Staff Feature: Dennis Donovan

Get to know the Sabo Center!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Dennis Donovan, National Organizer for Public Achievement

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

As the National Organizer for Public Achievement I teach co-creative politics skills to people of all ages in the Twin Cities, across the US, and world who want to make positive change in their communities. I help regions implement Public Achievement. The current region that I am working with to implement Public Achievement, is Eau Claire Wisconsin.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

Education

 

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

Christensen Center Coffee Shop area.

 

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

Stoking the Fire of Democracy by Stephen Noble Smith. This is the best book about community organizing. Full of stories and skills.

 

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Hang out with family, friends, and perform music.

 

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Political, outgoing, strategic

 

What’s your favorite place in the world?

Istanbul, Turkey. Ask me why!

 

What’s the coolest thing you working on right now?

Criminal Justice Reform

 

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you would consider a “must-see”?  

Mancini’s Char House

 

Who would you most likely swap places with for a day?

Tony Bennett – he reinvented music.

 

Have any last facts/favorite quotes/advice/etc. that you would like to share?

Be a risk taker and be not afraid to make mistakes.

Sisterhood Boutique to Hold Fashion Show at Augsburg

Sisterhood Boutique is a small thrift store with a big heart.

Located across the street from the Augsburg University campus, the Sisterhood Boutique stands as a symbol of empowerment for women. Started by young women who lived in Cedar-Riverside, the Sisterhood is described by shoppers as the “hidden gem” of the West Bank neighborhood. Donated clothing and jewelry is sold in a polished retail space, with all sales go towards a leadership program designed to help young women prepare for a career. The program includes various paid internships at the boutique where interns learn the skill sets necessary to run a business and become an entrepreneur. Augsburg students in the Sabo Center’s LEAD Fellows program have also worked at the Sisterhood.

One of the main events at the Sisterhood Boutique is their annual pop up fashion show. It is a collaborative, student-run event. Augsburg students, along with students from the U of M and St. Kate’s come together to coordinate the venue, models, and decorations, and to design the outfits. In the past, all items at the show were donated or altered by a fashion class at St. Kate’s. This year’s fashion show is coming up soon on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019, at the Augsburg University Hoverstan Chapel, located in Foss Center. Doors open at 6, and the show begins at 7. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free of charge. Attendees are encouraged to bring along gently used clothing items to donate to the Sisterhood!

Learn more about the event by visiting the Sisterhood’s Facebook event page: Sisterhood Fashion Show

Staff Feature: Mary Laurel True

 

Portrait photo of Mary Laurel True

Get to know the Sabo Center!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Mary Laurel True, Director of Community Engagement.

 

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

My work is to connect students, faculty, staff and alumni to the community around Augsburg & connect the Augsburg community to the community around us outside of our campus.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

Climate Change

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

Oren Gateway Center, Room 100

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

The movie A Stray

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Go to music at the Cedar or the Hook and Ladder

What’s your favorite place in the world?

Guanajuato, Mexico

What’s the coolest thing you working on right now?

A book about Cedar-Riverside community partnerships and Augsburg

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you would consider a “must-see”?

The Mississippi River

Who would you most likely swap places with for a day?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

 

Public Achievement Continues to Grow

During the week of January 9, 2019, National Organizer for Public Achievement, Dennis Donovan, worked with faculty, students, and staff at Colorado College. Eleven students were enrolled in the Youth Empowerment in the Neoliberal Age course that Dennis taught for a week. The students learned the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship co-creative politics framework and skill set. Dennis taught them Public Narrative, One-to-One Relational Meetings, Power Mapping, and the Public Achievement process. These students will now be Public Achievement coaches at Mitchell High School. Along with teaching this class, Dennis also worked with staff and students connected to the Collaborative for Community Engagement Center. Twenty-seven Colorado College students connected to this center are now coaching Public Achievement in three area schools. Colorado College has made significant progress in adding Public Achievement coaches and sites since January 2018. This year, Colorado College will be hosting the annual Colorado statewide Public Achievement coaches meeting on March 2, 2019. Colorado College students and staff will be joined by students and staff from the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University, and Denver University.

 

Students stand in a group photo.
Eleven Colorado College students participated in a class taught by Dennis Donovan in January.

Staff Feature: Rachel Svanoe

Get to know the Sabo Center!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Rachel Svanoe, Director of LEAD Fellows and Cedar Commons Coordinator.

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

I have two primary roles in the Sabo Center, in addition to other Sabo Center initiatives that my work allows me to be a part of. First, I direct the LEAD Fellows program, a work-study/leadership program through which a cohort of about 30 Auggies work in community organizations and learn together about leadership and social change throughout the year. Second, I organize around the use of Cedar Commons, a campus-neighborhood collaboration                                                                                space on the edge of our campus that Augsburg supports!

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

To eat good food with people that I love! And to catch up about life.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Reflective, spunky, genuine.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

I grew up near Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis. Not only is it my favorite place to go when I need to think or be refreshed, but so many important moments in my life have happened there! Someday I want to organize an event where people tell stories about all of the major life moments that have happened in that park.

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?

This year, I’ve been learning deeply from the work of Resmaa Menakem (“My Grandmother’s Hands”) and Rachel Martin (his mentee). Their work explores racialized trauma and the ways in which the bodies of those of us raised in this country carry the impacts of racism, whether we have a body of color that is targeted by it or a white body that is complicit in carrying it out. Resmaa and Rachel’s work provides a model for healing these deeply embedded patterns in our bodies and I’m hoping to bring this work to Augsburg, helping us to become a campus where everyone can be in more authentic relationship with each other with greater safety and less fear.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you consider a “must-see.”

Besides Powderhorn Park, I’ve really been enjoying St. Anthony Main and the Stone Arch Bridge lately. It’s a pretty magical place to walk around, in every season!

What does community-based learning look like?

Community-based learning is a form of experiential learning directly connects students with the broader community and neighborhoods of which Augsburg is a part. Individual students and whole classes connect to community organizations through various means, including field trips, guest speakers, research, service learning, and public impact projects. These deliberately chosen experiences are guided by principles of mutual benefit for students and the community, are designed collaboratively with campus and community partners, and are based in deep and ongoing relationships with individuals and community groups. All community-based learning requires students to engage in meaningful reflection on their experiences.

 

Field Trips

A professor may plan a field trip for her course to a local organization or site so that students can experience first hand a context that might be referenced in class. Such a trip may offer opportunities to host discussions with local experts, understand an applied context, and to stimulate questions that may not otherwise occur to students in the classroom setting.

Examples

Religion classes tour houses of worship of different faith traditions, with tours conducted by practitioners of those traditions, some of which are in the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood nearby to campus. These visits are followed by in-class discussion and a comparative reflection paper that prompts students to reflect on the visit as well the connection between visit themes and their own experience.

Students from a food science class visit a nearby beekeeping company who keep urban hives to learn about the science of honey production and about the economy of urban farming.

Guest Speakers

Guests from the local community may visit a relevant class session to share their experience and insight and engage in discussion with students.

Example

An organizer from a local labor rights organization visits a history class focused on 20th-century American labor rights movements.

Research

Research that is conducted as a partnership between traditionally trained “experts” and members of the community for the benefit of both.

Example

A group of students in a business course collaborate closely with a local youth social enterprise to do market research and develop a marketing plan. While the social enterprise ends up with a functional marketing plan that they can now implement, the students have learned applied skills for research and developing an end-product for a customer’s use while building connections with a community-based organization with connections to Augsburg and significant local impact.

Service Learning

Sometimes used interchangeably with community-based learning, service learning is a specific kind of learning activity in which students participate in and reflect on a service-oriented activity in the community. This may be a one-time “service project” experience, but more commonly involves ongoing involvement by the student in a community organization over the course of a semester (usually at least 20 hours). The activity is directly related to course content, and benefits the community.

Example

As part of the class, a student in an Social Work 100 class signs up to regularly serve meals to the after school program at Brian Coyle Community Center with the Campus Kitchen program.

Public Impact Project

Public impact projects are sustained experiences that integrate meaningful public engagement that is mutually beneficial to students and the community. Instruction and reflection in a community context enriches course content, teaches civic responsibility, builds community capacity and relationships, and often connects to university-wide community engagement initiatives.

Example

Students from Design+Agency, Augsburg’s embedded design studio, create design solutions for a variety of local non-profits and civic projects.

Interfaith Scholars collaborate with community members to put together monthly interfaith gatherings in the Cedar Commons space.

Guiding Principles for Community-Based Learning

Whether you are planning a field trip, guest speaker, research, service-learning, or a public impact project, there are certain elements and factors to consider and incorporate. All community-based learning, from activity to long-term project, requires careful planning, connection to course objectives, collaboration with the community partner to identify need, intended impact, and responsibilities, as well as opportunities for quality reflection.

 

When planning for community-based learning, be sure to consider the following:

Consider Impact

Think about all facets of impact. For example, if you are taking your students to a community space–what do they need to know about the space beforehand to be respectful of the people there and the space itself? When asking an individual to come speak with your class, is there a way for the class to thank the presenter? 

Community Partners are Co-Creators

Ensure that the activity or shared work has mutually beneficial outcomes for your students and the community or organization. Especially when planning longer term projects or research in a community-based context, the outcomes of the work should have value beyond student learning, and the need and intended product should be identified in conversation with the community partner. Collaborate with the community partner–whether that is an organization, business, etc–as a co-creator of the course design, learning outcomes, and/or research goals.

Engage in Relationship

Engage based upon relationship. Build on existing university connections (there are many–be in touch with us in the Sabo Center to learn more!), or use your own connections. For the sake of students, vet the organizations or people they may be working with. Establish a trusting relationship with a community group or organization before expecting a student to contribute time and energy.

Clear Parameters

Be sure to establish clear parameters for students about the connection between the community-based learning and the course’s educational goals, objectives, and learning outcomes. Offer clear guidance about what is to be accomplished and learned, and emphasize the student’s responsibility and the reality of the impact their actions might have.

Prepare

Prep students for what to expect and what is expected of them in the context of a community-based learning opportunity, whether that is a field trip or a long term project. Engage in reflection with students before the activity or project–what do they expect to learn? What do they want to learn? What are some things they think they know from the jump? Have students attend a scheduled community-based learning orientation with the Sabo Center, or coordinate with the Sabo Center to bring someone to do an orientation with your class.

Reflect

Quality reflection is essential for effective community-based learning, and for all experiential learning. Build in opportunities for structured and varied forms of reflection, and communicate clearly about how this reflection will be evaluated.

 

Want guidance for how to get started?  Contact Director of Community Engagement Mary Laurel True (truem@augsburg.edu).

Facilitators

 

Harry BoyteHarry Boyte: Harry C. Boyte is co-founder with Marie Ström of the Public Work Academy and Senior Scholar of Public Work Philosophy, both at Augsburg University. He also founded the international youth civic education initiative Public Achievement and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the University of Minnesota, now merged into the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University. Boyte’s forthcoming book, Awakening Democracy through Public Work, Vanderbilt University Press 2018, recounts lessons from more than 25 years of revitalizing the civic purposes of K-12, higher education, professions, and other settings. In the 1960s, Boyte was a Field Secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and subsequently was a community and labor organizer in the South. Boyte has authored ten other books on democracy, citizenship, and community organizing and his articles and essays have appeared in more than 150 publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Political Theory, Chronicle of Higher Education, Policy Review, Dissent, and the Nation. In the 1960s, Boyte was a Field Secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and subsequently was a community and labor organizer in the South.

 

Elaine EschenbacherElaine Eschenbacher: Elaine Eschenbacher is a civic leadership educator with more than twenty years of experience. She currently directs the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University which integrates rich histories of civic engagement, experiential education, and democracy building in a vibrant center with local, regional, national, and international reach. Prior to joining Augsburg University in 2009, Eschenbacher served as associate director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.Eschenbacher designs programs and delivers workshops on themes of civic agency, democratic and experiential education, community organizing, and public work locally and nationally so that people continually expand their capacity to shape their communities, futures, and worlds. She is a facilitator and trainer for the National Issues Forum model of deliberative dialogues, and a regular facilitator democratic processes aimed at developing civic agency. She earned her master’s degree in leadership from Augsburg University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and teaches in the Leadership Studies program at Augsburg.

 

Dennis DonovanDennis Donovan: Dennis Donovan is the national organizer of Public Achievement at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with Harry Boyte, Donovan was a key architect of Public Achievement, which is a theory-based practice of citizen organizing to do public work to improve the common good. Since 1997, Donovan has worked with K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and community groups locally, nationally and internationally as a speaker, trainer, consultant and educator. Before joining the Center, Donovan worked in K-12 education for 24 years as a teacher and school principal. Under his leadership, Saint Bernard school in St. Paul won the St. Paul/ Minneapolis Archdiocesan Social Justice Award for work done to improve the North End community. Donovan was also a founder and education chair (1990 to 1997) of the St. Paul Ecumenical Alliance of Congregations (SPEAC). SPEAC has since grown into a statewide organization known as ISAIAH, and is one of the most active partners in the national PICO organizing network. Donovan received the 2008 University of Minnesota Community Service Award. He earned a master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas and a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary education from the University of Minnesota.

Place-Based Community Engagement

 

Augsburg University has a long history of deeply-rooted and long-term work in Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and the surrounding community, an approach known today as place-based community engagement. In fact, part of the reason Augsburg moved to Minneapolis in 1872 from its first location in Marshall, Wisconsin, was so that seminary students could gain experience serving city congregations in Cedar-Riverside and across the city. This commitment to place-based engagement has been affirmed and sustained across our history, from Professor Joel Torstenson’s call in the 1960s for faculty to embrace the modern metropolis as both classroom and place for contribution to the public good, to our early leadership in the field of service-learning, and the mission of the Center for Global Education and Experience. Over the last thirty years, dedicated staff and faculty have established and maintained numerous partnerships with local neighborhood organizations and individuals, connecting students, faculty, and community members. These partnerships are grounded in trust built on long-term, reciprocal relationships, and support a variety of initiatives and projects. Augsburg has continued to uphold these efforts through funding staff positions focused on community engagement, and prioritizing experiential education as part of the university’s mission and strategic plan.

Examples of this place-based partnership work in Cedar-Riverside include:

Midnimo at the Cedar Cultural Center

Sisterhood Boutique

Campus Kitchen: Community Garden and Meals at Brian Coyle

Health Commons

Cedar Riverside Community School

Community-Based Learning

Place-based community engagement is defined as “a long-term university-wide commitment to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus equally on campus ad community impact within a clearly defined geographic area.” [1] Engaging with stakeholders from across the university and neighborhood community, a place-based approach aims to enact real and meaningful social change through partnership and co-creative work.

In recent years, Augsburg has engaged with a cohort of higher education institutions from across the country who are similarly interested in deeply focused, long-term, and place-based community engagement work. Recently formed into a formal organizational network, the Place-Based Justice Network (PBJN) consists of twenty member institutions that participate in annual summer institutes, continuous learning opportunities, leaderships retreats, and other activities focused on place-based community engagement in higher education. 

As a network the PBJN aims to transform higher education and the communities surrounding them by actually working to deconstruct systems of oppression through a place-based community approach. The values of the network emphasize anti-oppression, anti-racism, intersectionality, self-determination, and deliberative process. This move toward an explicitly anti-oppression framework is an important and unique shift in the field of university community engagement, and one which we strive to incorporate deeply into our ongoing place-based work. 

[1] Erica K. Yamamura and Kent Koth, Place-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education: A Strategy to Transform Universities and Communities, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2018), 19.