When presented with the prospect of providing two Keene State College students majoring in American studies with paid internships at the Hannah Grimes Center, the American Studies Program pursued this opportunity with great enthusiasm. This is especially so given the attention that various types of “engaged learning” continues to receive within conversations about Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century.
Applying for and receiving a Community Partnership Grant from the American Studies Association for academic year 2011-2012 forged a curricular connection linking Keene State’s American Studies Program to the Hannah Grimes Center, marking our mutual interest in mapping various constellations comprising the dynamic cultural, social phenomena that are known as “the Local Living Economy” movement.
Students in a capstone seminar course are currently developing projects that respond to our common inquiry question, “WHAT IS A LOCAL LIVING ECONOMY?” Overseeing these projects, I find my self in the midst of conversations concerning food ways, including local agricultural production and distribution, local arts initiatives and strategies for “localizing” learning experiences of pre-schoolers and elementary school students.
Like my students I am part of an idea flow comprised of the familiar contemporary terms and concepts such as “Green,” “Global,” “LOCAL,” “Nation,” “Organic,” “Sustainable,” “Main Street” and “Big Box.” Together we’re analyzing this material and looking to weigh a collection of fieldwork that offers thoughts about our here and now, of Keene, Cheshire County, Monadnock Region, Ashuelot River watershed, New Hampshire. In this respect these sites—at once—become our open laboratory, resource archive and living text to annotate, consider and regard.
At the same time, the course, its students, and our interns extend a series of important collaborations undertaken by Hannah Grimes Center and Keene State College through a set of formal and informal events including panel discussions sponsored by the Keene Is Reading series and Great Topics, a round-table seminar at the 2009 “Local/ Global” Symposium and this spring’s MONDAY MOVIE MEETING SERIES.
I am honored to be a part of a reciprocal relationship between the College the Center and a larger notion of “COMMUNITY.” As we imagine and enact ways to produce public scholarship and community-based undergraduate research and learning initiatives, I believe we—students, the Center, the College—are blazing pathways for others to follow.
While this course and its projects offer just one set of possible responses to the prompt “WHAT IS A LOCAL LIVING ECONOMY?” it becomes an instructive: illustrating how interdisciplinary research supported by the School of Arts and Humanities at a public liberal arts college can respond creatively to the kinds of questions that matter, that make a difference.