Image: EPI Workshop with SAGE Advisory Group (source: CEAL photo stream)
The Winter 2015 semester marked the end of my Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellowship with the College of LSA’s Center for Engaged Academic Learning (CEAL) and Rackham’s Arts of Citizenship program. Over the course of two semesters, Denise Galarza Sepúlveda (Director of CEAL) and Matthew Countryman (History, American Culture, and Faculty Director of Arts of Citizenship) in coordination with a range of academic and non-academic partners guided our training in community-oriented pedagogies. These meetings covered skill-building workshops on concepts and foundation of community-based learning, on building trusting and mutually beneficial campus-community partnerships, and on planning course reflections in strategic and creative ways towards enhanced participant learning. These meetings also included opportunities for interacting with invited community partners from southeastern Michigan to understand diverse perspectives and expectations on the ground. Additionally, we worked one-on-one with members of CEAL’s Student Advisory Group on Engagement (SAGE) to enrich our course design and implementation tactics.
The combined lessons of this fellowship enabled me to produce an undergraduate course proposal on participatory processes of land stewardship and community gardening in Detroit. My course entitled, “The Community Garden: Space, Program, and Politics of Engagement,” had three pedagogical goals: first, to build forms of self-awareness necessary for engaging communities across gender, class, and racial difference; second, to examine how our non-academic partners are imagining the city for themselves and how are they building the infrastructure to support community visions; and third, to collaboratively curate our partners’ spatial practices and lived histories for the Smithsonian’s archive of American gardens. Thank you Denise and Matthew, Desiraé Simmons (CEAL Program Coordinator), SAGE students, and community partners in Detroit, as well as my inspiring peers for this incredible experience. A special thank you to Meg Sweeney (English, DAAS, Women’s Studies, and American Culture) for mentoring me all along.