Four faculty and staff-led group proposals for year-long social change projects in Durham and abroad will receive funding from the Duke Center for Civic Engagement (DCCE) as part of the university's inaugural set of Civic Engagement Studios.
Winners are using theater and art to convey civic themes; to translate dialogue on topics such as violence and entrepreneurship among historically disenfranchised Muslims and to encourage community members to take civic ownership of Durham parks.
"The applications were of extraordinary quality, reflecting the Duke community's high interest in effecting social change and awareness in creative ways," said Leela Prasad, the faculty director of the DCCE and associate professor of Ethics & South Asian Studies in the Department of Religion. "It is especially exciting, given that this is only the first year. The promise of these studios is that they will be instrumental in shaping how we imaginatively and responsibly think about, and engage in, civically oriented practice."
A new initiative of the DCCE, studios are small interdisciplinary groups of faculty, students and non-Duke community partners who will collaborate on various civic challenges during the 2011-2012 academic year and recommend action plans. The teams consist of a faculty or staff member, undergraduates and/or graduate students and a non-Duke community member.
The DCCE, which connects university education to public service, will contribute up to $7,000 in funding to each studio for meetings, travel, group readings and discussions and other expenses. Studios will connect to undergraduate and graduate courses, and events will be open to the public.
Ebrahim Moosa, professor in the Department of Religion, and Saadia Yacoob, a graduate student in Religion, will lead "Virtual Dialogues: âSubaltern' Voices in Transnational Civic Engagement."
"The studio will provide us a space to host virtual dialogue that intends to connect leaders, social activists and NGOs at the ground level across Muslim cultures and societies," Moosa said. "The idea is to make visible conversations with people whose views are not often heard on diverse topics ranging from poverty, violence and entrepreneurship to health policy and the place of religion in their lives and work."
Nina Prieur and Torry Bend, assistant professors in theater studies, will lead "Project Sojourn," a studio that will use dance performances to facilitate conversations between students and community members so that students can learn more about Durham's history.
"We are looking forward to working in collaboration with faculty and students from across the university and residents from throughout the city of Durham to explore how performance may enable us to forge new connections and engage in different kinds of conversation with one another," Prieur said.
"Race and Recreation: A Collaborative, Community-Based Study of Gentrification, Privatization, and Urban Parks in Durham" will be led by Fred Moten, an associate professor of English, Mara Kaufman, a lecturer in the writing program, and Fernande Legros from the Hart Leadership program. This studio will strategize how Durham's public parks can used as sites to re-energize community ties with public spaces and allow community members to gain confidence in pushing for overall city policy changes to better their living environment.
LeAnne Disla, the outreach coordinator for the Consortium for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, will lead a studio called "'Freedom's Story' through Murals" collaborating with Durham Public Schools and senior citizen communities in Durham. Members of this studio will collaborate with community partners to create oral-history based public murals related to the concept at Durham Public Schools that will follow with a documentation of local histories from Durham residents.
"Civic engagement is one of our strategic educational priorities," said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. "These studios promise to be an innovative way to build teams of undergraduates, graduate students, professors, staff and community members to tackle real-world issues."