College of Liberal Arts Launches Liberal Arts Engagement Hub Pilot with Five Hub Residencies 

The Liberal Arts Engagement Hub (The Hub) in the College of Liberal Arts is a transformational initiative that emerged from the college’s Roadmap. The Roadmap is a strategic plan set up under the leadership of Dean John Coleman to transform CLA into a destination college with the aim of effecting positive change, which includes a goal of deepening the college’s culture of engagement. The better CLA is at its work, the better its research, the more ready its graduates, the greater impact it will have on the lives of individuals and communities alike. 

The Hub is intended to show and to contribute toward CLA’s goal of engagement with the community and eventually will be housed in a newly renovated Pillsbury Hall, which is scheduled to open in fall 2021. The Hub in Pillsbury will provide dedicated physical space (more than 2,000 square feet) for humanistic scholars in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to come together in a spirit of co-creation and reciprocal partnership to respond to important social problems.  

To prepare for the eventual opening of The Hub in Pillsbury Hall, the college has launched a two-year Hub pilot in Nolte Center. The Hub pilot includes the opportunity to apply for a Hub residency which provides temporary space in Nolte and funding for public engagement initiatives.

Members of the CLA community and the wider community were invited to apply for a Hub residency. Applicants were asked to align their projects with at least one of the following goals of public engagement in the humanities as articulated by the National Humanities Alliance:

  • Informing contemporary debates
  • Amplifying community voices and histories 
  • Helping individuals and communities navigate difficult experiences
  • Expanding educational access
  • Preserving culture in times of crisis and change

 The college received 16 applications for Hub residencies. The applications demonstrated the tremendous range of projects that can be supported by The Hub and intentional efforts to facilitate reciprocal engagement between the college and the community. 

Five Hub residency proposals were selected and the projects will take place for various lengths of time during the 2019-20 academic year.

2019-20 Hub Residencies

Bridges of Memory

Project Contact     
Alejandro Baer (
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Stephen C. Feinstein Chair and Director of the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies

Bridges of Memory will bring together recent and long-established ethnic, national, and religious communities in the Twin Cities (Armenian, Jewish, Hmong, Khmer, and Somali among others) facilitating constructive conversations and allowing them to draw upon their respective capacities to address a history of mass violence, communal memory, and resilience. 

Community representatives will share experiences of education and outreach, documentation, and commemoration in monthly meetings, culminating in a daylong workshop in spring 2020 for University students and educators.

Ecosong.Net: Fulfilling UMN’s Public Land Grant Mission through Creative Public Engagement 

Project Contact     
Mark Pedelty (
Professor, Department of Communication Studies

Ecosong.Net uses collaborative media production to support our community partners’ stewardship efforts. As part of that, we host live, musically themed "exchanges" with partner organizations, which are then circulated via the Public Lands Podcast. 

Our Hub residency will involve Ecosong.Net's community partners, Jayanthi Kyle, the singer-songwriter behind the Black Lives Matter anthem "Hand to Hand," sound engineer, Karl Demer, as well as numerous University of Minnesota students, staff, and faculty who will take part in a series of live exchanges, art exhibits, and workshops in the Hub, building toward the release of a community-based recording and music video.

Interruption, Innovation, and Inclusion: Reducing Inequalities and Expanding Access Through Global Education

Project Contact     
Deborah Jane (
Outreach Coordinator, Institute for Global Studies

In a time full of increasing nationalism and isolationism, is there anything to be gained by reimagining global education in our schools and exploring educational systems in other countries? This interdisciplinary program will be centered on Finland, which has developed an institutional capacity for educational success, resulting in one of the lowest achievement gaps worldwide. The project will create a task force of diverse individuals, driven to interrupt our current educational system, which often perpetuates inequalities and builds barriers for marginalized groups. This task force of K-16 educators, administrators, and community-based organization leaders, facilitated by Deborah Jane at the Institute for Global Studies, will convene before and after a Spring 2020 field study in Finland. 

From these experiences, participants will develop global lessons, resources for their content areas, and strategies to reduce barriers and increase access for marginalized groups at their own educational institutions. University of Minnesota faculty, staff, and both graduate and undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to engage with this task force.

Midway Peace Park: Community-Based Curriculum Through Civic-Engaged Storytelling 

Project Contact
Paul Creager (
Curriculum Coordinator, Gordon Parks High School

During the Gordon Parks High School Hub residency, past, present, and future park champions from the Midway Neighborhood of St Paul will congregate, demystify, and seek to systematize the curriculum-based approaches to park advocacy (2010-present) that contributed to the successful creation of Midway Peace Park. 

To preserve this collaborative work, a website will be developed that assists educators to replicate work like this in more classrooms. At different stages of the project, open houses will occur at The Hub to foster community around the future Midway Peace Park story, and hopefully, inspire future educators at the University of Minnesota to incorporate similar work in their future classes and schools.

Where We're From and Where We're Going: Forging Partnerships between RIGS and Local Schools

Project Contact     
Kat Hayes (
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology 
Director of Race, Indigeneity, Gender & Sexuality Studies Initiative (RIGS)

The aim of this Engagement Hub residency is to build stronger University relationships with Twin Cities public middle schools and high schools through public humanities projects. In particular, projects will derive from the theme titled Where We’re From and Where We’re Going, in which students, teachers, and students can explore and create more inclusive histories, geographies, maps, narratives, and critical reflections on contemporary experiences. The larger impact of such a theme is aimed at encouraging students from marginalized communities, who currently struggle to feel connected to standard curricula and programs, to be engaged and invested in their education from grade school through college and beyond.

Hub Residency Applications for 2020-21

During spring semester 2020, CLA faculty, staff, and students, and community members will have another opportunity to apply for a Hub residency for the 2020-21 academic year. More information about the application process will be available on CLA’s website and broadcast in March. 

Questions about the Liberal Arts Engagement Hub can be directed to: 
Amelious N. Whyte, Jr, PhD (
Director, Public Engagement, College of Liberal Arts 


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