August 7, 2019 | Bringing It #21: Bringing the Hope

Dear friends,

It’s hard to feel anything but grief, anger, and despair this week in the face of the appalling massacres in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, Ohio. The ideologies of hate fueled these massacres while political leaders fail to do anything about gun violence.

In the face of such horrors, it may also be hard to feel anything but futility about our work as educators. This week David saw a screening of the terrific new documentary film, Unlikely, which weaves together the journeys of five nontraditional college students struggling to return to school and complete their degrees in the face of a higher ed system that too often ignores them in favor of more privileged students. Their stories of disappointments and resilience are powerful. The portrait of a clueless and elitist higher ed was dispiriting, especially this week.

And so we thought it was important to remind ourselves of  the deep wells of creativity, compassion, and passion for students and social justice contained in higher education. Here are two small stories of large-minded work.

Campus Dialogue Grantee Spotlight: Portland State University 

In 2017, we gave 31 Campus Dialogue Grants from an impressive pool of over 230 proposals. These grants funded yearlong dialogues involving a core group of diverse campus constituents. The Portland State University (PSU) grant, led by Dr. Óscar Fernández, has successfully held 13 Race and Social Justice (RSJ) Dialogues since April 2017. The dialogues cut across many campus departments and involved faculty members, administrators, and students on such topics as: 

  • “Walking the Talk: Demanding Equity from the ‘Tower of Power’ to the Individual Classroom” 
  • “Music as Social Justice: A Noon Concert with BRAVO Cesar Chavez Winds”  
  • “Toppling the Melting Pot: Immigrants and Pluralistic Democracy in the US”  
  • “Reversing the School to Prison Pipeline: Educational Opportunities for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Students”  

Recently these dialogues have evolved. They will now include a series of orchestral and vocal performances throughout the 2019-20 academic year (composed by Giancarlo Castro D'Addona and Edna Vazquez) that highlight an undergraduate student’s experience as an undocumented student. We love this melding of student creative work and civic dialogue.

To learn more about the RSJ Dialogues, please take a look at Dr. Fernández’s blog.

AMP Grantee Spotlight: Hostos Community College

As you know, our AMP Grants (Amplifying, Disseminating, and Increasing the Public Reach of Research and Practice) have supported a range of activities that publicize and disseminate the work of prior BTtoP grantees, including campus consulting visits, convenings, public writing, and digital and media products. 

Hostos Community College has just used an AMP Grant to hold a successful Drama-in-Education Institute. Building off a 2017-18 Campus Dialogue grant (which you can read about in a recent Newsletter issue), the institute trained faculty, teachers, community-based organization directors, and community leaders on how to use Drama-in-Education as an effective tool for deepening the relationship between drama educators and community partners to effect community change. Along with its partner, Roots and Action, Hostos Community College will continue this good work with a workshop at Patterson Senior Center later this summer.

“The Daily News asks her for the dope” 

These projects are small but mighty. They are two of a multitude of seeds of change across higher education. The documentary, Unlikely, offers many others: not only its five student protagonists (whose stories we won’t give away), but also portraits of leaders and institutions working to make higher education less clueless and exclusive, more democratic and welcoming.  (Spoiler: our friends at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Rutgers University-Newark are among the change-makers showcased in the film.)

Watching Unlikely and thinking about this week, we reminded ourselves of an old Springsteen lyric:

Mary Lou, she found out how to cope 
She rides to heaven on a gyroscope 
The Daily News asks her for the dope 
She said, "Man, the dope's that there's still hope"

We’re so grateful for the work you do and the hope you give.

David, Mercedes, and Caitlin