Professor’s Initiative Fosters Carlisle Community Outreach

Becca Stout ’20, Staff Writer

A newly created community network that aims to foster relations between Dickinson College and the Carlisle community held its second meeting at Hope Station.

Associate Provost for First-Year Programs and Community- Based Learning and Research Shalom Staub initiated the Northside College-Community Learning and Action Network, to create a more integrated environment between the college and the Carlisle community. The second meeting saw some Dickinson personnel, including Staub, and community members from Hope Station alike.  This April 7 meeting was just the second meeting after the installation of this network, the product of Staub’s goal of more Dickinson-Carlisle community interactions.

Staub thought of the idea for a network with the community a year ago and wrote a proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an organization that makes grants to institutions in higher education in the areas of cultural affairs, performing arts, population and conservation and the environment, according to their website. He received a four-year grant in order to put the networks in action. The program began this semester.

There are two learning and action networks, and each network has “community partners and a core group of interested faculty members participating,” wrote Staub. As of now, the networks are still in their beginning stages, so the focus is more on participation in meetings. Members are working on making an agenda for possible actions they can take based on problems they see and ways they can improve the community and Dickinson-Carlisle community relations.

“The Mellon grant supports faculty involvement in civic and community engagement work in their capacity as researchers and teachers,” stated Staub. “The strategy of the Mellon grant-funded project is that the investment in faculty time to be engaged in these pursuits will translate into opportunities for student[s].” Eventually, there will likely be more classes created with learning and researching in the community.

According to the “Launching Faculty-Community Learning and Action Networks” handout from the meeting, “Over 50 Dickinson College faculty members have now taught service-learning or community-based research courses since that designation was instituted in 2006. While some of these individuals have retired or left Dickinson, over 40 current faculty members teach at least one such course in their teaching portfolio. Collectively, faculty and students have worked with over 75 community partners over the years in community-based learning/research partnerships.”

One such course is being offered in the history department this semester. Professor David Commins of the history and Middle East studies departments is teaching History 204: Introduction to Historical Methodology as a community research course in which the students are studying various aspects of the lives of African-Americans in the Carlisle community throughout the past few hundred years. Some members of Hope Station have been attending his class two times a week in order to learn other points of view and to research with community members. His class came to the last network meeting because he “wanted students to take part in the meeting to give them the opportunity to see how their work in the course and the participation of high school students in some classes fit into a larger project to develop the relationship between the college and the Northside neighborhood in ways beneficial to both communities,” Commins wrote.

Through the continuance of the Northside College-Community Learning and Action Network, there will be more opportunities for students to learn about and research the community alongside peers, faculty and community members and more opportunities to positively impact the Carlisle community and Dickinson-Carlisle community relations.