Thursday, December 1, 2011

End of the Semester Celebration for Smart Start at Lucy Cuddy

"Farming to the Rempels isn't just a job - it's a way of life!" That was one student's comment, Cheltze Booker, attending a luncheon put on by her class at the Lucy Cuddy Center late this fall. Professor Shannon Gramse's Smart Start class had a CCEL minigrant this semester to address critical community needs for local food in the rich subsistence culture in Alaska and to inform others about the benefits of locally produced foods. Their activities culminated in a luncheon that involved UAA's Culinary Arts, Hospitality & Restaurant Management, Dietetics & Nutrition, and the Rempel Family Farm.

Following a hearty lunch that used some of the vegetables from the Rempel farm, students from the class came to the microphone to talk about what they had learned from the readings, their work on the farm through class trips, and the class discussions to incorporate their experiences and the academic reading. Voa Totua spoke about how much food she realized there is in the land of Alaska and how much we can do for ourselves - without relying on industrial food. Becca Arman spoke about the term she learned through reading Michael Pollen - "industrial organic - a fake kind of fresh!" For Arlene Ferrer, the learning that stood out was how government politics have controlled farmers' plans and how the plans are carried out for farming. And Chris Hess empathized with farmers who, having been brough up in a farming way of life, are forced to cash out. Hess shared, "It was an amazing experience to see former farmland that had been turned into suburbs . . . an eye-opener to see the impact . . . not that growth and development isn't important, but just because we can, doesn't mean that we should.

The Rempels attended with their four children, all of whom are home-schooled. Professor Gramse will be presenting his work with the Smart Start class as a part of our informal Faculty Breakfast Colloquia in the spring.

Take Wing Alaska - A Documentary Project with Paola Banchero

Paola Banchero, Associate Professor of Journalism & Public Communications at UAA has been working with Take Wing Alaska for months now on a program that brings high school youth from rural Alaska to UAA three times during their junior and senior years. Take Wing, a program of the Alaska Humanities Forum, has an objective to familiarize rural students with what's possible in their futures, the transition challenges and the resources they can draw from to be successful in higher education. Banchero set out to document the students' experiences in a way that would support the program for marketing, outreach, and fundraising. Take Wing focuses on Yupik heritage in the Yukon area so far and begins in the sophomore year to ease that transition. Students come for nearly two weeks for an immersion experience. They return in their second year with a chosen adult, their "community sponsor." A third visit in March of their senior years is also shared with their community sponsors, and the first cohort of 25 students will graduate from high school in May-June.

Not all students will attend UAA, but Take Wing seeks to have students complete some form of post-secondary education, college or Job Corps, and return to the community to contribute - perhaps not by living there but to consciously contribute back to their communities. Banchero began production March 20, 2010 with a mini-grant from CCEL to tell the story of that pathway from high school to higher education success. Two student assistants helped her to gather video during the 4 days that the rural high schoolers visited the campus. Difficulties arose when they lost all of that video material in an "end of the year" department clearance of their servers, and they gamely started over!
Banchero told an audience at the Faculty Breakfast Colloquium in November what she had learned in the process. Number one is having a deep appreciation of the challenges to rural Alaska Native youth; other take-aways include learning about post-production headaches, the differences between writing and video production, and what she might have asked for in a mini-grant! Next steps include revising, polishing, distributing the documentary piece and beginning to think about a longer production piece.

The experience has encouraged Banchero to reach out to students more and to strive to understand what they are dealing with that might not be immediately visible. Some of the goals for Alaska Native students through this process include the ability to thrive in multiple cultures, to nurture and celebrate their personal identifications, to master life skills and build positive social networks, and to demystify post-secondary education.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dr. Marie Lowe is an Assistant Professor of Applied Anthropology. Working in the Institute for Social and Economic Research, she knew that she wanted to do more as a service project. "It was a way for me to apply what I've learned from youth research and especially first-generation college students," Lowe told us in a presentation to faculty, staff and students during the CCEL Faculty Colloquia Breakfast Series. She created a program that she called "UAA Transitions" as a peer mentoring program for UAA students and at-risk Anchorage High School students and piloted the program for three semesters. UAA Transitions is a college readiness program for would-be first generation students who are now still in high school.

Lowe describes the program as an "innovative experiential leadership model," following the lead of a program pioneered by the Anchorage School District. Rooted in a social emotional learning approach, the attention to "soft skills," not academic skills but skills essential to student surviving well in life, the model has been found to be effective with high-risk students. Brian Greg, a miliary school liaison with ASD, started a program for students with parents in the military and then integrated and expanded the student participation within the school district. Lowe and Greg together adapted the model to bring high school students here to campus, recruiting UAA students to be mentors.

The program includes 1 1/2 days of leadership training for UAA students, followed by 3 on-campus activity days over the semester that include the UAA mentors and the high school students together: Challenge Day, Campus Event Day, and a Finale in which UAA students prepare and execute problem-solving initiatives at the end of the semester. "We provide UAA students with tools, and the idea is they take control of the program. The high school students see the university through the eyes of the college students and it engages them much more quickly," Lowe said.

Lowe thinks the program has been successful, but the level of commitment from UAA students has been mixed. Initially the participation of UAA students was more white, middle-class, but a focus on diversity and recruiting has helped, and the number of young men participating has increased. UAA Transitions has received support from John Dede to provide tuition waivers for student mentors, CCEL minigrant to support the program, and through the Adventure Leadership program to engage some of their students as mentors. A future possibility will place UAA Transitions in the Honors College with a more consistent budget and placements for 10 UAA students as mentors in a program that they will call ELECT - Engagement, Leadership, Empowerment, Connection, Transformation. Lowe would like to do more grant-writing for the program in the future.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Theatre History on Display

Assistant Professor Gabrielle Barnett (Liberal Studies) presented her newest creative activity project that she titled "Out of the Box and Onto the Walls" with Out North Theatre. The project arose from a conversation with Out North's artistic director, Scott Turner Schofield. Schoefield first came to Out North as a touring performance artist himself several years ago. At that time he saw Barnett's work on a prior exhibit with Out North, the "Sweet Sixteen" exhibit. He was impressed by the work done by local artists. As the current Director, Scott donated materials for archiving to the Consortium Library's Special Collections, which became the focus of the current project. Together Schofield and Barnett developed a permanent exhibit that marks the relevance of Out North's first 25 years, locally and nationally.

Barnett began working with Out North in 2009 when she received a "We the People" grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum. That grant was to help preserve, organize, and catalogue both print and video materials. Barnett also curated a temporary exhibit of "Under 30" materials a the theatre to coincide with the 16th anniversary of the Under 30 series. Barnett summarized her passion about working with the theatre in saying, "Out North is an organization with a history of stirring up controversy in pursuit of its mission of producing work by and for underserved, and often marginalized, peoples in the state of Alaska."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A new semester, a new beginning

Although summer is far from over, some of us have already turned our thoughts to fall and the beginning of a new semester at UAA!  The summer has been filled with conferences and new ideas for the Center for Community Engagement & Learning, from our Civic Engagement Certificate program, one of approximately 70 majors, minors, and certificates now across the country to community partnerships and how to have our work with communities be reciprocal and mutually beneficial -- not to mention making a meaningful difference in addressing the real issues facing communities here in Anchorage and across the state of Alaska. 

What's coming up for fall?  We'll have a new AmeriCorps VISTA joining us at the end of August, Kris Katkus, who is originally from Chugiak and returning to Alaska after 5 years in Oregon.  Kris completed his Bachelor's degree and then worked for a year in a Retention program through Washington/Oregon States Campus Compact, assisting at-risk college students to stay and complete their degrees.  He will work with the ENGAGE Social Issues Liaison student leaders and coordinate this project.  Check out our progress so far at, but visit us throughout the next semester as we add more content and connect the networks of people and organizations who address these issues on an everyday basis.  Here we also tell the stories of UAA and community partnerships who are already making a difference in these areas.

We are sponsoring a new program together with the College of Education and the Department of Human Services for incoming students at UAA who are coming from foster care.  Campus Connections will be a resource through regular meetings and individualized services to mentor new freshmen who may not have the resources that they need to be successful in making the transition in this first year to managing everything at the University.  We expect to hire an additional AmeriCorps VISTA to manage this program, and we will be supervising two graduate interns from Counseling Education to provide individual mentoring.  Professors Jim Powell from the College of Education and Mike Sobocinski, Human Services Program, together with Ayeesha Hankins (Guidance 150)  met with the incoming students in July at their Educational Conference here at UAA that was arranged by DHS.

The office is gearing up, and I am off to spend at week in Klukwan as a part of the Educator's Cross-Cultural Immersion Program, sponsored by Take Wing Alaska.  I am privileged and honored to be a part of this experience and look forward to sharing it with you in a future posting!  I've been in Alaska and at UAA for exactly one year.  I love it, and I have a lot to learn! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ProCreativity Project with Sharman Haley & Joy Mapaye

Sharman Haley, Professor, ISER, and Joy Mapaye, Assistant Professor, Journalism & Public Communications, worked together for three years to put together a project that would address youth development with a vulnerable population of young women who became pregnant in their teens and to create media that would be used in teen pregnancy prevention. Earlier efforts with the Rasmusson Foundation and the Alaska State Arts Foundation became false starts that didn't seem to "get off the ground," and they started from scratch with the funding from CCEL to begin anew. "The grant from CCEL made it happen," Sharman told a group of faculty and staff at the April 13th Breakfast Colloquium, "it put us over the hurdle." The grant made it possible for them to pay for child care and to pay the film director, Betsy Douds. Betsy and Joy Mapaye taught the first 1 credit course in the Spring of 2010, giving students high school or college credit to learn story craft and film production to make short biographical films of their experiences as pregnant or parenting teens. In Fall 2010 the course was repeated at Crossroads Secondary School.

Ten of these young filmmakers had the opportunity to show their work at a January 29th premiere at Out North Theater, and they were joined by family and community members who came to see and discuss the films. Sharman and Joy, along with Betsy Douds, hope to continue the project to create a documentary that will be used for teen pregnancy prevention efforts aimed at middle school students locally. Sharman showed the faculty audience several film clips produced by a range of teenagers who were telling their stories. Some were more cautionary than others, as one teen mother emphasized the changes in her body and her social life, both unwelcome, even though she loved the baby. Some of the films emphasized the amount of care and the unanticipated demands of parenthood, while others reflected upon their interrupted adolescence, their dependence upon their own parents, and the unsurety about next steps in education, career, and lost opportunities.

Alice Friend and Sharman Haley produced a brief evaluation of the project. They emphasized that participants came from every walk of life and a diverse group of ethnicities, "highlighting the need for community wide support to tackle this problem." They stressed that "multiple participants agreed that if they regretted anything, it was the loss of their own childhood . . . unequivocal in their love for their child, however, stated that they wished they had delayed motherhood so as to enjoy their own youth." One goal of Sharman Haley's was to help the young women develop their voice and to be pro-active. The evaluation stated "the experience of documenting their journey into motherhood appeared to have given participants an intentional space to reflect upon their lives. They were the masters of their own story and were given complete control over how they portray their decisions."

The ProCreativity Project was a partnership between Out North Contemporary Art House, the UAA Department of Journalism and Public Communications, Crossroads Secondary School, Planned Parenthood, supported with grants from the UAA Center for Community Engagement & Learning, the Alaska Association of School Boards Initiative for Community Engagement, product donations from Best Buy, and individual donors.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Food Bank Partnership: Cultural Diversity & Community Service Learning

Tracey Burke began her Social Work 243 class in the Spring of 2005, but she says the first year or so she was experimenting with how to engage students effectively in the community. Now she thinks she has found a good answer in a partnership with the Food Bank of Alaska and other community organizations that allow her students to spend time in the warehouse, at food pantries and kitchens, and providing outreach to families who may qualify for food stamps. The course is organized around hunger, which enables students to see patterns in diversity as a mechanism for social inequality. Students learn through experience that anyone can be hungry, but that race and ethnicity, gender, family structures, etc. shape who is more likely to be hungry.
Prof. Tracey Burke teaches SWK 243
SWK 243 Cultural Diversity & Community Service Learning meets a Social Science GER requirement, and students typically are social workers, for whom it is required, Early Childhood majors, for whom it is a selective course, or students from a variety of other majors. The service-learning literature suggests that 20 hours of engagement in the community is a "tipping point" for a meaningful experience, and Dr. Burke is focusing on increasing the "learning side" by integrating student experiences through intentional reflection.
Dr. Burke organizes reflection assignments now around a model espoused by Patti Clayone & colleagues called DEAL -- DEAL stands for Describe, Examine, & Articulate Learning. Student experiences of the course material and the community engagement have supported students in a deeper level of questioning this year. Students have described themselves in their reflections as confronting their opinions and biases: "This process has changed the way in which I evaluate issues and people," was a typical blog entry. Dr. Burke teaches SWK 243 each fall and spring and will also offer it for the first time this summer.

Professor Burke is the recipient of the 2011 Selkregg Award for Community Engagement & Service Learning for an additional research project with the Food Bank of Alaska. Burke and several students will be conducting interviews with clients of the Food Bank to capture their stories and further elucidate a picture that quantitative research, already available for Anchorage, does not fully portray.

Patti Clayton's manual on implementing reflection in service-learning is available for faculty in the CCEL office/learning library.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sociology before Geology: Community is Critical

Bruce Harvey, Chief Advisor, Aboriginal &Community Relations
The Center sponsored a speaker this week from the mining industry, and you might wonder why?  Bruce E Harvey, Chief Advisor, Aboriginal & Community Relations for the Rio Tinto Mining Company spoke to several faculty and a room full of students from a Conservation Biology class, Civic Engagement Interns and Geology students yesterday at noon in Commons on the importance of community relations and “participation agreements” in the mining industry. 
Harvey stressed the difference between community, those who are directly impacted by the proposed development and often have little voice, and stakeholders, who are typically in positions to make themselves heard but may not be impacted, or only indirectly, by proposed projects.  These definitions of community and stakeholders are those embraced by the World Sustainable Development Summit held in Johannesburg in 2002, Harvey told the audience.  Social consent and participation agreements are the key ingredients of successful projects in which “employees and host communities understand the goal and support the project."
Students in our Civic Engagement Internship class are reading about "collaborative leadership," and the concept of engaging communities and how to give little heard communities a voice is a very important topic for civic engagement.  What builds communities?  What does it mean to be a community leader, and how does one empower and enable people who are being impacted by all sorts of issues in their lives so that they become actors in the scenario, rather than "those that are done to." 
Harvey gave several examples of mining projects, both managed by Rio Tinto and other companies, in which the success or failure of the project was determined by the degree of employee and community agreement.  Sometimes those agreements took up to 18 or 20 years to achieve.  Social consent and “above-ground issues” were found to be responsible for 73% of project delays in a sample of 190 projects surveyed by Rio Tinto staff, and Harvey told students having the competencies to achieve these is a good career field! Harvey and others at Rio Tinto have developed an entire curriculum around what he calls “new-age competencies” for working with communities. 
Prior to the public talk, Harvey met with a small group of faculty in Business and Public Policy, Biology, Sociology, and Civic Engagement.  They talked more informally about the impact of existing and potential mining projects on Alaska from those different perspectives.  Harvey stressed again how often the problems and pitfalls of working in communities are “all sociological solutions.”  Even though the science is critical to be able to speak and plan from, the competencies required of scientists and mining companies now are to understand communities and relationships in an entirely different way.  In earlier decades, Harvey told them, society demanded and expected exploration and development and quickly – governments participated in moving right over residents who got in the way.  Today, society expects something entirely different, and companies need to adjust and be responsible for the kind of behavior that had preceded them. 
This new model of community engagement uses agreed upon principles that the community comes to adopt from the early days of a project, and they are in use right through implementation to closure, however many years that takes.  This is what our students are learning, and I think it gives us a vision for a different future and changing models of power distribution and use in the world.  
Harvey coined the term, “Sociology before geology” and made that presentation at the Sustainable Development Conference, Minerals Council of Australia in November, 2002.  In that paper, he stressed,
"This ‘interconnectedness of things’: environmental, cultural, social, economic and governance, is the essence of the sustainability agenda. These things are inextricably entwined. To Indigenous communities, cultural sustainability and economic sustainability are linked to environmental sustainability." 
Exactly - the interconnectedness of things is not only important on the sustainability agenda, although if you look at sustaining a world for us to live in, all of the issues we address as human beings fit on that agenda.  And isn't this what we would want students to be learning? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Food Security Project is Underway

Food Security in our Own Backyard(s)! 
Professor Mark Carper in Geography/Environmental Studies is passionate about food – and not just the act of feeding himself, as he pointed out, but both “nutritional density” and food security for the state of Alaska.  Professor Carper was funded by the Center last spring to begin a study of food security that began with a very extensive agenda and has since, with the advice of a team of UAA faculty, been trimmed back to a step-wise approach to an impressive research agenda that will be implemented over time.  This year, Carper and a team of students headed by Kyla Byers and Aleks Pfaffe have finalized a survey regarding access to food and fresh food and are currently distributing it around Anchorage. 
Students working on the project also include Zoe Meade, Danielle Giles, Kent Spiers, Brittany Murphy, Kaustav Kakati, and Rebecca Barker.  The students who are distributing the surveys  are “citi-certified” meaning they have completed the Institutional Review Board training to understand the protocols and restraints of research guidelines to protect human subjects.  The team will finish up surveys in April or May and begin the data analysis.  Data will also be gathered on food outlets that will be classified into “types” such as local markets, national chains, convenience stores, etc. and mapped using a GIS system. 
Professor Carper and his team are working with the Alaska Food Policy Council, and they will publish the final report on their website.  Carper’s other interests include further research on food security for households in the state of Alaska, community gardens, and disparities in access to fresh and nutritionally dense food as food equity for disadvantaged or rural populations in Alaska.
Mark Carper speaking at the Faculty Colloquia Series, also pictured are John Dede, Tracey Burke, Judy Owens-Manley, and Rose Ebue.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Generations X and Y Stand Up and Be Counted!

Were you born after 1965?

The research suggests that you opt for a more collaborative model of leadership . . . favor teamwork and bringing other perspectives to discussions. The skills you value are collaboration, networking, communication, being adaptive and understanding context, creativity, inclusiveness, confidence, and thinking broadly about issues. And guess what? You have fewer racial and gender stereotypes than leaders who came before you. You think (and we can only hope!) that when you are in leadership roles, racial and gender issues will improve! You have, (and this is so encouraging), a renewed commitment to civic engagement! For more information about this research

If you are of Generation X or Y (born after 1981), what examples of engaging in civic leadership do you see among your peers? If you're a bit older, what do you see, or what gives you hope about these next generations and civic engagement?
Post a comment below!

For more information about how you can be a leader in your campus community and Anchorage community, come see us in the Center for Community Engagement & Learning (