Tag: auburn

Fairley receives Auburn engagement award

By Kristen J. Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Nan Fairley, pictured on the cover of Beyond Auburn magazine, received the 2011 Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach.

Nan Fairley believes the best way to learn is by doing. That's why she challenges every one of her journalism students at Auburn University to get out of their comfort zones and become actively involved with communities.

The West Point, Miss., native has taught at Auburn for 20 years, where her teaching strategy in community journalism has been an ever-evolving process, but the key is getting her students to do real-world stories.

For her ability to inspire the next generation of journalists and the service this work provides for communities, Fairley recently received the 2011 Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach, one of the highest honors the university gives to faculty.

The foundation for that award can be found in scores of Alabama small towns where her students have been able to connect with people and places through journalism assignments. Two recent examples can be seen at Front Porch Magazine and Valley Vision.

Fairley "“ like her students "“ learned how to practice good journalism by working as a journalist while earning her undergraduate degree at Mississippi University for Women. After working on newspapers in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, she returned to school to earn a master's degree in journalism from The University of Alabama, where Dr. Ed Mullins, director of research and communication at CCBP, was her adviser.

"Her master's project dealt with the history and culture of her hometown," said Dr. Edward Mullins, former dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA. "Her family, Mississippi upbringing and small town background influenced her, all perfect training for what she is doing today at Auburn."

Fairley introduces her students to her world through classroom assignments that expand their minds and broaden their viewpoints. In the process, her students have turned engagement into community service, serving as mentors and taking up their own causes.

"Journalism can make a difference by shining a light on problems and connecting people to each other, and I hope we don't lose that," Fairley said. "Stories are powerful, and we need to know how to find the important ones and tell them."

Fairley has a way of getting people to work together, Mullins said. "She's not a pushy person by any means; she's just so willing to do her part that others see that and say, "˜I'm willing to help too,'" Mullins said. "She goes about her work in a very competent and joyous manner. So, it doesn't surprise me at all that she's gotten this recognition."

Students in her fall 2011 feature writing classes traveled to and wrote about Tuskegee and several towns along the Alabama and Georgia side of the Chattahoochee River.  Student stories were published in the Tuskegee News, the Montgomery Advertiser and in an online publication, Chattahoochee Heritage, http://www.chattahoocheeheritage.org.

"Some of the projects I've been involved with have helped students understand that what they do can make a difference," Fairley said.

In her Valley Vision project, students wrote about past, present and future of Valley, Ala. They produced a special publication that received national recognition at the 2010 Imagining America Conference in Seattle, Wash., and the National Outreach Scholarship Conference in Raleigh, N.C. Fairley is now at work on a manuscript she hopes to publish in the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, which is published at UA.

Through their work students gain a better understanding of their surroundings and the true meaning of community journalism. "Good community journalism reflects every community's unique sense of place and deals with tough topics that affect real people. I do my part to help students understand that important role," Fairley said.

"I really benefited from working with Dr. Ed Mullins and certainly his connection to and appreciation of community journalism in Alabama has always been an inspiration to me," Fairley said. She said she uses her connections with surrounding communities to help her students shatter small-town stereotypes, helping them understand the differences in each community and the people who live there.

Mathews Center to Host Forum on High School Dropouts

By Kirsten J. Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

A David Mathews Center forum entitled "Our Community, Our Future: The Role of Citizens in Solving the High School Dropout Problem" will be held March 6, at Auburn University-Montgomery's Taylor Center from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is free and lunch will be served. To register click here.

During the past 10 years, Alabama's high school dropout rate has plunged from 15.58 percent to 7.08 percent, according to figures for 2008"“2009 released by the Alabama Department of Education. The national dropout rate for the same period was 8.1 percent.

Chris McCauley, executive director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in Montevallo, hopes the forums sponsored by the center will help uncover ways that communities can reduce the rate even further.

In recent months the center polled Alabamians and asked questions concerning public issues that citizens could come together to address, McCauley said. "We were working toward what public issue concerned Alabamians the most."

The two issues that emerged were the dropout rate and the economy."

The dropout rate seemed to be a more manageable topic, so the center conducted forums in 28 counties on the issue.

McCauley said the forums were not meant to solve the problem, but instead to help community members talk through the retention rate to develop ways to solve the issue as a community.

"The Mathews Center doesn't take a stance on the issues. It's up to the people in the community to come up with the ideas. We provide factual data and a framework to deliberate and think through what they can do. A lot of great ideas come up," McCauley said, including youth mentoring programs and additional support services for single parents.

State officials welcome this effort by the Mathews Center.

"The forums are having an absolute major impact on the dropout rate," said Kay Atchinson Warfield, an education administrator with the dropout prevention and support unit of the Alabama Department of Education. "What we have found is that the public does not understand all the variables that impact the success of a student."

She said by raising the level of awareness in the community these forums can directly affect students by informing their parents.

"These public forums have provided a level of awareness that has never been done in our state before. It's everybody's issue," said Warfield, who has actively participated in the process.  "The schools cannot do it alone. We've got to have partnerships with public services because it takes us all working together to have an impact."

Both McCauley and Warfield said they were amazed by the ideas that came out these community conversations.

"Central High School in Phenix City had some of the most innovative students thus far," McCauley said. "The students produced a documentary of the dropout rate in Phenix City and will present this at AUM."

The forums are modeled after the Kettering Foundation's National Issues Forums.

"The goal is to work with citizens across the state and get them to take action on issues that that impact them," McCauley said. "We outline some of the contributing factors and some of the outcomes. For example, there is a correlation between the dropout rate and prison population. We give citizens the opportunity to come together and work toward solving problems in unique ways. It's an action driven project."

Auburn Announces First Academy for Community & Civic Engagement, May 14-16, 2012

The Community and Civic Engagement Initiative within Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts announces the first annual Academy for Community and Civic Engagement for faculty throughout the southeast in the arts and humanities who are interested in incorporating civic engagement/service learning practices into their courses, outreach scholarship, and P & T documentation. ACCE will provide an intense 3-day workshop for successful applicants.

The purpose of the Academy for Community and Civic Engagement is:

  • To promote and develop community and civic engagement initiatives among faculty and colleges in the region;
  • To encourage faculty to develop courses with civic engagement/service learning experiences for students;
  • To foster collaborative teaching, research, and outreach efforts among faculty and across universities; and
  • To provide resources and support for community and civically engaged faculty.

For more information, contact Dr. Giovanna Summerfield, Associate Dean for Educational Affairs (email: summegi@auburn.edu, phone: 334-844-2890), or go to: http://www.cla.auburn.edu/cla/cce/acce/.