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Urban Revival and College Writing: Writing to Promote Communities

Miriam Chirico

Abstract


Service-learning classes, because they emphasize the creation of product that has value outside the confines of the college classroom, offer students an experience in professional formation, a practice that may prove anathema to the ethos of “service.” The desire to counteract this individualistic attitude has led instructors to promulgate an activist agenda within their classrooms, teaching students to critique hierarchical power structures, redress social inequities, or challenge lines of societal exclusion. And yet, such practitioners repeatedly acknowledge the difficulty of this instructional aim and attest to the students’ inability to envision themselves as advocates for societal change.

I hold that this objective of transforming students into activists based on the experience of service-learning classes may not be feasible due the economic dynamic of a college classroom, where students pay tuition for their education and engage in work that is assessed and evaluated. Consequently, rather than create service-learning projects around theoretical positions of dissent and critique, I have designed a service-learning class on the topic of urban revitalization that involves students in promotional and collaborative partnerships with non-profit organizations in town. In other words, by tapping into a pragmatic, national movement such as urban renewal, I have aimed to raise the students’ awareness of how they might become agents of change and how their particular skill set of writing could be of service to the community.

Drawing upon my experiences with students in a Business and Professional Writing class, I discuss specific readings and writing assignments in this article, chiefly the writing products that were commissioned by different non-profit groups in town. The discussion examines some of the theoretical implications behind reinforcing college students’ awareness of civic commitment while developing their written and rhetorical skills.


Keywords


service-learning; civic activism; civic engagement; urban revitalization

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Partnerships is sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact, and hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. ISSN: 1944-1061
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