More than 60 courses last year connected to Minneapolis and St. Paul through field trips, guest speakers, civic engagement, and community partnerships.
Early this fall, art professor Eric Carroll handed out slips of paper, with a person’s name on each one, to his digital photography class.
By mid-October, the students had contacted the person whose name they received—a Minnesota AIDS Project volunteer living with HIV/AIDS—and conducted interviews and photo sessions. They wove the footage and images into multimedia presentations on their subjects’ stories, then presented their work at Macalester’s International Roundtable.
Experiences like these, Carroll says, are a key benefit of Macalester’s urban location: “This is exactly the kind of assignment that a website or magazine would assign a professional photographer—go out, get this person’s story, edit it together, and bring it back, and do it in a short amount of time.”
Thanks to support from Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center (CEC) and a Mellon Foundation grant for immersive learning, more than 60 courses last year connected to Minneapolis and St. Paul through field trips, guest speakers, civic engagement, and community partnerships.
With help from CEC associate director Paul Schadewald, economics chair Karine Moe has modified her Economics of Poverty syllabus to include more community-based learning. “When I first started teaching the class, it was very academic: we read a lot of journal articles,” says Moe. “The feedback I got from the students was, ‘Here we are in this big city, and we have all this access to organizations that work with people who are in poverty, and we don’t make any use of them.’ [We] worked to create more hands-on or real-world experiences in the classroom.”
For Macalester students, getting out into the neighborhoods shows how the theory and policies they study in the classroom play out in the metro area where they live. “It doesn’t cut it to just be talking about policy in the classroom,” says Kelly Hardin ’14 (Derwood, Md.), who visited two urban farms for her Food Politics class. “You have to really get out there and see what it looks like on the ground.”