Press Release: ESP Course Development Grants

February 17, 2016

Brown Faculty Awarded Engaged Course Development Grants                           

The Engaged Scholars Program (ESP) and the Swearer Center for Public Service have awarded $25,000 in Engaged Course Development Grants to support the growth of innovative, community-driven scholarship at Brown University.

Awards ranging from $500 to $3,500 were made to 13 faculty and instructors in 8 departments, supporting a total of 15 courses. Four new courses will be developed through this award, and 11 more will be revised to include new engaged components that complement classroom-based curricula.

Kevin Escudero came to Brown last year as a Postdoctoral Fellow in American Studies, and will begin his appointment as an assistant professor in 2017. Escudero’s course, in progress this semester, is titled “Immigrant Social Movements: Bridging Theory and Practice” and examines the undocumented immigrant movement in the United States today through readings, films and guest lectures from local immigrant rights activists.

With funding from the grant, Escudero will offer a new iteration of the course for Spring 2017 that adds a more robust community partnership dimension.  Students will spend 20 hours interning at various advocacy organizations that work with immigrant communities in Providence and greater Boston.

“The goal is to give students an idea of the lived experiences of various groups: undocumented immigrants, refugees, people with varying gradations of legal status,” says Escudero. “In the class, we discuss a lot of dense theoretical concepts about migrant illegality, the role of the state in monitoring borders, and the notion of sovereignty. The community engagement component will give students an opportunity to really hear from people who are living the day-to-day reality of what this looks like, and how it plays out.”

Escudero, whose mother is Vietnamese and Cambodian and whose father is Bolivian, has deep experience bringing together academic and immigrant communities in his work. It’s a reciprocal relationship, he says, and “it’s critical to recognize both what the community has to offer, and what the academic institution has to offer to that relationship.”

That reciprocity was a key factor in the grant selection process; the courses that were chosen range across the spectrum of disciplines and reflect the creativity and variety of Brown’s academic offerings. A few highlights:

  • For her course “The Anthropology of Homelessness,” Irene Glasser’s students will spend at least two hours per week volunteering in homeless shelters, day respites and meal sites around Providence.

  • Students in Dawn King’s “Energy Policy and Politics” will augment a classroom-based study of energy policy by getting involved with renewable energy projects in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

  • “Artists and Scientists as Partners, ” taught by Julie Strandberg, pairs students with local organizations that use dance and music to aid individuals with Parkinson’s Disease and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

A full list of grants and course descriptions can be found here.

The Engaged Scholars Program is part of the Swearer Center for Public Service, which provides students with opportunities to explore their passions in the classroom and community, and build the skills, knowledge and relationships to lead lives of effective action.   ESP supports faculty interested in developing engaged courses and research projects with community partners.  Opportunities to apply for additional curriculum development and research funds will be announced in the fall of 2016.

“The rich intellectual inquiries and diverse collaborations envisioned in these courses,” observes Mathew Johnson, Brown’s Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Director of the Swearer Center, “testify to the important contributions that Brown faculty members are making to the national engaged scholarship movement -- to teaching and research that generates knowledge in partnership with communities.”