Friday, October 11, 2013

Engaged Learning as the Bridge to Civic Engagement - Applied Thinking

I attended a presentation last night at UIC and was pleased to hear Dr. Troy Duster, Chancellor's Professor, University of California, Berkley, say that "moral arc of leaders is long" and "in bleak times, step back and let's take the long view."

His ideas on "engaged learning" mirror efforts I've made since the mid 1990s to build partnership with faculty at different universities in the Chicago region, including my alma matter, Illinois Wesleyan, so their students could do the work required to build networks of people working consistently to help make youth serving organizations available in every high poverty neighborhood of the region.

I looked up Dr. Duster on the Internet to see if I could find more of his ideas. I found the Longview Institute, which operated from 2005-2009 (not very long). I learned that he is the grandson of Ida B. Wells, so he has a long history of civic engagement and community organizing.

Having been sharing ideas about ways youth programs in Chicago should be created and supported for the past 20 years, I certainly appreciate the need to think of the "long view". In fact much of the work I've done over the past few years has been aimed at putting my ideas on the Internet and finding younger leaders who have the passion and talent to carry them forward into the future.

These are some blog articles I've written on this topic in the past. I've created maps showing the location of universities throughout the region. My goal since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 was that teams of students/alumni from each university would become a hub of knowledge about tutor/mentor programs and support groups in the area around the university.

In the early 2000s a team of students from DePaul University created this strategic plan, providing reasons for a University to form an on-campus Tutor/Mentor Connection.

I was told by a researcher at Chapin Hall in 1993 that I was unrealistic if I felt I could get universities in the city to work together for a common purpose. I wish that researcher had spent more time recognizing that I was only hoping that small teams in each university might form to do this work. I could connect those teams with each other via my newsletters, conferences, and ultimately web sites. This concept map and article was created in 2009 by a graduate from Northwestern University. It shows different departments within the university who each do some work related to the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Such maps could be created for many campuses and student communicator could be inviting representatives of each to connect and share ideas on an on-going basis.

Dr. Duster was passionate in his belief that engagement with communities could start at the university level by engaging youth in local problem solving. He described resistance on university campuses to engaged learning and called for "insurgencies" to form on different campus, with enlightened leaders forming their own engaged learning projects.

I'm still looking for a day in the future when there would be a Tutor/Mentor Connection student team/project on every campus in the Chicago region. Dr. Duster's comments give me hope that if I, and others after me, keep sending the invitation and pointing to models of existing projects where youth support the growth of multiple needed services in the areas around a university, we might have a breakthrough at some point in the future.

At the Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago on Nov. 4 I'll be leading two workshops talking of ways students in high school and college could be engaged in team building and information sharing. I hope some who have heard Dr. Duster will want to attend.

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