Teaching, Research, Service – and Social Change: Prioritizing Community-Engagement

Brigham USF

Erin Brigham
Adjunct Professor Catholic Theology and Ethics

Like many faculty who integrate community engagement into their teaching, I find it easy to surround myself with people who pat me on the back and cite research that supports my pedagogy.   Studies have shown and my own experience has confirmed the potential of experiential education to transform students. And through community based teaching, I have found true co-educators who share my passion for forming students to be agents of social change—at least when they graduate. But is it enough for educators to plant seeds for future change when the demand for social justice is now? I have been wrestling with this question since attending Randy Stoecker’s workshop on community engaged scholarship. Stoecker’s approach prioritizes social change over student learning—a reversal that I find both invigorating and unsettling for my work at the University of San Francisco.

Stoecker conference

Dr. Randy Stoecker, professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin, Madison and a leader in the field of community-engaged research, recently held a full-day workshop with the University faculty and community partners

Perhaps my most important take away from the workshop was Stoecker’s challenge to think about who does the labor of research and teaching in a university/ community partnership.   I have taken for granted that reciprocity—the hallmark principle of community based learning—has guided my efforts. But so often the community does the labor—providing research questions and data; offering student learning opportunities and supervision. Stoecker challenges faculty to take the responsibility for the labor, using our training to generate knowledge-power in the community and inviting students into that exciting process.

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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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