Announcement of Ph.D. in Education Dissertation Proposal Defense MARINA FELDMAN: “Community-engaged Education as Spaces of Possibility: Práxis, Dialogue, and Community-University Relationships”
While universities’ interest in community engagement has grown over time in the United States, the public pedagogies set forth by them does not always reflect a commitment to sustaining community-engaged learning. This project draws on my experiences as a community-engaged educator to discuss the affordances and challenges of the multidirectional learning that can happen in community-engaged educational spaces. I draw on different theoretical approaches to develop a power-cognizant and rhizomatic sociocultural framework, deeply grounded in the work of Paulo Freire. In my literature review, I identify the principles and practices of a power-cognizant approach to community-engaged learning, drawing from literature on critical service-learning. I also engage with the specific context of the relationship between Rutgers and the surrounding communities in New Brunswick and reflect upon the fundamental role of politicized community-based organizations—especially a local worker’s right center as a key interlocutor. I hope to contribute to the research on community-engaged education by addressing power in a multi-level and multidimensional way, that reflects both the power to oppress (poder) and the power to resist (potencia). By promoting collaborative dialogues about communityengaged learning with students and staff in different programs, as well as with communitybased organizers, I hope to engage in and document our práxes, or cycles of reflection and action. I draw on Laurence Ralph’s idea of ethnographic lettering to design what I call an ethnographic pedagogy, where learning experiences and artifacts produced make up the corpus of my data, as well as generative tools to co-create pedagogical products for boarder audiences. This study focuses on my and my students’ experiences in a community-engaged class and mentoring program. Through collecting data through field notes, pedagogical artifacts, and interviews, the study aims to answer the following three research questions: 1) How does the researcher, as a community-engaged educator and researcher, experience and make sense of community-engaged education partnerships? 2) How do university students in a community-engaged mentoring program make sense of the relationships between the university and the community? 3) How do students in a community-engaged language-focused course make sense of their experiences and learning?