University Learning Community: Learning and leading together, building partnerships on Buford Highway

The Work of Art in the World—The Art of Work in the World


In Spring 2017, the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence and the Center for Civic and Community Engagement (Campus Life) facilitated a pilot University Learning Community focused on the Buford Highway Corridor, and organized around the theme of Art and Social Transformation.  The 26 participants included students, faculty, staff, and community partners learning together how to create excellent community-campus partnerships.  As part of the learning community, seven mutually agreed-upon projects were launched, having been informed by our discussions, readings, and listening to each other.  The projects kicked off as early as the Spring 2017 term with many underway in the Fall 2017 term.  At a recent gathering of the ULC participants, future plans are being build among existing project partners as well as via new connections created via the ULC experience.  

 The University Learning Community Kick-off Retreat

The University Learning Community Kick-off Retreat

ULC Launch

The first gathering of the pilot University Learning Community was a half-day retreat held in Emory's Woodruff Library.  26 attendees participated in several activities aimed at breaking down perceived hierarchies among the group, exploring areas of shared interest and community building around shared meals.  The use of Pre-Texts as a method for shared engagement among this newly formed group.

 Teresa Totten of The DeKalb Public Libraries and partner in the Human Libraries Project

Teresa Totten of The DeKalb Public Libraries and partner in the Human Libraries Project

Initial projects

Seven distinct projects emerged from the Spring 2016 ULC gatherings.  These each include valuable experiences working with Buford Highway area residents connected to Emory University faculty, students, staff and courses.  ULC generated activities range from using photography to explore healthy relationships to teaching improv theater exercises as part of test preparation.  Read about the Human Library project partnership that grew from the ULC.



imagining america national conference session - Crossing Boundaries, Changing Culture: One Story at a Time Workshop

How can academic institutions use stories to flatten hierarchies and cross boundaries both within the academy and in relationship with communities? Emory University has developed several strategies that emerged from IA Cultural Organizing Institutes as well as other community organizing practices. This workshop presented strategies used within the university, in community engagement, and in courses as effective reaching tools. IDEAS Fellows then facilitated a story circle with a prompt that elicited narratives about encounters with other people that unexpectedly changed perceptions of the world or one’s own beliefs.

The University Learning Community was highlighted as an avenue through which story telling is both breaking down barriers and building partnerships.

Session Leaders included:

  • Vialla Hartfield-Méndez, Professor of Pedagogy, Spanish; Director of Engaged Learning, Office of the Provost
  • Kim Loudermilk, Senior Lecturer, Institute for Liberal Arts; Director, IDEAS (Interdisciplinary Exploration and Scholarship) Fellows Program
  • Kate Grace, Director, CBSC Fellows Program
  • Shan Mukhtar, Assistant Director, English as a Second Language Program, Emory Writing Program
  • John Wang and Julia Munslow, Undergraduate IDEAS Fellows