This article explored a community-engaged, first-year writing course that partnered students with student activist groups on campus at Northeastern University in Boston. Their placement with peers connected them with the campus network and illuminated the ways that they could advocate for social justice in their new community. Students wrote in multiple genres as they attended the meetings and events of different groups involved with environmentalism, food justice, adjunct rights, and more. As students connected their social-change work to the classroom, they learned more about different genres of writing, from scholarly inquiries to multi-modal “deliverables” supporting their student groups. These final “deliverables” included posters, videos, prezis, banners, and even original music to be played at meetings or events. The fact that student worked with peers alleviated some common challenges of community-engaged learning, such as a sense of saviorhood. Instead, students felt a sense of civic investment and developed rhetorical flexibility that they implemented in the classroom and with their groups. Students found the course meaningful and valued the opportunity to get involved with campus activism. As they developed as activists and writers, students felt that the classroom and community spheres overlapped and informed each other.
Broadening the Scope of Community Engagement: Student Work for Social Change with Student Activist Groups on Campus
Sarah Finn is associate teaching professor of English at Northeastern University, where she has taught writing courses in the English department and writing program for the past seven years. She received a PhD in composition and rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she won the residential First-Year Student Choice Award. Her current experience and areas of interest include first-year writing, interdisciplinary writing, multilingual writing, affect, technology and the construction of human values, and community engagement. Professor Finn’s courses emphasize writing for social justice and exploring ways to accomplish social change.
Sarah Finn; Broadening the Scope of Community Engagement: Student Work for Social Change with Student Activist Groups on Campus. Pedagogy 1 January 2021; 21 (1): 159–169. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-8692754
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