Date(s) of activity: March 6, 2020

Total number of attendees: 40

Number of student attendees: 9

Target audience: Faculty and community members who have experience collaborating with faculty, grad students designing courses with community-engaged research focus

Presenters and their affiliated institutions: In order of presentation: Kathryn Goldfarb (CU Boulder), Eric Hirsch (Franklin & Marshall College); Steve McKay (presenter and keynote) (University of California Santa Cruz); Claire Dunne (CU Boulder IRB); Paul Casey (Westwood Unidos), Dana Coelho (Metro Denver Nature Alliance), Karen Hollweg (Open Space Board of Trustees), Magnolia Landa Posas (Denver Public Schools); Stephen Sommer (CU Boulder), Jennifer Pacheco (CU Boulder); Veronica House (CU Boulder), Tobi Jacobi (Colorado State University).

Please provide a short description of your activity, including themes addressed:

This pedagogy workshop was the first event in the Teaching Ethnography for Social Engagement Collaborative Initiative. Overall, the Initiative’s objectives are to:

  1. build a faculty network of ethnographers to teach hands-on research classes, in which instructors collaborate in course design. Each instructor would choose one of three contemporary problems for their class to focus on: climate change, gun violence, or immigration.
  2. This initiative will train undergraduates and graduate students to sensitively engage and collaborate with community members on problems that require dialogue. Students across academic institutions will collaborate online as they develop research questions, learn ethnographic methods (semi-structured and life history interviewing; participant-observation; focus group interviews), and publish their results in diverse genres for public audiences. The students’ ethnographic research will involve interviewing policymakers, members of community organizations, and journalists; they will conduct participant-observation at community meetings and local events; and they will partner with community stakeholders.
  3. Our third objective is to use the student research process to cultivate relationships with diverse community constituents, work alongside community partners to develop research questions and methodologies, communicate findings, and produce university research relevant to locals. This curriculum is rooted in forging connections between students and members of their communities, including minority and underrepresented demographics and people identifying as conservative, who often feel alienated by university and college communities.
  4. Finally, we will disseminate information about our pedagogical approach, including posting syllabi and assignments, on a publicly accessible project website, which will feature student research results in multimedia formats (video, photography, podcast, essay). Kate Goldfarb and Eric Hirsch introduced these objectives at the start of the workshop.

Steve McKay (UC Santa Cruz) participated as presenter and keynote. Steve has developed a model of community-initiated student-engaged research that is inspirational in the scope of student involvement, in the collaborative engagement he has inspired from faculty who have joined to teach classes targeting the same social problem, and in the impact his students’ work has had on policy and public discourse in Santa Cruz. He spoke informally about this work after our brief Introduction, and then later extensively in a keynote. (After a very long day, we still had people peppering Steve with questions past 5:30pm!)

Claire Dunne, director of IRB at CU, led a session considering the pragmatic aspects of teaching classes where students are conducting hands-on projects using ethnographic methods like participant-observation, interviewing, and focus groups. How should faculty view IRB clearance in these contexts? What from IRB protocols might faculty incorporate into their own classes, even if the classes themselves are not pursuing IRB clearance?

Four community members who have experience in community-university partnerships then discussed in roundtable format their experiences partnering with CU faculty and students, and proposed some best practices for faculty who want to incorporate community engaged elements into their courses: Paul Casey of Westwood Unidos, Dana Coelho of Metro Denver Nature Alliance, Karen Hollweg of the Open Space Board of Trustees and the CU Center for Sustainable Landscapes and Communities, and Magnolia Landa Posas from Denver Public Schools. We continued this conversation over lunch.

We broke into two groups for the CU Dialogues session. The CU Dialogues facilitators, Stephen Sommer and Jennifer Pacheco, helped us collectively learn tools that we can both bring to our classes in our teaching pedagogy, and also to incorporate into our and our students’ research practices.

Finally, our last workshop session was with Veronica House and Tobi Jacobi from the Coalition for Community Writing. This organization centers around a concept of writing as an anti-racist, feminist and mindful community interactive practice. Veronica and Tobi focused this session on ways that instructors can (re)conceptualize student writing as a form of social engagement, public scholarship, and innovative research practice culminating in new forms to disseminate student knowledge.


First, I want to highlight the diversity of the academic backgrounds and affiliations of participants. Thirteen people were from Anthropology. Others were from Environmental Studies, School of Education, Ethnic Studies, Sociology, Communication, Renee Crown Wellness Institute, Geography, Women and Gender Studies, Political Science, Program for Writing and Rhetoric, Department of Theater and Dance, CU Engage, and more. It was really exciting being able to connect with other ethnographers from such diverse backgrounds. Academic participants came from CU Boulder, University of Denver, Colorado State University, Franklin & Marshall College, University of California Santa Cruz, University of California Irvine, University of Notre Dame, Allegheny College, Southern Methodist University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, University of Toronto, and University of British Columbia. Further, the community member participants offered their own unique perspectives and were able to network and create new ties to folks at CU and beyond.

We got extremely positive feedback from the participants in this event. There was lots of conversation during each session and between sessions and over meals. Everyone was excited to continue the conversation, and one participant immediately approached me after the session was over to offer to host “next year’s event” at University of Notre Dame. People were obviously not content to imagine that this would be the only time to share ideas and develop connections. We have websites with sub-domain names for each of our core topics, and collaborators are planning to include their own teaching materials, in addition to their students’ work, on these pages. Finally, we are creating a google group for continued discussion and collaboration.

Thank you so much for the support for this event!