Because of its “outward-facing” approach, I think that public scholarship makes you a better teacher. Its emphasis on building community and exchanging ideas aligns with the classroom environment I want to build with my students and will help me cultivate a greater awareness of the issues they may be facing outside of it. The prospect of involving work in the community or encouraging my students to take action inspired by the coursework in our class, mentioned in several of our articles, also seems really inspiring. (I’m still not entirely sure how to implement it, but I feel like this type of work could help answer the “Why do I have to take a literature class?” question in some way.) I’ve done a small amount of this type of work and noticed that students seemed to feel empowered by it: for a writing class I was teaching, students had to write a letter about a specific problem that they had first-hand experience with to someone who could effect change. For many of them it was just an exercise, but I offered extra credit if they chose to actually send the letter. Students who did this were often excited and shocked when the people in positions of power that they wrote to took their letters seriously and responded to them. Numerous discussions about the power of writing couldn’t demonstrate that reality in the way that that experience could.

In addition to these teaching contexts, in my experience as a Mellon public scholar I hope to broaden my knowledge and help my community partner generate awareness about what the humanities and arts can do. For me, this learning began when I started perusing California Humanities’ website and found out about the programs they supported alongside terrific resources for undertaking work with the community. I’m excited by the idea of making a (small) contribution to my community partner’s work in representing the humanities in California through our mapping project. As a longtime participant in small but meaningful visual arts, performing arts and humanities projects with a variety of community groups, I’m motivated by the prospect of bringing awareness to smaller groups that aren’t on many people’s radar. This goal aligns nicely with my dissertation research which also focuses on recognizing alternative approaches to making, collaborative craft, and amateur creative work that is undervalued.

I’m also here because I want to learn new frameworks and approaches for work both within and outside academia. By expanding my point of view and professional relationships outside the university, I’ll be challenged to think about issues and work on problems that haven’t occurred to me. I hope to think about questions I wouldn’t normally ask or be able to address in “typical research.” I spend a lot of time sequestered behind a computer screen, a large pile of books or papers and I’d like to widen the scope of my ideas to see beyond the very specific research I do as well as enriching that research through experiences in the program. I’m here because I want to hear from people who work in a different area from me (outside my discipline, outside the university, etc.). I want to use this experience to build a better understanding of community-engaged work through experience and to become part of the larger movement towards public scholarship.