I have long been interested in community engagement and the public humanities, from overseeing writing center consultants work with disadvantaged teens and refugees from Syracuse’s poorest neighborhoods to running workshops on fake news for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Below are some of the projects that represent this work.
In April 2022 I was invited to participate in a dialogue about self-publishing and zines to help celebrate the launch of Ken Burns’s documentary on Benjamin Franklin. The conversation was with Frank Farmer, professor emeritus at the University of Kansas and moderator Laura Taylor, Special Events and Volunteer Manager for PBS Wichita. Part of the dialogue will be played for a zine fest being held in Wichita and aired in segments to help promote the event.
New Jersey Council for the Humanities
In 2018 I became involved in the Public Scholars Program for The New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Although this specific program is now defunct, a similar one has manifested through a partnership with the Smithsonian, called Museum on Main Street, where experts offer program to NJ nonprofit institutions who are looking to introduce their patrons to humanities-based programming.
My program, “What’s All This About Fake News?” presents a brief history of fake news in the United States and then leads participants in an activity designed to help develop awareness about how such news is written and circulated, and how we might read it depending on the sources, contexts, technologies, and literacies available to readers.
In May 2020 I also served as a reviewer the NJCH’s COVID-19 Response Grants to help vet funding provided to NEH by the CARES Act. Applicants included a range of museums, historical societies, and community programs representing sites across the South and Central New Jersey who needed immediate relief to continue their programming.
Humanities New York
From 2014-2015, during my 4th year in the PhD program at Syracuse, I was awarded a fellowship from Humanities New York (then called the New York Council for the Humanities) to carry out a public program I had originally conceived with my colleague and friend, Patrick Williams, called Syracuse in Print. When Patrick and I pitched Syracuse in Print (unsuccessfully) at a local crowdsourcing dinner a few years earlier, we were inspired by the variety of small press festivals popping up all over the United States. We imagined an organization that would host a similar festival in the City of Syracuse, showcasing diverse narratives of a variety of writers through publication, but also work with them through grants, workshops, and other smaller events, aiming to build a more visible culture of writing and print in our community.
As I worked on this project through my fellowship, however, I realized just how time-intensive this project was. Thus, we scaled back our ambitions and focused on smaller events. One of these was a zine swap held in the fall of 2015 at Lightwork, a public photography space near the University. This program featured speakers on bookbinding, publishing, illustration and collage art. Later that spring, we hosted another event — this time a workshop for research and public librarians co-sponsored by Central New York Libraries Resources Council. Most recently, we ran a well-attended workshop at the Onondaga County Public Library’s new MakerSpace.
Although we have yet to host a bona-fide festival, Syracuse in Print looms large in terms of my ambitions for future service. One of my goals is to use my position as a faculty member to build toward a model of community publishing that doesn’t rely on community presses or university sponsorship directly. At the same time, such approaches don’t require total isolation. Even as Syracuse in Print has boasted its independence, we find ourselves being visible to several on-campus stakeholders and organizations. In May 2017, for example, our favorite student-run publication, Jerk Magazine, recognized Syracuse In Print in its final issue (see below).