This question resonates in everything CCAP does, and in the very reason the Center was established in 1998.
Researcher Luis Moll writes about the concept of “funds of knowledge” (Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms, 2005), a view that CCAP wholly embraces with its work in the community. The idea is that people bring their own history and culture and lived experience to their learning, and schools should embrace and honor and utilize this as an important element within their pedagogical approach.
When CCAP works with K-12 students and their schools, we model this in our program design and in how we work with and train teaching artists. Similarly, and on a larger scale, the community partners we work with—not only schools but an array of community based organizations—each also bring a wealth of knowledge, culture, and value to the communities they reside in…and it is this that we recognize as such a rich learning environment that should be made available as part of the Columbia experience.
This is how we support faculty and staff and students at Columbia, by providing access to this community through a nurtured network of organizational relationships where we do deep, collaborative work together. Some of the myriad programs we have built focus directly on supporting our stakeholders in the external community (which goes to Criterion Five of the college’s accreditation) and our CCC students and faculty can connect to that programming through work study, internships, teaching artistry, volunteer work, and more; and other programming is directly connected to and supports CCC student learning via Columbia course curriculum that incorporates experiential learning.
I understand that the reason Dr. Kim does not favor the terms outreach and “service learning” is because those terms connote a sense of ivory tower elitism; that we are kindly bestowing our good work upon a community in need. While I have sometimes used the word outreach, I quickly couple it with in-reach. And CCAP got it right from day one, sixteen years ago, with the serving learning or experiential work that unfolds at Columbia. I share Dr. Kim’s dislike of the notion that we’re out there with some superior sense of making our contribution to the under-privileged. It is true CCAP supports and collaborates with those that work with the “under-served”, but we have also long held up reciprocity as a core value in how we collaborate. We embrace those funds of knowledge that make our city so incredibly rich. We learn just as much from those we work with and serve as they do from us, and this sense of humility and authenticity—and the nature of our relational and reciprocal approach to building partnerships—is a key reason CCAP is so well-regarded in the Chicago community.
I believe that while CCAP has reached impressive heights, it has only begun the scratch the surface of what it can be for a renewed Columbia College. CCAP’s connective tissue to the community that supports engaged learning at the college can be utilized more broadly with the proper amount of strategic and structural support. Columbia already is an animating force in the community, but the commitment that has made it so—CCAP—historically not been as fully embraced as it could by the academy as an asset for student learning, development, and opportunity.
I’ll close this contributing comment by sharing some thoughtful insights by David Scobey, Dean of the New School for Public Engagement, which he offered through a keynote to Imagining America a few years back. I shared the full text of his keynote with our Provost, but will pull out a few pieces here for the larger community to reflect upon:
If the past quarter century has eroded the taken for granted assumptions, economic stability, and sheer self-confidence of the academy, it has also been an era of remarkable (and unremarked) innovation. Our “civic turn” is only one broad array of education innovations that have emerged (with striking simultaneity) over the past twenty five years. Some of these were learning–centered: writing across the curriculum; first year courses that melded thematic seminars; writing pedagogy, and academic advising; course clusters and residential learning communities, undergraduate research programs and capstone requirements, and study abroad programs.
The turn to academic civic engagement was par excellence a strategic and ethical response to the legitimation crisis, an effort to redraw the social compact between the academy and the larger society by committing the work of teaching and learning, the convening of communities of practices committed to knowledge making, and meaning making, to the enrichment of community and public life, and by trusting that such a commitment would in turn enrich teaching and learning and academic life.
What began in the 1980s as an earnest but often unreflective commitment to community service and service learning—more broad than deep—grew into a mature academic movement, characterized by a broad network of campus based centers and programs and national consortia. Faculty, staff, students, and community partners have developed models of sustained collaborative projects and courses that are at once academically rigorous and socially transformative.
We need to integrate the pathways of career, liberal learning, and civic education—to see all of them as woven into a single integral process of student development and self-authoring.
We at CCAP are proud of what we have been able to build here at Columbia College Chicago; but we are particularly excited about the community-wide dialogue currently underway, given that one core focus is aimed squarely at the work we have been charged to take on from the beginning.