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The first One City One Prompt event at Goddard College on August 5th in Plainfield, Vermont brought together 50 students and faculty in the college’s Individualized MA Program (which includes the Transformative Language Arts concentration) to explore collaboration in community. The focus of the event was to lay the groundwork for collaborative learning in community throughout the eight-day residency just beginning for the program as well as the semester to follow.
Facilitated by students Jeremy Johnson, Miriam Gabriel, Eric Dalke and Sarah Lopes, and faculty Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Katt Lissard, the event started with Sarah and Eric telling their own stories of seeking community and collaboration. Both of them explored how they grew up with so many unanswered questions about life and why our culture has its specific norms. “It was one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard,” Miriam later said of Eric and Sarah’s introduction. Another student said that after hearing them, he felt like he could really be himself more.
Katt Lissard then led the group in mixer and cultural mapping exercises, including a game from Lesotho (a small country located in the middle of South Africa), where she leads the Winter/Summer Institute (http://www.maketheatre.org/), a theater project focused on raising awareness of AIDS/HIV and environmental issues. For much of this time, she would ask questions, and have people walk to one side of the room if they strongly agreed and the other if they strongly disagreed, staying in the middle if they didn’t have a strong preference. Questions included, “Are you the kind of person who would rather read a book, see a movie, or see a movie based on a book?,” “How good are you at keeping secrets?”, “Do you prefer to work alone or with others?” The exercises got us moving and racing back and forth, helping everyone get a better sense of one another.
From there, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg divided everyone in five groups, each one going to its own table full of paper and art supplies so that everyone could make a poster of what they were most interested in learning and studying. Participants were instructed to put in the center of their poster the main passions of your lives and studies and along the edges what else interested them. There was then time for everyone to present his/her poster to the small group before all the posters were hung on the wall for the duration of the week. Participants later said they continued to learn more about each other from the posters all week long.
The event closed with Jeremy Johnson and Miriam Gabriel talking about ways to stay connected throughout the semester, find and create collaborative opportunities, and see out a stronger sense of community together. Framing the whole event was this quote Miriam found for us:
“When you collaborate, you are not permanently identified with one position. When you practice taking all the positions and listening to all the sides, you help the [art, or whatever,] field to balance its global parts: the new parts, the older ones they are trying to replace, and the interaction between the old and the new. By helping the field to process its edges and incongruities, you mediate between the various parts and enable others to do the same.” — Suzi Gablik,Conversations Before the End of Time