Community-Based Learning: Professor’s Edition

February 24, 2023
Three faculty share their course connections to Richmond

By Madyson Fitzgerald, '23, Communications Assistant for Equity & Community

Last fall, forty-five faculty members received grants from the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement to support student learning in the greater Richmond community. Grants offset the costs of transportation, honoraria for speakers, and materials – and classes explored sites as varied as the Richmond Metro Zoo, Sankofa Community Orchard, and Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Here are a few community-based learning course examples and, in the words of professors, why the community-based experiences were meaningful to them.

LDST 368: Leadership on Stage and Screen
Professor Kristin Bezio
The semester was spent preparing a theatrical production to present at St. Joseph’s Villa while working with greater Richmond community partners and students. It was designed to use the theatrical experience to enact social justice and examine leadership at work. Last semester’s play was loosely based on Shakespeare’s Othello.
"For me, the best part is being able to present an opportunity for folks to do and try something different that they might be afraid of, but that they end up at least being satisfied they did (if not fall in love with it). It's about presenting an opportunity that the partner students AND UR students don't usually have and enabling them to work together to achieve something."
AFST 201: Rumors of War Seminar
Professor Jillean McCommons
Students visited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to study Kehinde Wiley’s statue “Rumors of War” and learn more about the work from assistant curator of global contemporary art Alexis Assam.
"Witnessing students develop deeper community ties is the best part of incorporating community engagement in my classes. As UR students, it is important for them to sense that they are also members of the broader Richmond community. One of the best ways to reinforce this is by learning with and from community members and institutions. Interactions with physical sources widens the landscape of possibility for their research interests. It also opens a dialogue between generations which can create a greater sense of belonging for students who might not see themselves reflected on campus. When they visit places like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, they interact with artwork from around the world. They also interact with people who care for those collections and learn about their perspectives on art and history. They might return for other museum events or begin to explore the city on their own which will deepen their curiosity about Richmond’s rich Black history. Engagement encourages them to incorporate diverse points of view into their work and to invest in the communities as active members. It also helps to demystify the college experience for community members who are curious about what we do at UR. Hopefully it helps to attract them to feel as though they are also a part of UR, and they visit us on campus more often."
LAIS 310: Spanish for Heritage Speakers
Professor David Giancaspro
In addition to the classroom study of Hispanic immigrant literature, newspapers, and films, students participated in outreach at Broad Rock Elementary School in South Richmond.
"The best thing about including community engagement in my class was seeing so much joy from my students (in class and in their writing) and knowing the positive impact that they had. When we talked about their first-grade mentees or when I graded their written reflections about the mentoring that they did, it couldn't be clearer to me that my students made a difference (and had fun doing it)."