The Facing Project is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit co-founded by Indiana Campus Compact Executive Director, J.R. Jamison that connects people through stories to strengthen communities. We are excited that 5 Missouri Campus Compact member campuses are engaging with this innovative program. For our SPOTLIGHT this month, we wanted to highlight those 5 institutions who are working directly with The Facing Project on community engagement initiatives. The following are brief overviews of each of the campus projects.
- Fontbonne University is exploring immigration status and higher education in their Facing Project which is entitled “Facing Undocumented Students in Higher Education”. Their specific goal is to learn about the types of challenges that undocumented students are facing while working towards completing their college educations. In their proposal, Corinne Wohlford, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Adam Flores, Assistant Professor, Performing Arts, state, “Less than a year ago, the state of Missouri forced public colleges and universities to treat undocumented students as international students, thereby charging them the highest tuition rates. This decision has pushed some students to seek education out-of-state and imperiled others students from completing—or even starting–their educations…Questions about the rights of undocumented students to higher education are about more than the futures of these individual students; they are also about how we define who and what an American is, about the purpose of higher education, and about our responsibilities to our communities.” With immigration issues in the forefront of news headlines today, this relevant social issue is an extremely timely topic to explore.
- Focusing on issues of inclusion, UMKC is working towards reducing barriers for students with disabilities. Laura Hurse, a UMKC graduate student and current UMKC-IHD employee with a developmental disability, writes in UMKC’s proposal, “We appreciate that The Facing Project invites disability to be seen as a social construction and not only a medical problem. The Facing Project would allow UMKC to further include people with disabilities as part of the campus community. Inclusion of people/students with disabilities is a topic that allows faculty and students to start thinking about people with disabilities as a part of our campus community instead of seeing people with disabilities as outsiders.”One of UMKC’s goals is to integrate people with disabilities more deeply into campus culture and life. By engaging with The Facing Project, UMKC hopes to provide an outlet for students and faculty to engage in open dialogue about how to make UMKC more inclusive for people with disabilities.
- UMSL’s Facing Project is “Facing Community Trauma, Resilience, and Healing among Youth.” UMSL lies near the epicenter of an event that served as a catalyst for nationwide protests, riots, and calls for impassioned dialogues about police brutality and race. The communities in around Ferguson were affected deeply. Dr. Kristen Wagoner writes in UMSL’s proposal, “The officer-involved death of Michael Brown in August 2014 ignited civil unrest for nearly a year in the city of Ferguson, MO. Youth in the community were particularly affected by seeing one of their peers left dying in the street and the hatred it fueled among their own community members and across the country. This project will explore how youth experienced community trauma before and after the death of Michael Brown, ways youth dealt with the unrest, and what they need from their community to support healing and promote wellbeing.” By partnering with community agencies such as The Ferguson Youth Initiative (established by the Ferguson City Council), Ferguson-Florissant School District, Riverview Gardens School District, and Gitana (local youth theatre and social justice program), UMSL plans for students engaged in this effort (as Dr. Wagoner puts it) “to expand their sense of responsibility, citizenship, and awareness of the effects of community trauma”.
- Stephens College project is entitled “Facing Difference, Finding Understanding”. It will pair Stephens’s students with the residents of the Missouri Girls’ Town, which serves girls 8 – 21 from all over the state who have been neglected, sexually or physically abused and are dealing with behavioral and emotional issues. Monica Hand, Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Stephens College and Dr. Milbre Burch, Adjunct Instructor, International Teaching Assistants Program, University of Missouri will provide a master class on interviewing and creating monologues from the interviews. Stephens College hopes that by helping to establish relationships between Stephens’s students and Girls Town residents and encouraging healing dialogues, they will be able to create a positive impact within the community.
- MSU’s Center for Community Engagement is working on a project entitled “The Many Faces of Poverty.” This project plans to explore the multifaceted causes and consequences of Springfield’s impoverished communities by seeking common ground and telling the stories of those who suffer most from the effects of poverty. Kathy Nordyke, director of MSU’s Office of Citizenship and Service-Learning and contact person for MSU’s Facing Project, states in the proposal, “Missouri State’s campus sits at the heart of one of the most impoverished areas in the nation. CCE would use The Facing Project resources to actively involve Missouri State students and challenge the Springfield community to look poverty in the face through the telling of powerful, personal stories.”
We’d like to congratulate these 5 campuses on their passion to engage students in meaningful dialogues and activities that are sure to have a substantial impact on the campuses themselves and the communities within which they live in and serve. You can read more about The Facing Project on MOCC’s website. Also, check out this month’s Engaged Missouri blog (here on our website) where you can find out more about what inspired J.R. Jamison to co-found The Facing Project. We look forward to seeing how the projects unfold!