We are excited to share with you this newest volume of Issues in Teaching and Learning (ITL), our tenth. The first volume of ITL was published in 2002 and in it, the editor Sandra Enos explained that “The mission of the journal is to create and deepen dialogue among the faculty and others about teaching and learning and to create a forum for productive inter-disciplinary conversations about the art and practice of teaching.” We are pleased to carry these objectives forward with this latest volume of ITL, which focuses on civic or community engagement, a key element of RIC’s mission and strategic plan. Specifically, this volume attempts to answer the question: In what ways does Rhode Island College engage with communities beyond its campus borders?
We bring you a number of different answers to this question. In our first article, “Service Learning Reflection as Critical Pedagogy,” Dr. Robyn Linde (Political Science) shares her thoughts on creating service-learning courses in which students engage with local Rhode Island community organizations. With an approach rooted in the work of Paolo Freire and his notion of critical pedagogy, Linde shares the challenges of helping students envision themselves as “global citizens and agents of change.” Following Dr. Linde’s article, we have a second piece which takes up the topic of teaching via community engagement, “Advocacy Research: From Classroom To Community, and Student To Leader,” by Dr. Holly Dygert (Anthropology). Dr. Dygert shares her experience teaching Applied Anthropology, a course in which students take the knowledge and frameworks they develop in the classroom out into the community to discover the ways in which “anthropological skills can address current social problems.” A third article, “International Service Learning,” by Dr. Jill Harrison (Sociology), also addresses the pedagogy of teaching and community engagement, but the community with which Dr. Harrison engages is at a far remove from the RIC campus. Dr. Harrison shares stories from her recent trips to Ecuador, where she and her students have worked with refugees, street children, and victims of domestic violence. She includes the words of students in her piece, bringing to life the diversity of knowledge and experience they develop on these transformative ventures. Finally, in her essay “Building Bridges Between the Classroom and the Internship,” Dr. Mimi Mumm (Social Work) shares her experience with the challenges of keeping the lines of communication open between herself, her students, and the field site supervisors who supervise social work interns in the local community.
Shifting from a focus on classrooms to more larger-scale efforts to engage the community beyond RIC, Dr. Corrine McKamey (Elementary Education), in her article, “A Pedagogy of Community Engagement,” shares her experience creating a new Youth Development (YDEV) B.A. program. Dr. McKamey describes how community engagement as a pedagogical practice connects classroom, program, and community. In “Community Service in the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development: A First Effort at Data Collection,” Liz Garofalo (FSEHD) takes up the question of the ways in which an entire college, in this case, the Feinstein School, engages with the community. Finally, in “A Truly Innovative Partnership: RIC/Central Falls Innovation Lab,” Dr. Carolyn Obel-Omia (Elementary Education) reports on developments with the RIC/Central Falls collaboration, a community engagement initiative which engages the RIC campus community as a whole.
We close out this issue with a short reflection on teaching from Dr. Yael Avissar (Biology). After over thirty years of teaching, Dr. Avissar is retiring from RIC at the end of the calendar year (December, 2014). While her essay, “How Teaching Transformed Me,” does not connect explicitly to this volume’s focus on community engagement, we appreciated the story of her journey as a teacher so much that we felt the need to include it in these pages. We wish Dr. Avissar the best in her retirement. In closing, we would like to thank both our contributors and the members of our Editorial Board: Carolyn Obel-Omia and Roderick Graham. As the Board assembled this volume, we were amazed at the myriad ways in which our faculty and students reach beyond the borders of our campus to engage with broader communities and constituencies in Rhode Island and beyond. Without a doubt, the work described in this volume serves as evidence of our efforts to meet the civic and community engagement goals outlined in RIC’s most recent Strategic Plan. Since its founding as a normal school in 1854, RIC has been an institution of higher learning that has bridged the border between campus and community. The stories you find in these pages illustrate just a few of the important ways in which we continue to engage with world beyond our door.
Michael Michaud, Ph.D. (English)
Bonnie MacDonald, Ph.D. (Communication, FCTL Director)