Community-Based Research Courses at Macalester

Recently Macalester was awarded a Learn and Serve America Grant from the Bonner Foundation. This grant helps students and faculty members partner with a community non-profit organization to research various issues.

Courses that received funding for community-based research projects include:

Faculty: Devavani Chatterjea

Fall 2007

This course was an introduction to the mammalian immune system. The genetic and cellular basis of the immune response were explored through lectures, readings from primary and secondary literature, and discussions. Current methods in immunological research were introduced in the laboratory.Open Arms

The students worked with Open Arms of Minnesota, a local organization that delivers nutritious meals to clients living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases. The students researched several aspects of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, leukemia and multiple sclerosis. The final project required students to create a presentation to the Open Arms staff and to present them with digital and hard copies of handouts of the researched diseases.

Introduction to the Literary Analysis of Hispanic Texts
Faculty: Galo Gonzalez and Teresa Mesa

Fall 2007

This course presented the student with some basic tools for the systematic analysis of a broad range of topics and forms of cultural production (literature, cinema, art, e-texts...) in the Hispanic world. It also developed advanced language skills in composition and presentation.

The students volunteered with Centro, a social service agency that has been serving the Twin Cities' Latino community for over 29 years. Their final project included conducting oral interviews with seniors from Centro. The interviews were compiled, produced and bound into a booklet, Testimonios de Nuestros Mayores.

Locating U.S. Latina/o Studies:  An Interdisciplinary ApproachCentro
Faculty: Galo Gonzalez and Teresa Mesa

Fall 2007

This course was an interdisciplinary and service-learning approach to the study of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, Caribbean, Central American, and Latin American communities in the United States. It introduced students not only to the interconnections between diverse Latina/o communities but also to the differences that sometimes divide them.

Students volunteered three hours per week in a Latina/o community organization, either Centro or Casa de Esperanza.  The goal was to engage in a reciprocal relationship with the organizations, helping students develop a deeper understanding of the dilemmas of the Latina/o community and actively construct knowledge and learning from and within the community.

U.S. Latina Literature and Visual Culture
Faculty: Teresa Mesa

Spring 2007

This interdisciplinary course introduced students to Latina writers and visual artists and their strategies for articulating "the female experience" in the U.S. Through intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality, they explored the role of art as a metaphor for social reality and catalyst for social and political change. Some of the work covered in this course included the literature and theory of Normal Alarcon, Julia Alvarez, Gloria Anzaldua, Ana Castillo, Cherrie Moraga, Emma Perez, as well as the video and performance work of Ana Mendieta, Coco Fusco, Carmelita Tropicana, and Lourdes Portillo. The course also hosted Latina writers and performers. Student's final projects included a media project, an activism project, and a service learning project.

Some of the students worked with Centro. Their final project included producing and publishing a recorded interview with the director. Click here to listen to a student interview with the Centro Director and the Civic Engagement Center Associate Director.

Urban Social Geography: City Life and Landscapes
Faculty: Daniel Trudeau

Spring 2007

Urban social geography is the study of social and spatial dimensions of city life. In this course, the students explored some of the ways in which urban society is organized geographically. They considered the implications of urban social geographies for public policy on three issues of contemporary significance in the American context: racial residential segregation, sprawl and urban redevelopment, and social well-being and the urban built environment. Race, class, and gender relationships are at the heart of these issues. This course also considered how relationships of race, class and gender affect and are affected by the urban landscape.

Students chose between completing a research paper, a service-learning project, or a community-based research project. Those who chose the community-based research project worked with the Neighborhood Development Center to research the public's response to the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street. (In the past year, the Neighborhood Development Center undertook one of the largest redevelopment projects in the nation, as it helped transform a portion of the former Sears building into the Midtown Global Market.) On behalf of the Neighborhood Development Center, the class investigated how the public received the market.

GIS - Concepts and Applications and
GIS Concepts and Applications (Advanced GIS)
Faculty: Holly Barcus

Spring 2007 and Fall 2006

Designed as a sequel to the introductory course in GIS, this course covered the theory and background of GIS in order to increase students' use of more advanced spatial analysis techniques.

In partnership with the City of Saint Paul Second Shift Initiative and the Saint Paul Public School District, the Spring 2007 Advanced Geographic Information Systems class embarked on a research project to assess accessibility to after-school programs for K-12 public school students in the City of Saint Paul. This cooperative effort represents the first step in a long-term research project that actively engages Geography students at Macalester College in an ongoing research initiative. The final report, After-School Programs in Saint Paul: Availability and Access, identifies the spatial relationships between the locations of after-school programs and student demographics in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Visit the project website for more details.

During the 2006 Fall Semester the Advanced GIS class partnered with the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) to map Lake Street. Lake Street is a vibrant and rapidly changing corridor in Minneapolis and home to many generations of immigrant families. With greater investment by the City of Minneapolis and the opening of the Global Marketplace, the area continues its evolution. Our task was to map changes occurring on Lake Street over the past 100 years. This project was part of a larger coordinated effort between MHS and Macalester College as part of the exhibit “Lake Street Intersections.” To view all the student-made maps in detail, please visit the MNHS Project website.

Race, Ethnicity, and Politics
Faculty: Paru Shah

Spring 2007

This seminar sought to provoke open debate and discourse about the politics of race and ethnicity in the United States, and the policy responses that attempt to address racial inequality. The students examined theories regarding the relationship between racial/ethnic politics and public policy. They also developed an in-depth understanding of specific policy areas and gained hands-on experience with institutions working on racial/ethnic policies.

Students spent part of their time in the classroom reading about these policy issues and part of their time working in local community agencies engaged in addressing racial inequalities within the Twin cities.

Each student conducted policy research as part of a small group with a nonprofit organization. The organizations and topics were the following:
Open Arms of Minnesota: HIV and AIDS among African Women Immigrants and Refugees in Minnesota
Juxtaposition Arts: Arts funding and Academic Success MN
Internship Center Charter School: How "No Child Left Behind" Has Affected Schools with Large Numbers of Immigrants and Refugees
Hope Community: Community Asset Mapping and the Importance of Peavey Park
Jeremiah Program: Welfare to Work Policy and the Jeremiah Program.

After they concluding their research, the students presented reports to the organization and to the professor.

Environmental Studies Senior Seminar
Faculty: Chris Wells

Spring 2007

In this seminar, students explored the difficult and often controversial issues surrounding environmental problems. Through readings, discussions, guest speakers, field trips, independent research, writing, and oral presentations, students developed a clearer understanding of the underlying causes and long-term implications of some of the environmental problems facing the world today. Taking advantage of the diverse academic backgrounds of the student participants, the seminar brought together the knowledge, perspectives, and insights of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

The students acted as consultants to Macalester's new Clean Energy Revolving Fund, developing project ideas for the campus's new EcoHouse project and applying for grants to finance the program. The EcoHouse, designed to provide a sustainable living option for students and to educate the broader community about green remodeling techniques, opened in the fall of 2007. Click here to read an article about the new EcoHouse.

Community-Based Theatre
Faculty: Harry Waters

Spring 2007

Throughout this course, students investigated theories, practices, and processes of several organizations around the country but primarily in the contemporary periods. The examination of these practices, coupled with their successes as well as challenges, provided the students with a tentative road map to achieve their goals as they continue through and exit academia.

The students' final project was a communal production shared with the Heart of the Beast Theater and their May Day Parade and Ceremony in Powderhorn Park, in the heart of Minneapolis.

Public History: Making History Matter beyond the Academy
Faculty: Paul Schadewald

Fall 2006

Public history continues to be an exciting topic while museums, documentary film and historic preservation remain important among non-academic audiences. Examining the practice of public history raises important questions about how history contributes to civic life and personal meaning. This course explored the relationship between history and non-academic audiences.

The history of Lake Street was the main focus of student research in this class. Lake Street was a particularly rich focus for this project as, historically, it has been one of the most important commercial corridors in the Twin Cities. This six-mile route from the Mississippi River to Lake Calhoun reflects the diversity of the Twin Cities and has has become a "global intersection" - a meeting place of diverse cultures, ethnicities, classes, and religions.

Working with exhibit developers, the students created a part of an exhibit about Lake Street at the Minnesota History Center. The exhibit focused on people, events and places on Lake Street, as well as the students' own engagement with Lake Street. This exhibit opened in a public gallery of the Minnesota History Center near downtown St. Paul in September 2007. Click here to read more about the exhibit, "Right on Lake Street," at the Minnesota History Center.

Introduction to Urban Studies
Faculty: George Latimer

Fall 2006

This course examined how cities are shaped by history, geography and economics. Lectures were drawn from the disciplines of history, geography, sociology, economics and education.

Students met with ethnic and community based organizations to learn how diverse cultures and values come together and sometimes collide on the common ground on the urban landscape. The students in this course evaluated the Bridges Project, West Side Flats, St. Paul.