Jennifer Burkett, lecturer in English and director of the Speer Writing Center at Ouachita Baptist University, presented her paper “Where Do You Think You’re Going? Exploring Repercussions of Brain Drain in a Small Southern Community” at this year’s annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Las Vegas March 16. She and a panel of three other students from the University of Southern Mississippi shared their papers on “[Re]-branding Town and Gown: Bridging the Gap Between the Local Community and the Ivory Tower.”
“What we were trying to do,” Burkett said, “is look at communities and the public at large versus the college institution itself and how you can connect the two.” Burkett’s paper served as an introduction for the panel and focused on the disconnect between college students and their college-town communities, particularly in the South.
“What we wanted to do was discuss the idea of writing and how writing can connect the university with the community and its benefits for both the community and the student,” Burkett said. “Not only do they [the students] see that there are worthwhile things in the community, the community members begin to see the students as potential members of the community.”
The other three panelists, Paige Grey, Laura Hakala and Courtney Watson, discussed the different approaches educators may use in composition courses to engage their students with the community.
Hakala, for example, shared how her students each shadowed, researched and wrote about a particular people group within the community. One student chose to shadow nurses, research their roles in the community and write about what it would take to be a nurse. These ethnographic studies help students interact with members of the immediate community while simultaneously improving their writing and research skills.
Shortly after the panel’s presentation, an educator from the Las Vegas area told Burkett and her colleagues her own story about the difficulty in facilitating interaction between the “transient community” of Las Vegas and her students. The educator also told the panel about her plans to implement some of their ideas in the near future.
“That’s really what you want to hear after a presentation,” Burkett said. “Because that’s what a conference is – it’s a sharing of ideas. If one thing you say can get someone else to start thinking and doing, that’s all you want. … The four of us felt really good about that moment.”
For more information about her presentation, contact Jennifer Burkett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5553.
By Rachel Gregory