Bringing It

Bringing It #18: Good News, Kudos, and Calls

June 20, 2019

Dear friends,

This number of Bringing It highlights important work from Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, and it solicits your interest (in a potential project) and ideas (for conference programming).  But we begin with some terrific news…

BTtoP Awarded $800,000 Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Launch the Partnerships for Listening and Action (PLACE) Collaboratory Initiative

We’re thrilled to announce an initiative we’ve been quietly working on for the past several months: the Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE) Collaboratory has just been awarded a two-year, $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

As you’ve heard in our communications over the past year, our theory of change rests on the idea that widespread transformation happens through community and collaboration.  That’s the foundation for the concept of “collaboratories,” themed projects pursued by a group of institutions, working collectively to brainstorm, develop, test, and disseminate practices that advance the educational purposes to which BTtoP is committed.

The PLACE Collaboratory brings together a network of academic-community partnerships, involving eleven colleges and universities from diverse sectors and regions, to do civic-engagement and public-humanities work. Using cultural practices like oral history or photo-voice, as well as the civic pedagogies of the humanities, these partnerships will develop shared public agendas that ground the setting and solving of community issues in community voice. They may involve such significant themes as community development, wealth disparities, and environmental justice, but the agendas and action plans will be set through listening and dialogue. Some partnerships will be anchored by a single university; in others, multiple institutions may join together in regional collaboration. All the partnerships will include undergraduate students as key participants, culture-makers, and often cultural brokers. The goal of each local project will be to develop action plans grounded in community voice and enabled by academic-community partnership. The goal of the larger collaboratory will be to distill best practices for such partnerships, to model the role of the humanities in sustaining them, and to use networked collaboration to disseminate them across higher education.

The launch of PLACE would not be possible without our academic partners and their communities: Rutgers University-Newark; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; five institutions in the Greensboro, North Carolina region (Elon University, Greensboro College, Guilford College, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro); and four institutions in the Los Angeles region (College of the Canyons, Pitzer College, the University of LaVerne, and the University of Southern California). 

We are advertising for a part time Project Coordinator for the PLACE Collaboratory, to work with BTtoP and our partner institutions for the duration of the grant.

Two-Year, Four-Year Partnerships (continued)

In our latest Bringing It, we asked if you were interested in developing a network of partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions.  The response was striking: we’ve received messages from twenty institutions so far, many describing curricular and pedagogical partnerships that are well underway.  It’s clear that, even as two-year and four-year institutions are streamlining their transfer pipelines, many are also collaborating to enrich educational practices across the transfer seam.  We are excited by the possibility of a collaborative network around these issues.  So we’re extending our call.  Would you be interested in taking part in a collaboratory of such two-year, four-year partnerships?

We want to be clear that this is not a Call for Proposals for grant support: we don’t have resources as yet to support a network of two-year, four-year partnerships.  Nor do we seek to focus on the improvement of transfer processes.  Other academic researchers and advocates are better equipped than BTtoP to create models for articulation agreements, degree pathways, the reduction of credit-loss, and other “pipeline” practices.

What we envision is a network of two-year, four-year partnerships seeking to develop and disseminate models of innovative teaching and learning across the transfer seam.  Individual projects might include the co-creation of high-impact practices such as community engagement or internships, the shared design of “first-year experience” courses, inclusive pedagogy models for marginalized learners such as parents or incarcerated students, or curricula aimed at introducing students to integrative learning.  We also assume that participating faculty and staff will bring partnership projects that we haven’t imagined.

This brainstorm will be, we hope, the start of a new community of practice.  Let us know if you are interested to help create it.

What We’re Learning From Our Partners: Tufts University’s Initiative on Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement  

From our friend and colleague at Tufts,  Deborah Donahue-Keegan:

“Tufts University’s Tisch College Initiative on Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement (SEL-CE) seeks to integrate social-emotional learning across the university in coordinated ways, to cultivate inclusive excellence, well-being, and ethical civic engagement. The SEL-CE initiative examines and works to rectify inequitable practices and develops collaborative, adaptive solutions to difficult community and societal programs. Tufts has focused on developing and facilitating workshop/dialogue sessions for its leaders since the culmination of its Campus Dialogue Grant in April 2018. During the 2018-19 academic year, Tufts offered a three-part workshop/dialogue series titled, Fostering Emotional Intelligence for Inclusive Excellence at Tufts. The last workshop, offered in May 2019, invited participants to 1) identify the institution-wide and unit level conditions that need to be in place to promote inclusive diversity and equity across Tufts and 2) engage in dialogue about adaptive challenges to inclusive excellence and well-being across campuses. The 2019-20 academic year will see Tufts collaborating with the Essential Partners’ Dialogue in Higher Education program.”

Tisch’s SEL-CE is notable, and deeply resonant with BTtoP’s mission, in that it links social-emotional learning (including inter- and intra-personal skills like empathy, self-regulation, mindfulness, resilience, and maintenance of positive relationships and personal goals) to civic learning, democratic participation, and community engagement for the public good. We continue to learn much from their work.

Your Ideas, Please: BTtoP Fishbowl Conversations at the 2020 AAC&U Annual Meeting

We’re delighted every year to be part of the AAC&U Annual Meeting.  This past January, at the Atlanta meeting, we did something new: in lieu of traditional panel discussions, we held “fishbowl” discussions on several different themes.  With the fishbowl format, discussants face each other in an intimate circle, surrounded by the audience–and then, after about half an hour, anyone is invited to tap in and join the conversation themselves.  The discussions were inclusive and exploratory, with a wonderful, shared energy and unexpected turns.

We plan to continue this format at next year’s Annual Meeting, and we’ve begun to consider discussion themes.  Last year’s fishbowls focused on “student well-being and equity,” “work and the purposes of the college,” and “the future of higher education.”  We want to hear your ideas: what would be the most interesting or important topics for us–and you–to discuss?  What fishbowls should we propose?

With thanks for the work you do,

Caitlin, Mercedes, and David