Saturday, June 18, 2005

June 18 fom Portland OR

Yesterday began with a speech by Ernesto Cortes, Jr. You can learn more about him at: He apparently follows in the footsteps of Saul Alinsky organizing under the auspices of Alinsky's (who is now deceased) Industrial Areas Foundation. Mr. Cortes spoke with great passion about the plight of undocumented, and legally unprotected, Mexican laborers in the U.S. He said there is growing resentment between public and private sector workers in the U.S. and I recalled an NPR broadcast I had heard last week about how Governor Don Carcieri of Rhode Island is attempting to reduce the pension benefits of state workers. It strikes me that this is an example of those who had secure incomes and pensions (private-sector employees) being envious of state workers whose jobs are relatively secure and whose pensions are as good as the private sector, not that long ago enjoyed. Mr. Cortes made numerous references to the Bible, including one about Esau selling his birthright to Jacob, making the analogy to people in our society who have given up their birthright to speak and be legally protected, against injustice. I was greatly moved by his speech, as were many others in the audience.

I went from there to the session in which I presented. The four presenters in the session were from art, psychology, sociology and then I was there from management. Our presentations were as diverse as might be expected. Conrad Schumacher (art) discussed the potential of art as a catalyst for social change. The best point he made was that a project should be managed from the outcomes back to the present and not forward. Although that rings true, I wonder how many of Van Gogh’s paintings were created that way? The ensuing discussion did not stay at his level of abstraction and it would felt disrespectful given the agreeable atmosphere in the room to raise such a question (even if I had thought of it at the time and not later).

Carol Parker from psychology at Sam Houston State reported on service projects she had done with her graduate students. She and I had that in common, that we were talking about graduate students. I get the feeling that ADP is effectively an undergraduate project, but my question would be, “So what then does one do if his/her assignment is to teach graduate students?” I will never raise the issue and so maybe it will not come up and those of us doing graduate service learning can at least remain undetected if not blessed.

I presented on who I was, where I was and what I did this past semester. The best question I received pertained to prompting students in their journal writing. I will incorporate that idea. It was gratifying to see that several people appeared to be interested in my approach and dutifully wrote down my email address at the end, that I spoke aloud to them. (I remain defiantly paperless, even at a conference that appears to have launched an all-out assault on the nation’s forests…just a minor peeve for me.)

David Rudy finished our session and did a great job of keeping us on schedule. His students had done a project unrelated to sociology, or at least it seemed to me so, but it did involve setting up a research study and carrying it out. I think his class was a research class, so that made it relevant.

We then heard Mary Fetchet, founding director of Voices ( who tearfully spoke of her 24 year old son’s death. He worked on the 89th floor of the second tower hit. Mrs. Fetchet has worked tirelessly to hold the government to their early promises to make the nation safer after that day and to get to the bottom of why we were not able to thwart the attack. Her speech was memorable.

I then heard Ron Kates (English at Middle Tennessee State University) talk about art, writing and other less-easily categorized projects, his students did, including a mosaic about Etta James the great blues vocalist. One of his students created a “Socrates Café” for high school students. For some pointers on conducting such a café I found ( Also, in that session, a recently graduated and past SGA president from IUPUI told of how he conceived and brought to fruition a public chalk board for free expression on campus and some of the free speech issues it has brought up. Chris DeHart of Humboldt State in Northern California, told of the graduation pledge alliance started at Humboldt in 1987. The pledge is: I (name) pledge to thoroughly investigate and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job opportunity I consider.

The other person was a substitute presenter who told of a content analysis done on student writing about the 2004 election, by her colleague Norfolk State (VA), Nuria Cuevas. The issues students thought candidates should have been talking about were: the economy, health, security (including homeland), education and social-moral issues (e.g. same-sex couple marriage).

From that session I went to one and then left that one for another. The first presenter told of the blighted area of the North Eastern San Fernando Valley (she was from UC-Northridge) and service projects students were conducting to help with the situation. I left before she finished and moved to the section on institutional Marketing of ADP and heard from John Broderick of how Old Dominion had taken an audit of all the ways faculty, students and staff were serving organizations in the surrounding community. They were serving over 500 organizations, which if nothing else, tells me they live in an area more densely populated with organizations than we do at UT-Martin.

The day ended with a walk to Portland State where a conversation among a professor, community partner, grad and undergrad student and a college dean was staged. They told of the many great things Portland State does in the city from these various perspectives, apparently having taken down notes on the words of people who actually perform in the various roles being depicted in the simulated dialog. At the end of their marketing effort, a student strode to the microphone as the applause was dying down and began to tell of how Portland State discriminated against gays and lesbians and how she had brought a lawsuit against the school of education. There was a rumble in the room, but what we had just seen, speaking the truth in a democracy, was so clearly out of place in the sanitized context, that we all walked away with the irony dripping off us. I doubt if anyone will remember much of what the actors said, but this real girl’s message was timed so well for effect that none of us can forget it, no matter how much we may try.

We then rode Portland’s marvelous light rail to the Dan and Louis Oyster Bar (208 SW Ankeny Street) in the area where they hold the Saturday market. The food and conversation was delightful. We rode the rail back to the Hilton and retired to some well-earned sleep.


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