Browsing articles in "GraduateSPeek"
Dec 2, 2014

GraduateSPeek: Student-Led Fieldwork


In the last thirty years, the rural town of Helena, AR has gone from the envious name of “jewel of the delta” to the colloquial “hell­town.” A gargantuan drop in population­ from 50,000 to 12,000­ has left Helena with a plethora of abandoned buildings, crumbling civil services, and has perpetuated a burst in inner­city problems: gang violence, theft, murder, rape, and drug trafficking. Tragically, these problems are a part of a student’s daily life.

Classroom - Kyle James cropped

In an effort to combat these devastating social issues, a momentous effort has been placed on education reform. This has resulted in the opening of a charter school to spurn policy and administrative difficulties that traditional schools face. While the opening of the charter school has had a hugely

positive effect in Helena, the local public high school, Central, is often left in the dust of “progress,” and used as the charter school’s unofficial alternative learning school­ akin to a permanent detention. The unintentional shadow cast by the charter school has had a devastating effect in the community.

Many students enrolled at Central feel that they are unimportant as they attend the school for self-exclaimed “nobodies,” or “failures.” As a teacher at Central, I believe this degradation of school ethos is completely unacceptable. In attempting to combat the poor school spirit, a group of teachers, Mr. Sellarole, Mr. Gramble, Ms. Rossoni, and myself, with the help of students got together to form the Central Hip­Hop Team to attack the various challenges our students face.

The greatest struggle for our (low-income, low literacy) students is in understanding the purpose of reading, writing, and self-expression when they feel they aren’t receiving a decent education as compared to students in the charter school. Our project takes the form of a documentary project. By empowering local high school students to speak about how mass media and local politics affects their daily lives, the hope is that students will become community leaders enacting positive and lasting change through their art. Through slam poems, scholarly articles, and paintings, the student-lead documentary will contrast the first year of the Hip­Hop club with the ongoing gang violence, and the impact both have had on the students.

The benefits of this project far surpass mastering the sterile Common Core objectives for high school students. By sharing personal experiences through art, the following possibilities open up for students: The chance to travel outside their rural town to present a high quality documentary to various audiences, scholarships, and reinforcing the idea that student voices matter and that students can direct their future with the skills they are gaining in school. For more information visit,

Kyle James graduated from the MACS program in 2013 and is working in the Mississippi Delta as a High School English teacher at a Title One school. By using a horizontal approach to local fieldwork he is seeking to empower students to enact sustainable change. This comes in the formation of student lead projects, which explore the various factors – gang violence, drug abuse, and failing schools – that plague the rural area in which he teaches.

GraduateSPeek: A Peek at what MACS Graduates are up to.



Oops!  Thanks to a reader for catching our typo in this post.  The title should have read Student-led Fieldwork.  We thought about calling it Student Leads Fieldwork, and it seems we conflated the two.  Good editorial eye! 


Oct 16, 2014

MACS graduate will be inaugurated as the 14th president of the National Association of Black Storytellers


QueenNurPhotoshoot SmithvilleQueen Nur (2013) will be inaugurated as the 14th president of the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS) at the 32nd annual festival and conference in Chicago this November. Karen “Queen Nur” Abdul-Malik is a nationally renowned storyteller and teaching artist who works in the tradition of the griot, a West African historian, storyteller, singer, poet, and/ or musician.

Cultural Sustainability was the perfect fit for Queen Nur, since the role of the griot is as a barer of tradition.  Queen combines the storytelling of the African and African American traditions in performances that bring folktales, fables, and fairytales to life; teach students about Kwanzaa and black history; and celebrate multicultural diversity and respecting people as they are. In her performances, she’s accompanied by Dwight James, an international jazz drummer.  At Goucher, Queen Nur explored what the role of storytelling was in cultural sustainability and examined four community-based models for her thesis.

The National Association of Black Storytellers was conceived by Mary Carter Smith of Baltimore and Linda Gross of Philadelphia in 1982 to give more opportunities for African American storytellers and keep alive the rich heritage of the African oral tradition.

Check out more on Queen Nur’s Facebook or website.

Jun 25, 2014

MACS graduate becomes the new Executive Director at Folklore Village in Wisconsin!


In a recent message on their website, The Folklore Village Board of Directors said they are “thrilled to announce that Terri Van Orman will be our new Executive Director. Terri is a folk artist, folklorist and non-profit administrator who most recently was the Executive Director of the Arkansas Craft School. She has a deep understanding of Folklife, in America and internationally, and she brings long-standing experience with a passion for community building and cultural ecology. She and her husband John have strong connections to the upper Midwest and are very excited to move to Iowa County, Wisconsin.”


Terri began her new job on May 21st and successfully defended her Capstone in the MACS program a week later!  She graduated this Spring.  She is the organization’s first full-time director in over two years and says,  “The position certainly has its challenges….but, the programming here is absolutely wonderful, and there is a long and devoted base of supporters.  Funding and infrastructure will be my first tasks, so I’ll be putting my Goucher management classes to test here!

For more about Folklore Village, you can visit their website at  You might even see Terri there!

GraduateSPeek: A Peek at what MACS Graduates are up to.

Jun 12, 2014

GraduatesPeek — Composting in Action


amara_photoFor the past five years, Amara Watkin-Anson worked for Billings Forge Community Works, a community development non-profit in Hartford, CT where she served as the Urban Agriculture Coordinator since 2012, and helped to grow the organization in various capacities since its inception in 2008. Following graduation from the MACS program, Amara made the decision to transition her passion for food and her desire for a food secure planet to the international domain. In April, she left her job at BFCW to travel to Maai Mahiu, Kenya to work with Comfort the Children International (CTC), as a Global Advocate- a fellowship program of Mama Hope. Her experience in the MACS program provided the perfect template and the personal interest in the Listen-Connect-Engage model of Mama Hope’s work; human-centered international development work.

At the heart of it all, is dirt. The ground we walk on, from whence we came, and where we shall return. I cannot think of a better representation of our ties and connectivity as humans on this great planet than the very thing that gives us sustenance. And as we are confronted with climate change, the modified face of the food we eat, and the rapid erosion of natural resources, it makes sense to start to stem the tide with dirt.

In Maai Mahiu, an area that has been heavily deforested, the lack of agricultural productivity is starkly visible. Corn and beans are mainstays, with very little else. The need for pesticides and fertilizer is high, and farmers will break even on a single yearly harvest if they are lucky. Yet, amidst these seemingly dire circumstances, things are ripe with opportunity, and the energy for change is palpable.


Three weeks ago, we set about to harness that energy here at CTC International. How could we utilize existing resources to address a problem that we faced as an organization and as a community? We knew we wanted to improve our own farm’s soil fertility in order to better produce food, and to help demonstrate to others how effective composting, water management and crop rotation could increase economic development opportunities. At the same time, we wanted to build community awareness and greater connectivity between the food that we grow and the food that we eat.

After taking a closer look at the work of the CTC Waste Management Team, we noticed that the problem was the solution. Most of the waste from the town was biodegradable! So with the support of Bernard Owino, the Waste Management Team, and the Community Health Workers (CHW), we set about developing a pilot city-composting program, pioneered by our very own Café Ubuntu. On May 16th, we invited six local restaurant Waste Management clients for coffee and freshly baked Café Ubuntu banana bread to discuss this pilot idea. By the end of the session, it was decided that in exchange for two labeled sorting bins, some training, and ongoing follow up with the CHW, these restaurants would begin sorting their trash and biodegradable materials for weekly pickup.


Two weeks into the project and things are off to a decent start, though plenty of work still needs to be done! We are in the process of addressing some of the sorting and training challenges, but overall our compost production has tripled, and about a third of the restaurants are doing a standout job of properly sorting green waste materials (veggie scraps, coffee grinds, tea bags) and brown waste materials (paper, dried leaves, wood shavings). The Waste Management Team comes twice a week to empty the sorting bins and transfer the contents to the CTC land, where the farm team adds it to our compost piles. And the icing on the cake is the relationship we’ve built with our neighboring pig farmer to collect their manure to utilize in our piles! One program feeding another other, powered by community.

It is our hope that this pilot project can be scaled up to effectively reduce the amount of waste going to the local dumping site, while at the same time help to increase our own soil fertility. The benefit, though, extends beyond the CTC walls as we hope to broaden these educational opportunities for all of the WM clients and farmers alike; thus building healthy soil, healthy relationships and a healthy community.


Amara is an urban farmer, a choreographer, and a dancer, with stage management and community organizing experience. She has a BA in Cultural Studies from McGill University, and an MA in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College, with a certification in Permaculture Design and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

GraduateSPeek: A Peek at what MACS Graduates are up to.

May 14, 2014

A Catalytic Reaction – adventures in a civic hackathon


What can happen when you draw together a group of strangers, give them a challenge to complete in a limited amount of time, then step back and watch ideas and relationships coalesce?   Significant projects which benefit communities can be conceived and developed!


Goucher’s graduate programs hosted their first civic hackathon the weekend of April 11-13.  A hackathon is a gathering of teams of software developers, and others, who work toward a challenge in a set time frame.  For this civic hackathon, the graduate programs also included “citizens, scholars, entrepreneurs, designers, and other creative thinkers.”   The challenge:  in the space of about 40 hours, each team was to design, code, and demonstrate something (app, website, program, etc.) that would serve a community.  At the end of the challenge, each team made a 15-minute presentation and was judged by a panel on four criteria:  originality, impact, sustainability, and design.  Cash prizes were awarded to the winning entries.


I arrived at Goucher feeling terribly inadequate.  I confess that I had never even heard of a hackathon until I received the invitation Amy Skillman sent to MACS alum.  Googling the concept heightened my anxiety, especially when I read how competitive and serious a hackathon typically is.  I am not a techie, and I didn’t have any great ideas just awaiting development.  But I grabbed a friend I knew would enjoy the stimulating environment of a MACS event and we two novices headed to Goucher for the weekend.  We practically pinky-swore, though, that we’d be on the same team.

Friday evening the participants discussed ideas, and we all watched and listened for concepts that engaged our interest and creativity.  The most awkward moments came as we surveyed all the wonderful possibilities and informally negotiated which ideas would be chosen and who would join each team.  Uniqueness of concept and ease of development were high priorities.  Teams coalesced and went to work.


And something amazing happened!   A catalytic reaction took place as groups of strangers convened.   Each team rallied around an idea brought by a team member—an idea which had lived in that person’s mind for a time, but which needed some help to be developed.  Unimaginably, in just a single weekend the concepts were refined, developed, and brought to life!  Each team left Goucher on Sunday with a tool intended to help a specific community.

The teams exemplified the partnerships we MACsers have been taught to cultivate.  The strength of our team came not from its homogeneity but from its diversity.   As we discovered each team member’s vantage point and skills, we quickly realized that it was most expedient to trust one another within our arenas of expertise.   We made trajectory-oriented decisions together, but then released one another to pursue the pieces of the whole that we would work together to assemble.   The limited time frame kept us moving and protected us from getting bogged down in details—but it also required sacrifice as we each had times of letting go of some component that was important to us as individuals.  Our team was also strengthened by its partnership with the community we were hoping to serve; our concept originated with a volunteer firefighter, so we consulted with firefighters periodically as we developed our program.  Our partnership as a team and with the community promises to bear fruit—born from a single short weekend together!


My anxiety was unwarranted.  This was simultaneously an intense but relaxing—and FUN—experience.   I spent time with some amazing people!  I’ll admit, though, that I’m relieved I did not embarrass myself and am thankful I was able to contribute something of significance to my team.  I’m guessing I’m not the only participant who feels this way.  Bring on the next challenge!

To learn more about the hackathon, check out the Facebook page, Coding for Community – A Civic Hackathon

To view the projects, check out the gallery

OAnna Ralph is a 2013 graduate of the MACS program.  Her 20+ years as a pastor’s wife, along with several years as a missionary in Ethiopia and Haiti, informed her experiences in the MACS program, while her coursework deepened her interest in the intersection of culture and spirituality.  Her capstone research explored the role of missionaries in culture change and sustainability and culminated in a set of best practices for the emerging field of cultural sustainability.  Anna is joining the MACS faculty, teaching a new course on Culture, Spirituality, and Sustainability in the upcoming January (2015) residency.  Anna, a homeschooling mom, lives with her husband and son near her daughters and grandchildren in southeast PA.

May 5, 2014

GraduateSPeek: Candace Chance


Here is another great interview by MACS graduate Jessica Wall, about another MACS graduate Candace Chance.  In the article, Candace talks about her powerful idea to help students in the Baltimore school system BeBold.  Read about how Candace brings together science and culture to impact the lives of young people.

GraduateSPeek: A Peek at what MACS Graduates are up to.

Apr 29, 2014

GraduateSPeek: Coding for Community: A Civic Hackathon, Thoughts from Lena Shrestha ’13



I don’t know what possessed me to sign up. That’s what I was thinking as I packed my bags to head to Goucher for the Coding for Community: A Civic Hackathon event. Oh, I know you saw me on Facebook, posting excitedly that I would be attending. I know I sent out “Come to the Hackathon!” texts. Repeating the inclusive rhetoric from the event site, I even coerced my special friend to register. But in the days and hours leading up to the event, I starting growing an anxiety about the Hackathon.


I knew everyone would be nice. This is a Welch Center event, after all. I wasn’t afraid of meeting new people or sharing ideas. My anxiety had to do with my contribution to the projects. The more I thought about what the event would actually be — reifying ideas for cultural, environmental, and social impact into some kind of technological form – the more insecure I felt about my presence there. I’m no techie. I know that coding involves… typing. I wasn’t sure how I could help a project besides brainstorming, and I did not want to feel like dead weight.


Although I arrived at Coding for Community with ideas for potential projects, I chose to join a different team. I decided to work with graduate directors Tiffany Espinosa and Tom Walker to create web-based graphic visualizations of visitor data to help the National Park Service. Roopali Sharma and Tony Burks, both from DonQuiSoft, the software company event sponsor, added tech experience and know-how to our group. We named our team “Let’s Go Parks!”


As we honed our ideas and started working on the project, my fears about my contributions dissipated. Everyone in the group brought different skills to the table. Tiffany said that she felt that having new perspectives on her previous research helped shape it in new ways, which is good. I also felt that I was able to help in ways that I hadn’t considered before, as I was biting my nails in anxious pre-Hackathon worry. I’m not a graphic artist, as a profession or hobby —  especially compared to some of the students in the Digital Arts program – but I do have an aesthetic eye and a little bit of a background in the arts. That helped me design the visual components of our project. Tom and I can also turn ideas into real-world programs, so we incorporated that into Let’s Go Parks as well. There was also copy to write, graphics to find online, emails to send back and forth, and PowerPoints to perfect. My apprehension about twiddling my thumbs post-brainstorm was unfounded.


Driving back to the hotel after a thirteen-hour marathon workday, I thought about what I had hoped to get out of the Hackathon weekend. Now that I am a graduate of the Cultural Sustainability program, I miss residencies. I come up to Towson sometimes, swiping cookies from MACS receptions and reminiscing fondly of my first visit to Goucher. I recalled a blog entry I wrote about my first residency, and I found it applicable to the Hackathon, too.

Here’s what I wrote over three years ago: “A sitar is played by plucking a multitude of strings, but leaving several ‘sympathetic strings’ untouched. These strings reverberate upon hearing a correct tone, producing a drone sound in the background. I feel like my experience in the residency matched the excited reverberation of a sympathetic string. Hearing other viewpoints, I became inspired to sing with my own ideas. I do not think that I would have felt that way without becoming included in such a community.”

I realized that it was that reverberating feeling that I was seeking when I registered for the Hackathon. Working in unison with people of different backgrounds, everyone working for community good, the Hackathon was like an accelerated residency. It was a hive of buzzing ideas.

I know what possessed me to register for the Hackathon: the opportunity to participate in that process. I left Goucher on Sunday simply happy to have been a part of the hive. The product of our Let’s Go Parks efforts was just icing on the cake. Or the Skittles on the cookie, Tony.

View all four hackathon winners and view more photos on Coding for Community – A Civic Hackathon’s Facebook page

lenaLena Shrestha is a 2013 graduate of the MACS program. Her sustainability passions include the negotiations between the cultures of the traditional and the changing, especially in how they impact community well-being and economy. She and fellow MACS grad, Sunny Fitzgerald, are excited to be launching an online boutique this year – Heretic Honey – which will support independent artisans. Lena’s Capstone, “Cultures a la Carte: Semiotic Construction of ‘Glocal’ Identities in Nepal,” is available to read in Goucher Library’s Special Collections, and you can also read her “Blog About Culture.” In addition to academic interests, Lena enjoys introducing children to the sport of competitive swimming, and she volunteers as a coach for a Special Olympics swim team. She lives in the Washington, DC metro area (with two cats).

GraduateSPeek: A Peek at what MACS Graduates are up to.

Apr 17, 2014

GraduateSPeek: Interview With Jessica Guild By Jessica Wall


Here is a wonderful article about Jessica Guild, by Jessica Wall.  Both are graduates of the MACS program, living life large and doing the things that matter to them.  They met in the program and have continued to be friends and colleagues in the real world.  These are the kinds of connections we foster and hope for in the MACS program.

Interview With: Jessica Guild By Jessica Wall

GraduateSPeek: A Peek at what MACS Graduates are up to.

Feb 12, 2014

GraduateSPeek – Deborah Spears Moorehead (2013)


With this blog, we are launching a series of posts that feature the work of graduates from the MACS program.  In December 2013, Deborah Spears Moorehead (2013) was interviewed for Cultural Survival, a non-governmental organization founded in the 1970s to help Indigenous Peoples in their struggles for human rights, sovereignty, and autonomy.  In this essay, Deborah talks about her art, her beliefs in an “artistic cultural democracy”, and how her studies at Goucher College helped to bring them together by giving her paintings a voice.  For her Capstone, Deborah researched the history of her family’s tribe in order to prepare their application for federal recognition.  She lives and creates art in Rhode Island.

Read Deborah Spears Moorehead’s interview


About this blog

Goucher's MA in Cultural Sustainability provides students with the training to identify, protect, enhance and work effectively with communities around what makes them unique: their traditions, ways of life, cherished spaces, and vital relationships to each other and the world. Read More

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