Community Engagement

Massachusetts Equity and Engagement Consortium

Building and supporting institutional structures for community-engaged work, which encompasses both scholarship and teaching, has been a core part of my research. At Salem State University, our collective bargaining agreement was amended in 2019 to include community-engaged scholarship in faculty evaluation criteria. However, we recognized that faculty evaluators and administrators were not prepared to effectively use this criteria in reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes. This was also an issue of equity, given the significant proportion of minoritized faculty members who engage in this work.

To address these concerns, we received an FY 2020 Higher Education Innovation Fund grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education for “Diversifying the Faculty: Pathways Toward Equity” ($100,000). During the 2019-2020 academic year, we worked collaboratively with colleagues at Worcester State University and Fitchburg State University to create professional development opportunities for community-engaged scholarship on our campuses and across our campuses. These included workshops for faculty going up for reappointment, tenure, and promotion to help them use the new contract language to support their cases, as well as trainings for faculty evaluators and administrators to help them understand how to value community-engaged scholarship and its outputs, which often do not resemble “traditional” outputs such as monographs and journal articles.

Through this collaborative work, we developed the Massachusetts Equity and Engagement Consortium, a cross-campus partnership that grew to include not only Worcester State and Fitchburg State but also University of Massachusetts - Amherst, College of the Holy Cross, and Merrimack College. For our second year of work together, we decided to turn our attention to ensuring that our community-engaged teaching foregrounds anti-racist practices. To support this work, we received an FY 2021 Higher Education Innovation Fund grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education for “Building on the Cultural Wealth of Minoritized Students: Anti-racist Community-Engaged Programming, Pedagogies, and Practices” ($133,000). Through programming for students, professional development for faculty, and collaborative development of practices across our campuses, this grant will raise consciousness among faculty and staff about a cultural wealth model for higher education while modeling practices that shift thinking from whether our students are “college ready” towards whether our universities are “student ready.”

Community-Engaged Digital Humanities

Aside from my work with the Massachusetts Equity and Engagement Consortium, my community-engaged work has focused on engaging new audiences in the humanities through digital humanities. I have done so, primarily, through the connections I have built with middle-school and high school English language arts teachers in towns surrounding Salem.

Through a project grant from Mass Humanities, Susan Edwards, Salem State University Archivist, and I have collaborated with Salem Academy Charter School to develop a digital humanities capstone project for high school seniors at risk of not completing their education. This has allowed students to explore the relationship between the Salem they know today and Salem of the past, undertaking both archival and secondary source research. An unanticipated result of this collaboration was an impact on recruitment.

Along with English middle-school teachers, I developed a year-long curriculum for integrating the Massachusetts Digital Literacy Standards into the English Language Arts Frameworks. This curriculum blends digital literacy, digital humanities, and digital pedagogy to help students learn how to be critical users and makers with technologies. And, critically, they do so while meeting the standards of the English curriculum. Currently, I am working with high school teachers to develop a cross-walk of the Massachusetts English Language Arts Frameworks and Digital Literacy Standards and create open access “packages” of standards and related assignments addressing issues of race and social justice that assist teachers with implementing digital literacy and culturally responsive teaching in their English classes.