Spring 2016 semester concludes with events showcasing research, civic engagement, and artistic collaboration

May 16, 2016

Spring Showcase: 112 Public Knowledge, ILO Showcase, & Graduate Fellow Presentations

On Monday, April 25, the second floor of Snyder-Phillips was filled with the semester’s work for the annual Spring Showcase. Students in all RCAH 112 classes and Integrated Language Options, as well as all RCAH graduate fellows, presented their research in the form of posters, videos and artwork for a public audience.

The RCAH 112 courses this semester explored a variety of topics, including American culture in the 1920s (taught by Eric Aronoff), black female cinema (taught by Tama Hamilton-Wray), listening as a method of engagement (taught by Terese Monberg), black popular culture and social movements (taught by Austin Jackson), and ethical issues (taught by Scot Yoder).

Freshman Meghan Hollister was in Yoder’s class. Her project focused on the intersection of disability activism and feminism in regard to the ethics of disability-based abortion.

“It’s well-known that feminists believe abortion is always a right no matter what the person’s reason is, and that complicates things because people with disabilities argue that abortion based on disability is discriminatory,” she said. “I argue it is possible to be against disability-based abortion and still be feminist.”

As a self-identified feminist, Hollister said this project helped her to define her own beliefs on the issue.

“It was interesting to weave through all the research and try and figure it out,” she said. “I knew I was a feminist, and I believe abortion’s a right, but I didn’t really consider the disability side of it. So it was a learning process for me as well.”

RCAH freshman Deborah Olea researched how Native American identity was affected by boarding schools in the 1920s.

“Instead of teaching them things that would allow them to go into higher education, they were taught to do housework or yardwork so that they would be servants rather than actually working in high positions,” Olea said. Her project also explored the difficulties boarding school students experienced in not being fully accepted by either mainstream or Native culture.

Olea said she didn’t know aboutau boarding schools until she took Aronoff’s class.

“This is super interesting because many of them were abused and went through really hard times in the boarding schools, and I thought that this is something that needs to be talked about. Why does it take for me to be in college to learn about this? Why is it hidden? That inspired me to bring this out into the open,” she said.

Integrated Language Options pair a student’s language interest with RCAH classes. Students have the opportunity to be immersed in language learning with a native speaker.

This semester, there were eleven ILOs, in languages ranging from Spanish to Korean to Arabic.

RCAH and veterinary science student Krista Rodriguez is half Columbian. In addition to wanting to learn her heritage language, Spanish, Rodriguez likes being in an ILO because it gives her the opportunity to practice speaking a language without the added pressure of another class.

“My biggest issue is being able to talk in Spanish. I can do writing, I can understand, but talking I get very nervous. I always used to talk to my grandma in English when she would ask me questions in Spanish,” she said.

This particular Spanish ILO project featured a website inspired by “Random Acts of Kindness.” This project, Small Acts of Tolerance, features people in Columbia and people in RCAH sharing their own definitions of tolerance and what an act of tolerance might look like.

This semester, there were six graduate fellows studying topics like grading arts projects and student-run civic engagement projects.

RCAH graduate fellow Anna Green studied the connection between the creative work that goes on in the early RCAH curriculum and the development of writing skills.

“I was really interested in how the skills students are developing in those projects would transfer to something like the traditional analytical essay,” Green said. “I knew creative work was opening up really good thought processes but I was thinking do they understand the connections between one and the other?”

Green put out a survey to collect data from RCAH students.

“RCAH students are responding really positively to the work. Ninety-three percent of respondents said they’re sure their creative work has strengthened their overall writing skills,” Green said. “Maybe the piece that could be strengthened was the mode of evaluation. They see they’re getting these skills, they were a little bit less clear on how the mechanisms of evaluation were pointing to those skills. Maybe we as teachers need to be more mindful in developing assignment objectives that clearly tie the skills of one venue to the other and also the development of rubrics that ask for those kinds of skills.”

RCAH graduate fellow Jennifer Royston’s work focused on student involvement with the RCAH Center for Poetry. Royston helped a team of undergraduate students bring feminist spoken word duo Speak Like a Girl to campus on April 28.  

“We hope to get a sense of how students benefit from a student-organized, student-run event and hopefully it breaks down that stigma poetry can sometimes have as a more difficult genre to approach,” Royston said. “Learning more about students’ motivations has been enlightening for me, and also just working in RCAH in general. I love this atmosphere. I constantly wish I could go back in time and be an RCAH undergrad, just the immersive nature. Everyone here has respect for the arts and understands the transformative power of the arts. It’s just great.”

Eastside Pride

On Monday, May 2, RCAH professor and photojournalist Jeremy Herliczek’s arts workshop unveiled the semester’s work at Allen Neighborhood Center. Eastside Pride partners RCAH students with residents of Lansing’s east side to create photographic portraits that represent the spirit of the neighborhood. The photographs are then publicly displayed at the Neighborhood Center as well as on a blog.

This is the project’s second year. Each time, Herliczek and Joan Nelson, executive director at Allen Neighborhood Center, brainstorm a list of residents to feature in the project. They’re very careful to represent an accurate, diverse group of people in the community.

“I really pushed to have people on the walls reflect all different types of diversity, and Joan was really pushing people that are involved in the center and in the neighborhood. It’s a nice mix of people who have grown the neighborhood in the last 20 and 30 years,” Herliczek said.

Herliczek said the class teaches students about social activism as well as photography.

“A journalist is doing a story to inform people, but they’re not an advocate. We take it to the next step and say this is photography as activism. We’re using photography as a tool to ferment change,” he said.

Online, the photos are paired with stories written by the students in the class. Herliczek said the stories help bring the neighbors together and learn more about each other.

“The stories explain things about the neighbors not everybody knows – their motivations, loves, passions,” he said.

RCAH freshman Ryan Roehler had experience with photography before the class, but working on Eastside Pride helped him to appreciate how photography can be used as a tool for empowerment as well as a way to capture beauty.

“After taking this class, I learned firsthand that photography can used as a tool that allows you to share ideas or messages that are greater than yourself, oftentimes in order to evoke social change. Specifically, I learned this through the process of learning my neighbors' stories and what they are about in order to convey to them to the outside world though photography,” he said.

Nuestros Cuentos

On Wednesday, May 4, professor Estrella Torrez’s RCAH 292B class alongside several community partners presented their work in the fourth installment of Nuestros Cuentos.

Nuestros Cuentos is a storytelling project that pairs college, high school and middle school students together to publish a book of stories written by students in Lansing School District.

The project has expanded considerably since its inception. Nuestros Cuentos now partners MSU with Lansing Community College and Lansing School District’s Mt. Hope Elementary, Pattengill Middle School, and Eastern High School. Students in RCAH professor Dylan Miner’s arts workshop also helped to provide illustrations for the books.

RCAH junior Erin Lammers took Miner’s class last year and wanted to continue her involvement this time around, so she signed up for Torrez’s class right away.

“I’m really not much of an artist, so I jumped at the opportunity to become a part of the story writing process,” Lammers said.

Lammers had experience working with children before the class, but getting involved at Mt. Hope gave her an opportunity to connect with the kids on a different level.  

“Most of my other experiences working with children have been from a supervisor position, so being a creative partner allowed me to facilitate sessions but also watch the kids design their own activities. I learned to let them take control of their engagement; MSU students were there as resources, but they chose to gift their time, so they could choose how to use it,” she said. “I think all authors want their audiences to appreciate the story itself, but this project showcased the hard work it took to get there, and in some cases, that accomplishment on its own is just as important as the messages behind these unique and creative masterpieces.”

Story by RCAH student Kelsey Block. Photos by Katie Wittenauer and RCAH student Samantha Kinjorski.