Each year I integrate a community engagement project into at least one of my nonfiction courses at Central Connecticut State University. Students interview people in the community about a given subject—aging, the Vietnam War, life as an immigrant—then transform those transcripts into essays. We produce a literary journal or magazine that we than give as a gift to the community partner. I do all of the fund-raising (sometimes I secure grants while other times I find money from local organizations, such as Rotary Clubs). In 2015 I received the Campus Compact Community Engaged College Educator Award for Connecticut. Nearly all of the private and public colleges and universities in the state belong to this nonprofit organization—from Norwalk Community College to Yale University.
Gold Star Magazine & Traveling Exhibit
Students produced a magazine and traveling exhibit that went to several town libraries as well as the Old State House in Hartford. The project, funded by the Trumbull Rotary Club and sponsored by the Veterans History Project, focused on families from CT that lost a son, brother or husband in the Vietnam War and how that impacted them over the 50 years.
Nuts & Bolts: Stories from New Britain Manufacturing
My nonfiction students interviewed former employees of New Britain manufacturing. The town was once the tool box to the world and the New Britain Industrial Museum celebrates that amazing heritage. We teamed with a design class and photographer to produce a Connecticut Humanities funded museum exhibit which blended quotations from the interviews with images of objects and the people that worked on those objects. I will continue to work with NBIM to create additional educational materials based on the transcripts, which covered a wonderful array of issues from women in the work force to jobs disappearing down South and overseas.