Town as textbook: Panel ponders ways students can learn from community outreach projects

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MARLBORO -- A group of local artists, college educators and community members met Friday as part of a national campaign, Imagining America.

The consortium of colleges and universities, committed to public scholarship and integrating humanities, arts and design, gathered at the Rudolf and Irene Serkin Center for the Performing Arts at Marlboro College, which joined the program nearly two years ago, for the regional meeting to discuss next steps in higher education and community outreach.

"It's not our goal to have students sitting up on a hill in Vermont just reading books," said Marlboro College Dean of Students Ken Schneck. "There are no walls at Marlboro."

Schneck said projects like Imagining America provide students with the opportunity to take charge of their education and provide public good for their community.

Based at Syracuse University, the program's regional meeting at Marlboro had more than 30 participants, including local artists Eric and Ines Bass from Sandglass Theater, painter Debroah Lazar and Laura Lawson Tucker from New England Youth Theater's Theater Adventure Program.

In addition, professors and students from Amherst College, Brown University, Goddard College, Hampshire College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Northeastern University, Roger Williams University, Southern New Hampshire University, Stonehill College and Weseleyan University all took part in the day-long event, which included a breakout session to talk about what they're involved in and what they hope to accomplish in regards to community education.

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Adam Bush, director of curriculum for College Unbound, said the program gives students the opportunity to learn in an unconventional method.

"I found sanity in imagination," Bush said. "There are a lot of students that want to go to college but may not want to sit in a classroom for their education. This program provides a way for them to accomplish that goal while also being involved in their community."

The next stage of the program, which has typically been geared toward graduate students, is to shift focus on getting undergraduate students out of the classroom and into the community, said Marlboro College President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell.

"Experience is a great teacher," McCulloch-Lovell said.

She added that community internships can be a great source for building student's resumes.

For more information about Marlboro College and the Imagining America program, visit www.imaginingamerica.org or call 802-258-9238

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.


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