The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life supports the integration of academic study and civic engagement through service-learning courses, the nonprofit board residency program, the collaborative cluster, academic fellowships, and the engaged scholarship of faculty. But this work is happening outside of Allbritton, too! For this post, I collected stories from a few students who are leading their own civically-engaged student forums this semester.
Let’s Get Ready
This semester I’m leading a forum called Let’s Get Ready about the achievement gap and educational inequality. Participants in the forum attend a weekly hour-long meeting in which we discuss contemporary issues in education. Then, they tutor local high school students for three-hours a week; the tutors help the high schoolers develop their Common Application essay, apply to colleges, and study for the SAT. In this way, the Wesleyan forum participants actually help increase college access opportunities, while learning about the larger context of the U.S. education system. – Jenna Shapiro
Mass Incarceration in the United States
The student forum I am leading with Liza Bayless (Mass Incarceration in the US) offers a general overview of the topic. Throughout the course, we have explored diverse issues such as women’s prisons, the school-to-prison pipeline, the prison industrial complex, dynamics between staff and inmates, mental health in prisons, prison abolitionism, movements to reform prisons and to reduce recidivism, and immigrant detention. We have been fortunate to have several speakers come to our class, including Craig Gore, a former Center for Prison Education student who has recently been released from Cheshire Correctional Institution, representatives from the Malta Justice Initiative, a faith-based prison reform organization in Connecticut, Linda Lentini and Robin Cullen, two formerly incarcerated women who do trauma therapy in York Correctional Institution, the only women’s prison in Connecticut, and Lori Gruen, a Wesleyan philosophy professor who teaches at CPE. As part of the course, students wrote op-eds about a topic of their choice (a few have appeared in campus publications) and will complete a final project. Some of these projects include writing informational zenes, bringing lecturers to our class, and engaging in activism around prison issues on campus.-Emily Greenspan
Homelessness in Middletown
The course Homelessness in Middletown attempted to engage with the Middletown community in a way that students aren’t normally asked to. We talked about the systemic reasons that homelessness exists as well as some specifics about homelessness in Middletown. The course provided a space for students to reflect on these ideas and encouraged to them think more critically about how they participate in the Middletown community. The course also involved rotating visits to the Writer’s Block that happens at St. Vincent dePaul and a visit to the Warming Center one night. The course examined the ways the Wesleyan campus creates boundaries between itself and the rest of Middletown. – Yael Horowitz