Editor's Note: Narrators of Their Own Stories

By Caitlin Salins, Executive Project Manager, Bringing Theory to Practice

As our readers may know, Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) was generously awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation last summer to advance our Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE) Collaboratory Initiative. PLACE is a network of academic-community partnerships at eleven colleges and universities from diverse sectors and regions, using the public and cultural humanities to advance civic engagement projects both at the local level and as a national collaborative group. At our inaugural PLACE convening this past October in Greensboro, North Carolina, which included about forty of our colleagues from across the country, we tried to embody PLACE’s core value of engaged listening by building fishbowl conversations into our program. We asked two of our visiting student partners, Rosa Noriega-Rocha and Mary Fernandez, to lead a fishbowl on how to respect and raise student voices. Those two students initiated a powerful dialogue about recentering perspectives that have been traditionally silenced or pushed to the margins in higher education and inspired the topic for this issue of our newsletter.

In this issue, Noriega-Rocha and Fernandez build on that earlier conversation to weave personal experience and ethnographic research practices in our Feature article on decolonizing academic spaces, “Elevando Las Voces de la Comunidad: Attempts to Center Community Knowledge within the Bounds of Colonial Intellectual Reproduction.” In our Campus Highlight, a team of our friends—including professors, students, and community partners from Saint Peter’s University, Cleveland State University, City University of New York Graduate Center, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, the American Civil Liberties Union, and more—describe Encuentros, a powerful one-day conference of panel discussions and performance art grounded in the use of oral history to “free buried stories” and bring timely social justice issues to the forefront of academic dialogue. And in his Director’s Column, “All Students Major in Voice. Educators Need to Listen,” BTtoP Director David Scobey describes his experience of learning from his students, and how it affirmed his belief that the core purpose of education is to foster agency, give students the opportunity to find their voice, and respect them as cocreators of their own learning.

Placing student perspectives at the forefront of our work has always been central to BTtoP’s mission, but we’ve grappled with the tension of authentically enacting that in our programs. We hope that this newsletter can serve as a point for iteration and growth by focusing directly on the topic of student voice, including students as lead authors, and valuing them as ambassadors for the community that higher education serves. As always, we invite your feedback, resources, and examples of successes or challenges you’ve faced on this theme; you can contact us at info@bttop.org.