October 24, 2007

Taking It to the Streets

Sayra Havranek ’11 discusses her experiences with her First-Year Seminar

Sayra Havranek ’11 (New Paltz, N.Y.) is currently taking the First-Year Seminar “Taking It to the Streets: The Theory and Practice of Community Arts in Urban America.” The course is taught by Bonnie Winfield, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center. The following is a first-hand account of Havranek’s experiences with the course.

  • The Power of Community Arts

I’ll never forget the first interaction I had with Bonnie Winfield, instructor of the First-Year Seminar “Taking It to the Streets.” Bonnie had emailed us over the summer giving us our first assignment, and closed the email “Peace.” From that moment on, I knew that my FYS was going to be one of my favorite classes first semester.

When classes began, my anticipation was validated. From the get-go, Bonnie asked us to call her “Bonnie,” as opposed to “Professor Winfield.” After spending 13 years calling teachers Mr. and Mrs., this was a long awaited change of pace. I felt like this put us all on the same page, the same wavelength. There wasn’t that strict distinction between professor and student anymore, which made it very easy for us as students to express ourselves, but in no way did it lower the sense of respect Bonnie received.

That same day, Bonnie had also told us that there would be no tests, and that because of student recommendation, she had changed the class from meeting once a week for three hours to meeting twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes. This really made me feel like she trusts and truly cares about what her students have to say.

The class started with the class ritual, designed to display our comprehension of what we had done in previous classes or what we had be assigned to read. It consists of some sort of multimedia presentation, or a reading and a “go around question,” during which all the members of the class, including Bonnie, answer a question, to show our knowledge of what we had learned, often incorporating our personal experiences outside of the classroom.

Bonnie told us that we each would present a class ritual for the rest of the semester. This would act as a test of whether or not we had done our homework, make sure that we are correctly synthesizing information we receive, and keep us connected with one another’s thoughts. Bonnie’s positive feedback had caused us to up the game with each ritual. It is by far the best part of the class because it is an interactive way of testing that allows us to get feedback about our ideas and allows us to gain a new perspective from the opinions of the other students in the class.

The other great thing about this FYS is the opportunity to interact with the people of Easton. Every week, we volunteer at different centers around Easton, such as the Easton Area Community Center, Kids in the Community, and Best Buddies. Though it is a requirement of the course, I can say with confidence that we would all volunteer anyway, be it required or not. It is great being in a class of kids who love to make a difference in the community and do not mind sparing a few hours a week to do so.

Additionally, we have been able to speak with the Main Street Initiative, a group in Easton which organized the first annual Lafayette Day in the Square. We found out from them that they are really working hard to connect the college community with the community of downtown Easton. We even got a chance to speak with former mayor Ismael Arcelay, and current Mayor Philip Mitman, who was kind enough to come to our class, speak a little bit about Easton, and even help us construct a sculpture.

For our final project, we are taking all we have learned from our interactions in the community and show Easton through our eyes and try to help the Main Street Initiative in connecting Easton and Lafayette.

Remembering back to mid-July, a time when I was looking through course catalogs and talking to soon-to-be classmates, the one class that really sounded like “me” was this First-Year Seminar. It is a class that has gone above and beyond your run of the mill college course and has taught me the value of community and community based arts. It has given me knowledge that I can take with me after completing this course and after completing my years at Lafayette.

  • First-Year Seminar
  • First-Year Experiences
  • Class of 2011 Homepage
  • Landis Community Outreach Center

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