Giving Community-Engaged Research a Leg Up

Today’s post from Jean Lee Cole, Director of Community-Engaged Learning and Scholarship and Professor of English, highlights recent faculty & student projects supported by the new Engaged Scholarship Funds mini-grant program offered through Academic Affairs and CCSJ.

What can $1000 do?

This was a question I had in mind when we established the Engaged Scholarship Funds program this past January. Could $1000 really help Loyola faculty and students do meaningful research in–and with– the community? And what forms would that scholarship take?

I initially envisioned faculty and graduate students using the money to fly to conferences where they could present their research, or to purchase equipment or supplies needed for surveys and other community-based research tools. While the funds have certainly been used for this purpose, I’ve been most energized and inspired by some of the more creative ways this money has been spent.

Multilingual Baltimore, one of the most ambitious projects we have funded, has just been completed by faculty and students from the Modern Languages department. This 45-minute video features subtitled interviews conducted by students– in Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, and Arabic– of immigrants living in Baltimore. In the end, over 40 people, including students, faculty, staff, and community partners, have gotten involved with this project.

Most of the interviewees are over 50 years old. Faculty members Patrick Brugh and Andrea Thomas thought these older immigrants would be interested in talking with young people about their personal histories and cultural differences. They had originally hoped that students would interview their own relatives, but when not enough of them volunteered, they shifted their focus to immigrants living in Baltimore, and found subjects through the Esperanza Center as well as through local churches and personal contacts in the area.

With this new focus on Baltimore, the project was eligible for Engaged Scholarship Funds, which they used to purchase video equipment to create a training video featuring Spanish faculty member Emma Cervone, on oral history and qualitative research methodology. This video helped student interviewers to develop interview questions and conduct strong interviews.

Receipt of the Engaged Scholarship Funds also helped Patrick and Andrea win an additional $1000 grant from Maryland Humanities to fund the completion of the Multilingual Baltimore video and organize a screening in Baltimore. The video will be screened on campus on October 5, 2017, and at the Creative Alliance on Oct. 12.

Multilingual Baltimore flyer

Andrea says that through the Multilingual Baltimore project, faculty and students alike “met new people in our community who were eager to share their stories.” By videotaping, curating, subtitling, and screening these interviews, this project enables the entire community to learn about Baltimore history, immigrant and youth culture, assimilation, and integration. “This project has become a way to increase linguistic and cultural tolerance,” she said.

The Department of Modern Languages hopes to develop free, short grammatical and vocabulary exercises as companion pieces for these videos so they may be used not only in the screening but in the future to promote discussion both on Loyola’s campus and outside at other community organizations.

Emma Muir ’17 used Engaged Scholarship Funds for another exciting project. As a student intern at Baltimore’s Esperanza Center, she noticed that the organization was beginning to see Arabic-speaking students in their ESOL classes, but the center had no materials for Arabic speakers or instructors who spoke any Arabic. Emma had transferred to Loyola in part because Arabic was offered here; last spring, she was a student in Dr. Inas Hassan’s AB 104.

She proposed using Engaged Scholarship Funds to help her develop ESOL materials for Arabic speakers. With the grant, she was able to commute several times each week from her home in Westminster, MD to the Esperanza Center in East Baltimore, and over the course of several months, she translated the primarily Spanish-language materials used by the Esperanza Center, working with Arabic-speaking clients, many of whom were recently relocated refugees from Syria. She also created lesson plans that were written in English and in transliterated Arabic, so that non-Arabic-speaking volunteers could still use the materials with Arabic-speaking students.

“The funds made an incredible difference in my project,” said Emma. “This type of personal, community work is not supported in a ‘regular’ classroom. I had to be outside the school, and break free from the role of a ‘tutor’ in order to create a more lasting connection with my students, many of whom I regularly met with outside of class. . . . I would highly recommend such an experience to any student who is willing to be vulnerable and learn from others.”

I hope this post gives you some ideas about what you might do. It turns out that even $1000 can have a big impact on our entire community–faculty, students, and the off-campus community alike.

The Engaged Scholarship Funds and Campus-Community Partnerships in Knowledge Grants offered through CCSJ are direct responses to the Ignatian Compass strategic plan to “promote thoughtful and active civic and global engagement among all members of our community.” See the CCSJ website for grant guidelines and a link to the application form– and get engaged.



“Awash with Warm Enthusiasm” – a response to the 25th Anniversary of the Center for Community Service & Justice

 Kate Figiel-Miller, Assistant Director for Service-Learning, Center for Community Service and Justice, shares her reflections as CCSJ celebrates its 25th Anniversary.

It so deeply affirms and grounds my work to be awash in the warm enthusiasm of 25 years of people whose lives were set on course by their encounters here. As change agents, we community-engaged educators plan partnerships that make a tangible difference to our neighbors here and now. As educators, on the other hand, and especially as experiential educators, we may carefully arrange service-learning opportunities and reflection assignments aimed toward precise learning objectives, but ultimately we don’t control what students experience—let alone what they take away.

We proceed on faith that students will learn what we want them to—better yet, that they will learn whatever each needs to learn to walk a path of meaning, connectedness, and justice. If we’re doing it right (and if we’re lucky), students encounter here for the first time, variously, poverty, racism, systems of injustice, their own privilege and role in change-making, tools for activism, and finding community in surprising places.

How powerful it has been to see the fruits of this labor decades down the line.  Our alumni have done stints in Botswana or living at Catholic Worker Houses.  They are thoughtful parents, engaged citizens, and ethical consumers and businesspeople.  They do incredible work in immigration, housing, workforce development, and education, from direct service to law to advocacy.  Go forth and set the world on fire, my friends. Thank you for showing me that, difficult as the work sometimes is, we must be doing something right.



Just Mercy

Loyola’s common text for first year undergraduates is Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, a gripping narrative of his work as a defense attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Through the book, Stevenson tells numerous stories of racial injustice in the American criminal justice system, the central one being the arrest, wrongful conviction, imprisonment on death row, and eventual release of Walter McMillian, an African-American accused of murdering a white woman in Monroeville, Alabama. Students heard a panel of experts discuss the various themes of the book, then engaged in their first college level text discussions in their 16 person, Messina course sections with their professors, Evergreen student leaders, and Messina administrative mentors. Eighty students, a record number, wrote their reactions to the book for an essay contest. Check out a sample of their insights from the three award winners:

Brittany Bonin

In order to do so, however, Stevenson did not get close to the McMillian case; he got close to Walter. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Walter’s future, and the possibility of another heartbreak, Stevenson went all in. He got close, investing in every aspect of Walter’s life through countless visits and hours of getting to know the man behind the case. Now, the two men’s lives are so intertwined that it is impossible to tell either of their stories without also mentioning the other.

Emily Cebulski

Getting close is not something that will ever be easy to do. It requires the added effort of understanding another’s point of view and offering compassion to console and heal others. It will never be convenient. It requires setting aside previously assigned priorities to allocate attention towards becoming knowledgeable, embracing that which one does not know. Stevenson’s account provides multiple real world examples of how we, as incoming “Ignatian Citizens” can live up to this calling.

Katherine Stockton-Juarez

We should not be running our justice system on the foundation of punishment but instead through the idea of rehabilitation. Education is essential and it must be used both in and out of the prison cells in order to derail hate and bigotry—evils which propagate hopelessness. For even as I write, those evils march down the streets in white robes and with swastikas, obliterating the hope for a more progressive nation with every step they take.

As Mr. Stevenson notes at the end of his book, “With more than two million incarcerated people in the United States, an additional six million people on probation or parole and an estimated sixty-eight million American with criminal records, there are endless opportunities for you to do something about criminal justice policy or help the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.”

Common Text 2017
L-R: Lisa Oberbroeckling, Birgit Albrecht, Anna Sasson, Margaret Shea, Emily Manzo, Emily Cebulski, Katherine Stockton-Juarez, Mike Puma, and Rev. Tim Brown, S.J.

Join the intellectual conversation through Common Text events: including hearing Bryan Stevenson speak on Monday, March 19 at 6 pm, and check out opportunities to volunteer at the Center for Community Service and Justice.

~ Amanda M. Thomas, interim vice president for academic affairs