Photo at left: Silas and English major Morgan Bennett together at Libuyu Community School. Silas is showing off his Art Club mask.
If your image of the English major is a lone reader, back against a tree, absorbed by the book in her lap, then prepare to enlarge your perspective. Yes, English majors do read and enjoy periods of silent contemplation, and many but not all are female. But students and faculty in the CSU Department of English also act, working together to help incarcerated teens and women express their thoughts in powerful writing, explore the importance of water with middle school students by the river, engage in community health and education projects in Africa and teach English in China, serve in the Peace Corps, and work on climate change education and outreach to address this significant global problem.
Recently we added a tagline to all our social media accounts. We wanted something that included the word “state” and represented our commitment to the core values of the Humanities – critical thinking, connection, and compassion. The result? “Elevate Your State of Engagement.”
Our new slogan not only embodies the beautiful environment in which we study, teach, and learn but also communicates the commitment of students and faculty to take their passions and skills beyond the classroom into the community and world. Read on to learn about the programs and people who are demonstrating the power of English in action–students, faculty, and community members most certainly elevating their state of engagement.
The Community Literacy Center (CLC) Reaches Out
The CSU Community Literacy Center celebrates 10 years of SpeakOut! writing workshops this year. Through the SpeakOut! writing workshops, (which won the “Program of the Year” award at the recent Larimer County Jail volunteer awards banquet), the CLC confronts stereotypes of at-risk youth and incarcerated women and men, circulating the stories and creative work of community writers through print and multi-media publications, believing that these dynamic literacy activities are key to individual success, cultural awareness and a more socially just world.
Additional initiatives help the CLC to fulfill their mission to create alternative literacy opportunities that work to educate and empower underserved populations, and encourage university-community literacy collaboration.
To find out more, read this recent update on the CLC that we published on our blog, as well as this profile of their new Associate Director, Mary Ellen Sanger.
The CSU Writing Project (CSUWP) Connects
Middle school students took their curiosity and learning outside the classroom in a summer program designed by faculty from CSU and the CSUWP (Assistant Professor Antero Garcia and Professor Cindy O’Donnell-Allen), along with staff at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (Director of Community Connections Holly LeMasurier). The Youth Science Civic Inquiry institute (YSCI) is a two-year program funded by a joint grant from the National Science Foundation and the National Writing Project. Through a two-week summer institute at the museum, middle school students from Title 1 schools in Poudre School District became “citizen scientists” by developing literacy skills, social action strategies, and science knowledge around water use and protection issues in Fort Collins. A school-year program combines public art and poetry as a way of looking closely at why water matters from a global perspective.
Other recent CSUWP programs have included on-campus youth writing workshops; a Writers’ Colony for area teachers; a Teaching for Social Justice Study Group; a dinner group for early-career teachers; and the annual Summer Institute+, a yearlong program designed to help K-12 teachers across content areas improve their skills as writers, teacher leaders, and teacher scholars.
Founded in 2003, the CSU Writing Project is a local affiliate of the National Writing Project (NWP), the nation’s oldest professional development network devoted to the improvement of writing. Informed by a social justice perspective, CSUWP is committed to providing equity and access to high-quality literacy programs for all learners, including K-16 educators and youth in northern Colorado.
English Engagement Abroad: Studying, Teaching, Learning, and Service
Over the summer, two groups of students traveled abroad – teaching, doing service, and learning. One group went with Professor Ellen Brinks to Zambia. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Education Abroad program (and African Impact). Students worked full days on community health or education projects during the week and had the weekend to visit the area. A few even sent us field reports that we published on the English department blog. There was also a great feature about the trip published on Source. Another trip to Zambia in the summer of 2016 is planned. Interested students should contact Professor Brinks, Ellen.Brinks@colostate.edu.
Another group of five graduate students went to central China to teach English as a second language at Xi’an Jiaotong University. For four weeks, they taught six hours a day five days a week. Their primary duty was teaching language skills to Chinese college students, including reading, writing and verbal communication in English. In the weeks before they went, we profiled three of these CSU English students, and they shared reflections and pictures of the trip when they returned. You can read these posts on our blog.
Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI)
For graduate students looking for something more than a one-semester study abroad experience, PCMI is a great option. A student may combine a degree in any one of our five M.A. programs — Creative Nonfiction, English Education, Literature, Rhetoric and Composition, or TEFL/TESL — with the PCMI degree at Colorado State University. CSU is one of the few English departments in the country to offer this unique program.
At a recent presentation to a group of interested students, Professor Ellen Brinks (Peace Corps Master’s International program liaison for the English department) and Aaron Carlile, an MA Literature student who just returned from his Peace Corps assignment in China, talked about the benefits of the PCMI. Read more about the PCMI and that presentation on our blog.
Changing Climates @ CSU Engages
Changing Climates was founded and is directed by SueEllen Campbell and John Calderazzo, both writers and professors in the CSU English Department. Concerned about the potential impacts of climate change and the lack of knowledge among the public, the initiative began as a project to help those members of the CSU community who are interested in climate change meet each other, learn more about related research and teaching on campus, and share their knowledge. In the past eight years, they’ve conducted multiple lecture series, helped create courses, and most recently hosted a showing of the Emmy Award-winning Showtime video series “Years of Living Dangerously.” We asked SueEllen and John to tell us a bit more about this project, and here’s what they said.