We Are All Teachers:

Modeling Democratic Engagement in Faculty Development

Morgan Studer, Melissa Benton, Christian Rogers, & Michelle Quirke


As we ask faculty to engage in democratic ways with community members and with their students, it is important that we design faculty development programming that models these principles. Faculty development around SLCE should not happen solely within the confines of an academic institution. Offering ways for faculty to connect out in the community, to meet with community organizations in community settings, and to engage in dialogue about community issues helps individuals from campus and community come together on equal footing and build upon one another’s strengths, thus laying the groundwork for significant and sustainable democratic partnerships.

We are developing a model for bringing faculty into the local community to hear directly from and interact with representatives of community organizations. We refer to this as “Community Conversations.” Moderated discussions and opportunities for organic dialogue in the community between staff, faculty, and community organization leaders topple the usual dynamics of faculty coming to the community as the “experts.” This approach can literally take place around tables, with community partners (no longer acting as panelists) sitting in and among campus constituents. The sessions themselves can be formed around issue areas (e.g., sustainability, food security, literacy) rather than neighborhoods, thus bringing together community members and faculty already invested in those specific issues.

From a community organization perspective, community development work is primarily about building relationships and creating reciprocal opportunities for constituents (such as campus and community) to engage in and benefit from together. As co-author Melissa (community development officer at the John Boner Neighborhood Centers) sees it, Community Conversations are more likely to lead to work that is sustainable in nature because partnerships that develop democratically and more authentically are less likely to be “one off” scenarios that end when one vested group or person leaves the relationship, whether from the campus or the community. The opportunity for dialogue among multiple constituents also allows community organizations to hear a range of ideas from faculty who are given an opportunity to share who they are and the type of projects they currently have (or want) their students doing. The dialogue that occurs may also generate support (or possibilities for support) for the community organization’s innovative project ideas.

MORGAN STUDER (mohughes@iupui.edu) is the director of Faculty and Community Resources with the Center for Service and Learning at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). In that capacity she consults with faculty on service-learning course design, develops and leads faculty development workshops and programs, and manages the Service Learning Assistant scholarship program. With a background in Philanthropic Studies and nonprofit management, Morgan’s current interests are in community-campus partnership development and leveraging Community Work-Study as civic engagement.

MELISSA BENTON (mbenton@jbncenters.org) is the community development officer for the John Boner Neighborhood Centers (JBNC). In this role she coordinates the numerous community development initiatives of the JBNC as well as capital building projects and grant activities. Melissa also coordinates and manages special projects for JBNC, including the IndyEast Promise Zone. Melissa and the community development team work to ensure that all JBNC programs and services are aligned with the community’s Quality of Life Plan.

CHRISTIAN ROGERS (rogerscb@iupui.edu) is an assistant professor in Computer Graphics Technology in the Purdue School of Engineering & Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He teaches courses ranging from the fundamentals of video production to advanced motion design. His research interests include media theory, experiential learning, and pervasive technology in the area of STEM education.

MICHELLE QUIRKE (mvquirke@iu.edu) is an adjunct professor in University College at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). She is a registered dental hygienist and a program manager for the Indiana STEM LSAMP project, which is funded through the National Science Foundation. Previously, she was a visiting clinical assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Dentistry and taught introduction to dental hygiene, radiology, and community dental health.

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