Scott Casper is the Dean of UMBC’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. What follows is a message he shared with faculty members on behalf of the Imagining America conference planning team to encourage syllabi integration of writing, teaching, emerging research, and gatherings to address underlying social inequalities that have become more visible as a result of Freddie Gray’s death.
As most of you probably know, UMBC is hosting the 2015 National Imagining America (IA) conference from September 30 through October 3. We are partnering with MICA, Morgan and Towson along with many cultural institutions, community leaders, and artists in Baltimore. The conference sessions will take place in the Mt. Vernon area, at UMBC, and at MICA.
This conference may be a great opportunity for you and your undergraduate and graduate students to meet and work with faculty, staff, students, and cultural workers from around the country and from Baltimore to address pressing social issues through the arts, humanities, and design fields.
Since the activities surrounding Freddie Gray’s death, there has been a surge of new writing, teaching, emerging research, and gatherings to address underlying social inequalities that have become more visible to many outside of West Baltimore and other communities that have experienced historic multi-dimensional disinvestment. It has simultaneously become more apparent to many that stories, creativity, art, place-making, and social designs can be powerful responses to “man’s inhumanity to man.” We believe that the timing of the IA conference in Baltimore affords us with tremendous opportunities to harness the creative energy responding to recent events, while continuing to discuss their historical, economic, social, and policy roots in order to engage students and one another in crucial learning, creating, storytelling and research.
We’d like to offer a few possibilities for integrating this work and discussions into your Fall courses:
- This comprehensive and crowd-sourced ever developing collection of resources explores how Baltimore history can help us understand and explain Freddie Gray’s death, the subsequent protests, police response and property damage, and Baltimore’s systemic issues with inequality and injustice: Resources for Historians, Writers, Teachers, Journalists and More (Before #FreddieGray and #BaltimoreUprising).
- Faculty, staff, and student reflections about Freddie Gray’s death and protests can be found on the BreakingGround blog.
- The conference program (available in June or July), consisting of a variety of session formats and site-specific workshops, may provide ideas for syllabi topics.
- The IA Journal Public and its most recent issue with articles about last year’s conference discussions could be useful background for faculty and students.
There will be many Baltimore-based organizations, initiatives and cultural leaders at the conference and sponsoring site-specific workshops, so it will be a rich environment for students who might want to do internships before, during or after the conference.
Please consider attending and encouraging your students to explore the various conference sessions and workshops. There will be a call for student volunteers for the conference in late August.
Thanks for thinking about how this work of public engagement might be useful to you and your students. If you want to talk through any ideas please feel free to contact any of these conference planning committee members:
Romy Hübler, IA Fellow (email@example.com)
Bev Bickel, Language, Literacy and Culture (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lee Boot, Imaging Research Center (email@example.com)
David Hoffman, Student Life (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kathy O’Dell, Visual Arts (email@example.com)
Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies (email@example.com)
Viviana MacManus, Gender and Women’s Studies (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tim Nohe, Visual Arts and CIRCA (email@example.com)
Steve Bradley, Visual Arts (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Preminda Jacob, Visual Arts (email@example.com)
Joby Taylor, Shriver Center (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tom Moore, OIA (email@example.com)
Charlotte Keniston, OSI Fellow (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tahira Mahdi, Psychology (email@example.com)
William Klotz, Education (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Julianna Brightman, Interdisciplinary Studies (email@example.com)
Kelly Robier, Political Science and MCS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Manisha Vepa, Economics (email@example.com)