enduring questions that I’ve considered for a lifetime since. One question that was first posed in Providence, Rhode Island in the 1980s has stayed with me for decades is especially relevant in San Francisco in 2015: Who can claim a neighborhood?

As an undergraduate student doing research on the history of buildings for a local preservation society, I remember talking with one of the society’s leaders about how in the neighborhood I was researching, Portuguese immigrants and their families were being displaced by what were then called “yuppies.” Responding to my concern and sense of loss in this change, she said, “No group is entitled to live somewhere forever.” At the time, I was taken aback, but I’ve never stopped asking the question, “Whose neighborhood — and why?” As a resident of a block bridging the Mission and the Castro, the question has personal relevance. Is the Castro always to be a gay neighborhood — even as more heterosexual families move in? As the Latino population of the Mission continues to decline, will that neighborhood lose its current identity? As a resident of gentrifying (gentrified?) San Francisco, I ask these questions, knowing that both the Castro and Mission had other identities before their current ones.

I’m grateful for my community-engaged learning experience in college because my faculty advisor helped put my questions into conversation with other related questions about neighborhood identity. This led to other questions about the right to housing and to community based on identity; questions about how cities evolve and whether that evolution can or should be channeled, stopped, slowed down, or sped up. The answers I’ve developed to these questions inform everything from the calculus of where I live (Does my presence contribute to changing the character of the neighborhood? Does it change the availability of rental housing stock?) to how I vote (Will this referendum preserve valued characteristics of the neighborhood? Will it make it harder for others to find housing?). The programs at the Leo T. McCarthy Center are committed to fostering this kind of reflection about important policy matters that lasts a lifetime.

David Donahue - Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

Learning to Become an Advocate for Community Engagement with Upward Bound

Greta Karisny

Greta Karisny
Advocate for Community Engagement

When I first heard about the Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) program through the Leo T. McCarthy Center, I knew it would be an incredibly unique opportunity for me to explore my passions surrounding social justice. As a Sociology major at the University of San Francisco, I spend most of my days talking about inequality among races, classes, genders, etc. However, with all these problems presented to me daily, it has been hard to find action to create change. Becoming an ACE and working with my community partner, Upward Bound, have been wonderful resources for me over the past two months in developing my passions towards social justice and identifying how I to put these passions into action.

The community partner that I am working directly with this semester is Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS). This organization gives a number of important resources to students in economically and educationally disadvantaged high schools in order to help them strive in a university setting. While I am only a couple months into working with UBMS, I have already gained a more practical perspective of both education inequality in San Francisco and the difficulties that arise within non-profit organizations. It has helped me take the statistics and practical knowledge I have gained around racial, economic, and social inequality and apply it to the real world.

Within my initial ACE training I’ve gained a better idea of how I can use both my experience working with Upward Bound and the experience of the UBMS service-learners and apply them to larger issues of inequality and social justice in San Francisco and across the nation. The training itself maintained an open dialogue where I felt comfortable asking questions and discussing hard topics like racial oppression and economic inequality.

The day of service at the San Francisco Food Bank made these open discussions particularly important and meaningful. While I have done single-day trips to food banks and soup kitchens before, having a post-service reflection made the experience far more meaningful. The reflection made all of us critically question why this service is necessary and who this service benefits. While the day started as a simple act of service, it ended with a far more comprehensive understanding of why we serve. This is something that I hope to bring forward with my role as an ACE for Upward Bound, the students that serve it, and the community it affects.

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