Bringing It

Bringing It #72: New Team Member and Grantee Update

October 13, 2021

Dear Friends,

In this Bringing It, we’re delighted to welcome Gianna Smurro, our new Digital Communications Intern; we’ve asked Gianna to introduce herself and offer a glimpse into her background, experience, and interests. We also continue our series of posts about projects supported by BT2P’s PLACE Collaboratory and we end this week’s letter by sharing with you an opportunity with our friends at The Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University.​

Join Us In Welcoming Our New Team Member, Gianna!

Gianna Smurro is excited to join Bringing Theory to Practice as a Digital Media Intern. She grew up and lives in Manalapan, New Jersey and graduated from the selective Law and Public Service Magnet Program at Colts Neck High School, which fostered her passion for digital media and communications. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and Italian Honor Society, and she has received a Seal of Biliteracy in Italian. She has been dancing since she was three years old and began dancing competitively at the age of seven. She was a member of her school’s varsity dance team for four years and was the captain for her junior and senior years. Gianna is also an active member of service organizations, as she served as the Vice President and Advertising Chair of her school’s chapter of Free the Children. She is a certified catechist and taught and prepared 2nd and 8th-grade students for their sacraments at her church. In her senior year, she co-founded a service-learning project called Tokens of Community Kindness (TOCK), which focused on bringing her community together through holiday-centered activities, events, and community service opportunities.  

At Elon University, Gianna is excited to continue her education as a Communications Fellow for the class of 2025 studying Cinema & Television and Political Science and to take on her new role at Bringing Theory to Practice. Gianna is part of Elon’s PACE program, which was created in 2011. This program supports work-driven students in obtaining positions on campus that are designed to provide meaningful experiences. Gianna is pleased to be taking part in the PACE program and is enjoying her new role with BT2P. 

Place Collaboratory: Community Partnerships Feature: USC

This week we are happy to share with you a PLACE Collaboratory update from USC student Diana Balbuena about the Boyle Heights Museum (BHM) project. The Boyle Heights Museum improves educational outcomes in history and the arts in Boyle Heights by leveraging the academic resources of a world-class university and partnering with the community theater organization CASA 0101. Project partners connect contemporary social and political issues – from the local to the global – with their historical contexts at a neighborhood level. BHM’s most recent exhibit, Boyle Heights: Traditions of Innovations, responds to economic and cultural threats of gentrification in Boyle Heights by highlighting the vibrant cultural life of the community and the rich history of Latinx entrepreneurship in the neighborhood, both educating the public about longstanding community assets and helping local businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic and economic crises.

Diana Balbuena is a first-generation low-income college student from South Los Angeles. She is currently a senior, studying American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. At USC, she has been part of the Joint Educational Project, First-Generation Mentor Program, Splash of SC, and Boyle Heights Museum Research Team. She aspires to become a college counselor or nonprofit director, and her favorite destination is Vista Hermosa Natural Park. Working with the Boyle Heights Museum team as a writer, researcher, and editor, her major roles in the upcoming exhibit are curating images and designing and producing the physical copy for the BHM self-guided walking tours. Diana shares:

As an undergraduate researcher for the Boyle Heights Museum, I have written and edited transcripts in preparation for museum exhibitions and academic conferences. Through this role I help ensure the accuracy of exhibitions’ descriptions and citations. In volunteering I have learned to better manage my time making sure that the team’s deadlines and my own deadlines are met. I am grateful to have a support network of professors and PhD students who have guided me through these project. As I learn more about my Los Angeles community and its businesses, I am committed to communicating my findings with others.

– photo by Paola Jaime

What I have most enjoyed is how outreach can extend its benefits into our community. Most recently, I created two pamphlets in English and Spanish that are going to be used as maps for our museum walking tours. By removing the jargon in these pamphlets, I can make the knowledge in our academic articles and exhibitions more accessible to the public. Also in choosing images for our exhibitions, I enjoy that I can support Latinx photographers by showcasing their work and value to our community. Thus, with my research, I can also share the stories of Latinx business owners and honor them through the Boyle Heights Museum.

The brochures that Diana helped to create for the self-guided walking tours of Boyle Heights are part of BHM’s forthcoming hybrid virtual-in person exhibit. Check out the beautifully-designed, meticulously researched, and visually compelling walking tours.

– Photo by Rocío Hernandez

For this exhibit, BHM has been working with Las Fotos Project, a community-based nonprofit organization that inspires teenage girls through photography, mentorship, and self-expression. Offering year-round programming, they provide girls with access to professional cameras, quality instruction and workshops that encourage them to explore their identity, build leadership and advocacy skills, and strengthen their social and emotional well-being. Los Fotos photographers took the images here as well as the ones included in the walking tour brochures.


Brown University’s Swearer Center is Hiring: Program Manager, Student Development.

The Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University is seeking a new Program Manager, Student Development, whose assigned portfolio of programs, partner relationships and/or cohorts of students may include, for example, the Bonner Community Fellowship, Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship, and iProv. The position plans and implements events, workshops, and other programming to support student learning, and also advises and mentors undergraduate students one-on-one and in groups. Qualifications include 3-5 years of relevant experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. For more information, click here. The priority deadline for applications is October 25, 2021. Anyone considering this position may be interested in Brown’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, generous moving and other benefits, as well as life in Providence, and the fact that the university has COVID vaccine, mask, and testing mandates in place.

As always, we hope you will share news of your work, your responses to our work, and your thoughts and ideas.

With thanks for everything you do,
David, Gianna, Kate, Kelly, & Todd