Vamos! A Multidisciplinary Dialogue Series about Intersectional LatinX Experiences at UConn
- Pauline Batista, Ph.D. Candidate, Neag School of Education (Educational Leadership)
- Claudio Daflon, Ph.D. Candidate, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (Latin American History)
- Lauren Perez-Bonilla, Ph.D. Candidate, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (Latin American History)
In this project, we present a structured opportunity for dialogue across intersectional themes within Latinx identities. That is exactly why we chose to title this initiative “Vamos!” (or “Let’s Go!” both in Spanish and Portuguese). This initiative is a call to gather UConn’s growing Latinx population in an effort to provide a space for Afro Latinx, Queer Latinx and other underrepresented Latinx populations to start different conversations around identities and different perspectives. Despite the focus around Latinx identity related issues, all students are welcome to attend meetings. The group will meet biweekly (virtually or at available campus spaces such as Cultural Centers in the Fall). We chose to use Paulo Freire’s (1994) participatory action framework to create dialogue opportunities between the university and local groups in the community. Our team along with partner Latinx graduate students will facilitate meetings, however, all conversations will be student centered, in partnership with various student led organizations on campus. We will also bring a guest artist or speaker from abroad by the end of the semester.
Student Perceptions of Shakespeare as a Pedagogical Resource
- Réme Bohlin, Ph.D. Candidate, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (English)
The debate about Shakespeare's relevance in the twenty-first century, indeed the relevance of literary studies in general, is long-standing. However, undergraduate students are often absent from these debates. My project seeks to recruit undergraduate voices in the creation of an online, open-source Shakespeare class that directly addresses these questions. By surveying students, I hope to open up a conversation that, while urgent, has grown stale. Often, conversations about Shakespeare’s relevance begin and end with requirements for the major: should English majors be required to take a Shakespeare class? However, revising major requirements does not adequately address questions of relevance. How can questions of value and relevance be taken up in the (virtual) classroom?
The Voice in the Body: Contemplative Practices to Support Dialogue in Online, Hybrid, and In-Person Courses
- Tina Huey, Adjunct Faculty, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Academic Specialist, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
- Martina Rosenberg, Director, Teaching and Learning Assessment, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
In online environments the careful attunement to timing, tone, energy, interest level, and interpersonal dynamics that in-person teaching permits is much more challenging for both student and instructor. This impacts engagement and motivation, but also vulnerability, a key disposition in dialogical practice. Because it takes place in a space that is public, but that cannot be “read” through the body, distance learning poses a special challenge in courses that center dialogue. We believe that contemplative practices (CP) support dialogue in in-person classes, and are curious about the pedagogical potential of body-centered and ekphrastic meditation exercises in online courses. Contemplative practices include structured dialogue that links mindfulness and soulfulness (Harrell) of the self with compassion for the other. Our goal is to work with instructors in 6-10 courses, facilitate instructor reflection on the role of contemplative practices in dialogue, solicit feedback from students, and produce a video guide with simple techniques for other instructors. In a series of follow-up workshops with instructors, we will explore and identify reasons why dialogue is difficult online, from the point of view of both the instructor and the students. In courses with online components, we wish to explore CP to frame both synchronous and asynchronous dialogue. That being said, we wish to define specific activities in collaboration with participating instructors.
Collaborative Conversation Initiative
- Stephen Armstrong, Social Studies Consultant, Connecticut State Department of Education
- Sally Whipple, Executive Director, Connecticut Democracy Center
- Yesenia Karas ‘21 (MAT), Central Connecticut State University
- Megan Villanova ‘21 (MSW), UConn School of Social Work
Our program’s goal is to introduce the Encounters discussion model and make it accessible to Connecticut educators and students using a variation called Collaborative Conversations, which we piloted in 2019. Teachers and students who participated in the pilot valued both the use of shared readings to ground discussion and the practice of uninterrupted listening. Collaborative Conversation’s fundamental structure applies dialogue and deliberation to whatever topic is chosen by participating high schools. The format allows students to learn content and interrogate it through discussion, rather than debate. Our project will provide written information and training designed to help teachers and students engage more fully in the model and its practice, and to replicate it in the future. We plan to create a facilitator handbook outlining the program’s goals and approaches, as well as information that will enable trained participants to replicate the program in the future. Our team will then train a team of teachers and students as classroom facilitators who will conduct on-site Collaborative Conversations sessions in at least six Connecticut high schools. After these sessions are completed, our team will survey all participating facilitators and students, targeting participant experience. We will measure student engagement and understanding. The feedback will be used to inform revisions to the facilitator handbook.
Participatory Budgeting at UConn
- Richard Frieder, Hartford Decide$
- Christine Caruso, University of Saint Joseph
- Nana Amos, Program Manager, Dodd Center
- Elnara Klicheva, Program Specialist, Dodd Center
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic, community-driven process in which the members of a community (whether a university, municipality, or other organization or institution) collaborate to decide how to spend a designated part of a budget. The aim of PB, parts of which have a significant dialogic element to them, is to engage community members in a process of identifying and developing potential projects and then holding a vote to determine which of them will be funded. PB results in the implementation of important projects and, equally important, also builds the capacity of multiple stakeholders with diverse interests to work together for the greater good of the community.
First used in Brazil in 1989, PB came to the U.S. about ten years ago and is now used in several cities around the country. More recently, a few universities have started implementing PB.
PB offers several potential benefits to universities including:
- PB helps build a sense of community on campus.
- PB stimulates civic engagement on campus and provides an opportunity to learn about the democratic process.
- PB provides opportunities for students to learn more about the campus and what's available - as a result they will better access resources of the university.
- PB enhances academic learning in subject areas such as economics, political science, and others.
In this project, the team will explore and begin designing a PB initiative at the UConn Hartford campus and perhaps other campuses, building interest and relationships that will foster implementation next year. The team will also investigate possible collaborations with Hartford’s PB initiative (Hartford Decide$), and with high schools that are interested in PB.
Human Rights Education as a Buffer to Extremism
- Sandra Sirota, Post-Doctoral Fellow, HRI
- Yvonne Vissing, Professor of Healthcare Studies, Salem State University
- Jane M. Williams, Co-Director, Observatory for the Human Rights of Children, Swansea University
- Quixada Moore-Vissing, Associate Director for National Engagement Programs, Public Agenda
The project, Human Rights Education as a Buffer to Extremism, seeks to promote democracy and human rights through examining best-practice efforts to counter violent extremism and making those resources available to professors and the broader education community. It will do so by a) engaging in dialogues with students and experts in extremism and human rights education that will result in b) developing educational materials, c) offering pedagogical tools, and d) sharing research to assist professors in how to use human rights education (HRE) to buffer the rise of extremist views and actions. The materials will be made available to professors and other educators for free on the websites of universities and organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), University of Connecticut, Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA), and the University and College Consortium for Human Rights Education (UCCHRE).