Community of Practice Notes

August 17, 2017 – First Meeting

Early in the morning of August 17, eight faculty and staff from six midwestern colleges opened the Engage Immigration project with a three-hour video conference.  We committed ourselves to a ten-month effort to become academic companions who do intellectually rich work about immigration and community-based learning.  We aim to craft models for engaged immigration studies that move past volunteering and service learning, towards a richer public scholarship that uses and contributes to findings from the social sciences and history.

We started by telling our “stories of self,” inspired by Marshall Ganz’s ideas about public narrative.  Our paths to liberal arts college life in small, midwestern towns began in different places across the midwest, sure, but also Florida, New York City, California, Spain and England.  We all put teaching at the heart of who we are and what we do.  And in choosing to teach about immigration, all of us understand ourselves to be revealing connections between our small, local communities and global processes and patterns.

As a first step, we promised to find good readings to share; to discuss the ethics of oral history, social science research and digital communication; to think together about taking students into off-campus “fields” whether near or far; and to take care not to promise more than we can deliver to our community partners.

—- Kathy

Workshop 2 – September 13, 2017

Today we discussed books and articles we would recommend others to read and/or would like to read with the group.

Each of us took turns “pitching” books to the group. Titles of interest included The Land of Open Graves by Jason De Leon, Impossible Subjects by Mae Ngai, Lives in LimboUndocumented and Coming of Age in America by Roberto Gonzales, Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Angel N., Global Heartland by Faranak Miraftab, A Midwestern Mosaic: Immigration and Political Socialization in Rural America by J. Celeste Lay, Community-Based Research: Teaching for Community Impact edited by Mary Beckman and Joyce Long, Interpreting Difficult History at Museum and Historic Sites by Julia Rose, and Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience by Angelo Ancheta.

For our next meeting, we decided to discuss the topic of conducting ethical work in CBL&R that focuses on immigration by reading some key articles concentrating on this topic alongside the introduction and chapter 3 of The Land of Open Graves.

We also identified a potential topic for a future time meeting: “Midwest Contexts of Reception.” Given the location of the ACM schools, we thought spending some time together to specifically discuss immigration to rural areas and/or small towns in our immediate vicinity makes sense. We thought pairing parts of Global Heartland and A Midwestern Mosaic would provide good fodder for this future discussion.

— Emily

Workshop 3 – November 1, 2017

During our third meeting, we briefly revisited our list of potential texts to read and added to the materials. Several faculty shared work that they were engaging in with students. Tim offered the following websites that his students have developed:

Participants have expressed appreciation for the sharing of sources and resources as a way to increase our individual knowledge and capacity to teach and research in our individual institutions.

We then split the remaining time between a more applied discussion of the ethics of and best practices around engaged scholarship with immigrants and refugees, and an analysis of sections of Land of Open Graves, an ethnography of the border crossing zone. In our discussion of best practices, we felt strongly that in researching immigrant communities, questions of IRB and informed consent took on more a nuanced nature. Thus we want to spend more time reflecting on informed consent in our next meeting.

In our discussion of Land of Open Graves, we wrestled with witnessing violence vs. describing it in such a way that violence is glorified. We agreed that mixed methods approaches provided new ways to consider well studied topics.

For our next meeting, we plan to continue the combination of discussion of ethical questions and cases from written books with an examination of the opportunities and challenges of oral history as a method.

Workshop 4

Notes will be uploaded shortly.


Workshop 5 – March 16, 2018

During our fifth meeting, we discussed useful data sources in our research on immigration at multiple levels including local, state, federal, and international levels. We also identified notable gaps in research and agreed to keep looking for sources in preparation for our conference.  

We then used the remaining time to discuss A Midwestern Mosaic. Participants were struck by the powerful use of time and place in the book. We discussed the connection between the book and the Rural Immigration Network, and further ruminated on political participation and community engagement. We agreed that it would be interesting to update the research in A Midwestern Mosaic to see what the findings would be in the current context.

We used the remainder of the time to discuss details of the upcoming conference in June.