From Shelters to Salons — When faculty members gather their lecture notes, leave their offices and set out to share their knowledge and insights with students, they usually head off to classrooms–but not always. The faculty members in our English Department often engage in teaching activities in various places scattered around the greater Charlotte community, and in the process they reach a wide variety of eager learners. Two notable examples of this type of community-based teaching recently crossed my radar screen.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with Meghan Barnes about an outreach project she did this past summer working with homeless people in Charlotte. I knew that she had received a Faculty Research Grant to help her carry out this project, so I asked her how the project was progressing. After we talked a bit about her project, she sent me the following email message in which she provided more detailed information:
It has definitely been a learning experience for me! I’ve learned a lot about flexibility and perseverance. But I’ve also learned a lot about what it means to experience homelessness in Charlotte and what it means to be a part of a community. Over the past year, I worked with the staff at the Urban Ministries Center (UMC) and Moore Place to develop a book club for their residents. Moore Place is a permanent supportive housing facility for the chronically homeless in Charlotte. We launched the book club this past summer, meeting weekly for two months. I gave participants range of graphic novels to choose from, and they chose the first two graphic novels in the March trilogy by Congressman John Lewis. Because most of the folks living at Moore Place struggle to read (and are fearful of reading), I read the books aloud to the group throughout the summer. Some book club participants have also chosen to participate in a research study, participating in regular interviews with me and documenting their lives through photographs. I’m currently working with these participants to share their stories on the Urban Ministries Center blog — where two of the participants’ stories will be featured in the next month. I’m still collecting data for the research side of the project. Data collection is primarily aimed at understanding the participants’ literacy practices, with particular attention to the ways that space, place, and community serve as texts.
Within the same week that Meghan and I had our conversation, I received an email from Twig Branch about a series of salons that he is organizing featuring members of our faculty. Twig, for those of you who do not know him, serves as a fundraising consultant and community outreach coordinator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and lately he has turned his attention to helping the English Department. He has arranged for Jen Munroe to lead a series of three Shakespeare-related salons during the month of October. He is also arranging with Alan Rauch to lead several salons around the theme of “Jewish Identity and Assimilation.” The people who usually attend the salons that Twig helps organize are all potential donors. By arranging for our faculty members to lead these salons, Twig is helping our English Department secure funding for scholarships for our students and other departmental projects.
As these examples demonstrate, members of our department are engaged in a wide variety of outreach activities reaching people from many different segments of the Charlotte community. However, what unifies these diverse activities is that they all stem from a departmental commitment to extend teaching beyond the traditional classroom.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Dina Schiff Massachi, a graduate of our MA program, has an essay titled “L. Frank Baum (1856-1914): Brains, Heart, Courage” published in Shapers of American Childhood: Essays on Visionaries from L. Frank Baum to Dr. Spock to J.K. Rowling.
Sarah Minslow has an essay titled “A.A. Milne (1882-1956): Influencing American Childhood After World War II” published in Shapers of American Childhood: Essays on Visionaries from L. Frank Baum to Dr. Spock to J.K. Rowling.
Daniel Shealy is quoted in an article titled “Why ‘Little Women’ Is Experiencing an Onscreen Renaissance,” which recently appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. Here is the link:
Ralf Thiede presented an invited paper on “Supercharging Babies: Children’s Books and the Matthew Effect” at “Pragmatikerwerb und Kinderliteratur,” an international workshop in Leipzig, Germany, on the acquisition of pragmatic competence through children’s literature.
Quirky Quiz Question — The quotations by Daniel Shealy in The Hollywood Reporter article about film and television adaptions of Little Women relates to a recent surge of publicity surrounding an important anniversary associated Little Women. What is this important anniversary?