July 15, 2020 | Bringing It #43: Celebrating Old and New Friends Alike

Dear friends, 

Now that we are settling in at Elon University, we wanted to return to our practice of celebrating great projects and great comrades. Here are spotlights of two different grantees doing amazing work and words of gratitude and admiration for our friend, Caryn McTighe Musil, who has just retired from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

Grantee Spotlight: C-THEM Collaborative  
In March, 2020, one week before the shutdown of schools and colleges in Michigan, 30 students from 11 universities and community colleges in Michigan met at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids for the first Native American Student Summit. The Summit was organized by the C-THEM collaborative—a BTtoP-supported initiative of Tribal Education Directors from the 12 federally-recognized sovereign nations in Michigan, plus a team of university partners supporting Native students on their campuses. The Summit featured five workshops:

  1. Meeting of the Minds: mentoring middle and high school students;
  2. Our College Experience;
  3. Designing Support Systems;
  4. Staying Connected; and
  5. Graduate School 101 Workshop.

Throughout the day, Native students built community through shared experiences and aspirations. They designed support structures for themselves and their campus student organizations to focus on college completion and to build understanding of graduate and professional school options. They heard powerful messages about continued educational barriers and invisibility for Native students and the growing understanding and use of Indigenous Knowledge Systems from invited speaker Amanda Tachine, from Arizona State University.

Students reported a high satisfaction regarding the whole Summit. One student writes, “I hope this opportunity continues. I can see this program benefiting a lot of native students and inspiring them to continue education.” The next goal of the C-THEM collaborative is to build a statewide Michigan Native Student Council led by Native student leaders, to organize yearly summits and build access and degree completion networks across the state.

Read more about C-THEM’s work in their article for the BTtoP Newsletter

Grantee Spotlight: Imagining America Assessing the Practices of Public Scholarship
The Assessing the Practices of Public Scholarship (APPS) Team is a research collaborative sponsored by Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. Here is their reflection on work they’ve been undertaking with the support of a MIG grant:

What binds us is a common question: how can we do our work, inquire into our work so as to better understand and improve it, and tell the stories of our work – of our scholarship, our art, and our communities – in ways that are more inclusive, informed by values, and engaged. 

We received a Multi-Institutional Innovation Grant to hold an institute on democratically-engaged assessment, bringing in colleagues from around the country to reflect, imagine, and collaborate on written and creative works. We hope to further diversify the group in terms of more community organizations, public arts organizations, and scholars from community colleges, HBCUs, and HSIs. Our first "new" partners include a scholar of indigenous studies, language, and history from the University of Alaska, a faculty member from the University of Cape Town, and nonprofit leader with roots in environmental anthropology.  We are lifting up "other ways of knowing" and making sure that our learning collaborative is thriving and inclusive.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had planned a face-to-face, retreat-type gathering to live/work/create together. Now, we will convene an online learning community over the next year, supporting scholars and community organizers from underrepresented institutions to participate in developing new tools, frameworks, and approaches for assessment and storytelling that emphasize full participation. We are using this opportunity to re-envision the gathering as a learning community that continues on beyond a one-time gathering and continues to highlight work being done in the spirit of radically inclusive assessment. The result will be a comprehensive website of these tools and resources, as well as multimedia scholarly and popular outputs to help organizations and individuals reclaim assessment.

Singing the Praises of Caryn McTighe Musil
Our colleague, friend, and mentor Caryn McTighe Musil retired from AAC&U on June 30, after nearly three decades of service and leadership. (That was after an accomplished career as a professor at Lasalle University and Executive Director of the National Women’s Studies Association.) Caryn helped to create and lead AAC&U’s ground-breaking initiatives on global learning, democratic education, and civic engagement. She authored the Federally-commissioned report, A Crucible Moment: Civic Learning and Democracy’s Future (2012), perhaps the most important call for democratic higher education in the last twenty years. (David served on the Task Force for that report and was astonished by Caryn’s patient leadership and eloquent writing.)

Caryn’s career is filled with significant initiatives and well-deserved accolades. But here we want to sing the praises of her passion for social justice, openness, generous curiosity, and supportive spirit. She has been a sustaining colleague, and she’ll continue to be a dear friend. Caryn, here is to the next adventure. We will be there with you.

With warm thanks, 

The BTtoP Team