“Experiential learning gets you to begin to connect theories of social life with performances and social action, and is rooted in the human-to-human connections you get when you are embedded in a community.”
Which community did you volunteer at, and what did you work on while you were there?
I was lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer for two years in Brewster, WA, on literacy and book making. I volunteered with middle school students, which I loved. As a CHID major with training in ethnography as well as a regular contributor to The Daily, it wasn’t hard for me to decide to extend my trip into a six week stay in Brewster, where I led an autobiography and culture writing project with one of the ESL middle school classes in Brewster. We dovetailed learning about the richness of personal memoir writing with reflecting on readings about globalization. Throughout the six weeks, the students then wrote up personal stories that described how, in their own words, their lives have intersected and departed from broader cultural messages about the promise and peril of globalization. This was in 2004, so globalization was still a very hot topic, an in-thing at the time, and we looked at stories of the ways it delivered, and also what was left out. This was, as you can imagine, an ambitious, expansive and interesting six weeks — we opened up many lines of thinking, more than could be contained, I think. I’ve kept in touch with some of the students from that class, a I think it was about a year ago I had one student write to me about our time together. I remember him as this bright, sensitive student who had recently moved to Brewster and was just getting his sea-legs, so to say, with English, but was so curious and intelligent. So, he wrote to me to say he always remembered the ideas we’d discussed, and now he’s pursuing a degree in philosophy in Mexico City. I was so filled with pride and respect for his intellectual journey!
How has being a part of ASB impacted your goals and dreams for the future?
ASB was my first experience with experiential learning in higher education, and it’s never left me. As a CHID major, I had opportunities to study abroad, but I found the questions that visiting my own state through ASB raised in me just as provocative and meaningful as going farther afield. And I have, I think, continued to ask the questions, and have the confidence to try the new things, that ASB spurred in me in much every thing I’ve done since. Experiential learning gets you to begin to connect theories of social life with performances and social action, and is rooted in the human-to-human connections you get when you are embedded in a community. Today I work with a global library cooperative, OCLC, on a project on Wikipedia and public libraries, and I continue to revisit theories of pedagogy as a process and the connections between theory and practice that I first encountered as an ASB volunteer. I was so lucky to find my way to the Pipeline Project, and will continue to be a champion of this incredible form of learning for higher education.
What is a favorite memory you have during your time with ASB?
So many great memories! One of the best parts of my extended stay in Brewster, made possible by the connections I developed with Pipeline, was finding the support and funding to have six of the middle school students come to the UW over for a day. We toured the campus and attended a one-day event hosted by CHID, my major, that was taking place with visitors from the CHID program’s connections in South Africa. There was a drum circle, music, rich and beautiful presentations — electricity in the air — the twelve and thirteen-year old students from Brewster stood up and asked good questions. I was so amazed. I love it when worlds come together. The day was this mind blowing meeting — I’ll never forget it. And I think we all fell asleep on the drive back to Brewster.
Interested in being apart of the 2018 Literacy Arts Alternative Spring Break? Applications are now open!