SJSP 101
Community-Based Research:
An Introduction to the Scholarship of Engagement
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Spring 2013

Community-Based Research: Introduction to the Scholarship of Engagement provides students with the research methods and tools needed to engage in effective community-based research (CBR) and offers a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the demography and history of Geneva and surrounding areas.


Margueritte Murphy, Chair, Writing and Rhetoric; Faculty Liaison, CCESL
Smith 201; x3818

Course learning objectives:

The course will introduce you to the academic and ethical dimensions of community-based research. The aim is to gain the skills, understanding of relevant legal and ethical issues, and knowledge about the community of Geneva and its environs to prepare you to carry out effective community-based research. This semester we will engage in an oral history project in concert with an initiative to understand racial difference coordinated by the Geneva Human Rights Commission. You will receive training to conduct oral history interviews with a diverse group of Geneva residents, and carry out these interviews in teams as part of the final project for the course.

Key questions addressed in the course:

  • Who is Geneva? What is the demographic composition of the community? How does its history inform present-day Geneva?
  • How does one engage in community-based research effectively? What kinds of methodologies represent best practices?
  • How do you conduct CBR with integrity and compassion, cognizant of the ethical and legal dimensions of such research?
  • How do you build collaborative research relationships with community partners?
  • How do you most effectively communicate the results of CBR to and on behalf of the community?

Student learning objectives:

  • Gain understanding of the demography and history of Geneva and its environs
  • Learn how to plan and conduct effective and ethical CBR
  • Gain skills for building collaborative relationships with the community
  • Build communication skills requisite to present research and to create vehicles for communication within the community (writing and other forms of media)

This Community Engaged Learning course is offered in the Social Justice Studies Program through the collaboration of a faculty member from the Writing and Rhetoric Program and a staff member from the Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning.  Of equal import to your learning is a partnership established with the Geneva Human Rights Commission and community members who will visit our class to share their stories.  Our goal is to heighten your awareness of the wonderful opportunities and compelling challenges that exist in Geneva.  Recognizing you are (likely) only in Geneva for four short years, we hope this course also fosters a deeper appreciation for the vibrancy of community in Geneva. We anticipate that the balance between course content and applied learning will prepare you to represent your peers and the Colleges well during your interactions with esteemed community members who have so generously contributed their time to your learning.

In light of the extra time demands of CBR research, we want to highlight the Study Mentors program offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) for those of you who might find this useful. Study Mentors engage directly with each student in the process of adjusting to new academic demands: they help you find the time you need to engage with both your academic and co-curricular activities, accomplish the tasks in front of you, and enhance your reading and study time. Study Mentors may be especially important for those of you who are involved in many activities; work on or off campus; are studying for Teaching Certification, graduate school exams, or prepping for fellowships; or who have one or more unusually demanding courses on your schedule. To meet with a Study Mentor, one option is to go to the TutorTrac link provided on the CTL webpage and make an appointment. Also useful for this course, with three required formal papers including drafts, is the Writing Fellows program available through CTL.

 Academic integrity is expected and required of every individual. Please consult the Community Standards Handbook (p. 31) for the full statement of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges policy (


Since our goal of achieving rich, diverse, multi-layered discussions depends on energetic, consistent, and committed participants, regular attendance is crucial if you wish to do well in this class. Your absences will affect your classmates' work as well as your own. Your perspectives are valued and respected here, and we will sadly miss them if you are not present. In addition, our syllabus may change as the semester progresses. We may shift assignments around or change direction occasionally, as seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting. If you chose not to be here, you will be responsible for ALL of the work done in class and what is to be handed in. In case you must be absent, we expect you to call or email us before the next class meeting so you can get the homework assignments. All work is due on the designated due date unless alternative arrangements have been made with us in advance. 


Required papers, projects, exams:

Visual archive paper; first draft due Tuesday, February 12th; final draft due February 26th; 15% 

Peer interview paper; first draft due Tuesday, February 19th; final draft due Tuesday, March 5th; 15%

Midterm exam: March 14th (in class); 25%

Final Class Project: Teams of students sign up for and produce one documented (audio and/or video) interview, preferably at the Geneva Community Center sound room.

Poster or prezi about project to present at Engaged Scholarship Forum: May 7th

Final paper: Reflective paper on project and the principles of community-based research; first draft due Tuesday, April 30th; final paper due Sunday, May 12th by 11:30 am.

Project/poster/paper: 35%

 Class participation, including preparation for in-class activities; 10%

Late papers or assignments will incur a penalty of one grade step (i.e. a B becomes a B-) for each class day past the due date. We will not grade late papers or assignments after we have returned graded work to the rest of the class.

Required text:

Geneva Historical Society, Geneva 1940-1970 (Images of America/Arcadia Publishing 2007)

Other required readings will be available as PDF files on Canvas.

Optional text:[1]

Helen Thorpe. 2009. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America. New York: Scribner

Disability Accommodations:  If you are a student with a disability for which you may need accommodations, you should self-identify and register for services with the Coordinator of Disability Services at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and provide documentation of your disability.  Disability related accommodations and services generally will not be provided until the registration and documentation process is complete. The guidelines for documenting disabilities can be found at the following website:

Schedule of meetings:

[Note: this schedule may be adjusted as the semester progresses. Students will alerted to any changes in class and/or through Canvas notification.]

Thurs, January 24Introduction to course and each other: in-class reading:
James Agee & Walker Evans, “Near a Church” from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Tues, January 29History of Geneva’s African-American Community
Assigned reading: Excerpts from Make a Way Somehow

Thurs, January 31Tour of Geneva with Professor Alan Frishman
Assigned reading: Success for Geneva’s Children 2011 Data Book

Tues, February 5 - Interviews/Archives at the Geneva Historical Society with John Marks, Curator of Collections; Topics to explore: Geneva's historical origins and immigration patterns leading up to modern-day demographics.
Assigned reading: Writing to Remember: Partners in Memory Making; Geneva 13 interviews      

Thurs, February 7 – The Visual Archive: History/Demographics assignments around photographs; bring Geneva 1940-1970 to class.
Introduction to interviewing: Assigned Reading:

  • Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. 2007. “The Practice of Feminist In-Depth Interviewing.” In Hesse-Biber and Patricia Lina Leavy, eds. Feminist Research Practice: A Primer. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Tues, February 12 - Effective interviewing: Professors Judith McKinney and Khuram Hussain:
Assigned Readings:

  • Blee, Kathleen. 1998. “White Knuckle Research: Emotional Dynamics in Fieldwork with Racist Activists.” Qualitative Sociology (21:4)
  • Best, Amy. 2003. “Doing Race in the Context of Feminist Interviewing: Constructing Whiteness Through Talk.” Qualitative Inquiry (9:6)
  • Gibson, Priscilla and Laura Abrams. 2003. “Racial Difference in Engaging, Recruiting, and Interviewing African American Women in Qualitative Research.” Qualitative Social Work.

Mock interviews with each other

Visual archive paper: first draft due

Thurs, February 14 - Your Future as a Community-Based Researcher
Assigned Readings:

  • Willis, Jason, Jennifer Peresie, Vanessa Waldref, and Deirdra Stockmann. 2003. “The Undergraduate Perspective on Community-Based Research,” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. Spring 2003: 36-43.
  • Loeb, Paul. (2010 rev.) Excerpt from Soul of a Citizen. Martin’s

Tues, February 19 - Ethical Research and the IRB (Institutional Review Board)
Professors Karen Frost-Arnold and Paul Kehle: An intro to IRB and research ethics
Assigned reading: IRB application for project
Peer interview paper: first draft due 
The Interviews: Interviewees are invited to the classroom to tell their story based on 2-3 open-ended questions. Then each student is provided an opportunity to ask one prepared question based on class readings about best practices regarding interview methodology and technique.

Thurs, February 21 -- Geneva's Immigrant Voices: The Gathering
Interviews: Mary Perry, 1st generation Italian-American; John Kenney, oldest living African-American descendant of first slave family brought to the region by the Rose family. Assigned reading:

  • Alexander, Michelle. 2012. Excerpt from The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

Tues, February 26 -- Geneva's Racial/Ethnic Climate: The Foreshadowing
Assigned readings:

  • Williams, Patricia. 1992. Excerpt from The Alchemy of Race and Rights: The Diary of a Law Professor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  • Massey, Douglass and Nancy Denton. 1993. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (excerpts on racial segregation) Harvard UP
  • Naima Ramos­Chapman, ColorLines
  • Nicholas K. Peart, “Why is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?” New York Times, December 17, 2011

Visual archive paper: final draft due
Video: Voices from Brooklyn: Racial Profiling's Part of Everyday Life Here
Interviews: Princess White, African-American woman whose own generation, as well as that of her children and grandchildren, has experienced a cycle of interaction with local law enforcement; Human story about modern-day segregation and exclusion in Geneva.

Thurs, February 28 - Origins of a Community-Based Research Project: The Tragedy
Hannah Wilber WS ’13 will speak about her own research regarding media coverage of a 2007 shooting incident in Geneva.

  • Assigned readings: Press releases, Finger Lakes Times articles, TV news, letters to the editor, etc.

Tues, March 5 Stories of Protest, Despair, and Denial: The Aftermath
Interviews: Voices from the community
Assigned readings:

  • Tim Wise, “Of Children and Inkblots: Trayvon Martin and the Psychopathology of Whiteness.” May 21, 2012 (web)
  • Henry A. Giroux, “Hoodie Politics: Trayvon Martin and Racist Violence in Post-Racial America. April 4, 2012 (web)

Peer interview paper: final draft due

Thurs, March 7 – Geneva Community Compact: The Conciliation
Interviews: Lucile Mallard (signator) Geneva Chapter NAACP President or Richard Thomas, African-American Men's Association member and Karen Baer, Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission. Assigned Reading:

  • The Community Compact

Tues, March 12 – DVD: Angela Davis and Tim Wise in Conversation, “Vocabulary of Change” Run Time: 78 minutes. Color. Directed by Mohammed Soriano-Bilal

  • Review/discussion in preparation for midterm

Thurs, March 14 – Midterm exam

Tues, March 26 – CBR from the perspective of a social scientist
Professors Kendralin Freeman and Jessica Hayes-Conroy; asset mapping.


Thurs, March 28 – Building collaborative research relationships with community partners
Assigned Readings:

  • Jackson, Fleda Mask. 2009. “Black Like Me: Navigating Race, Gender, Research, and Community” in African American and Community Engagement in Higher Education: Community Service, Service-Learning, and Community-Based Research, Stephanie Y. Evans, Colette M. Taylor, Michelle R. Dunlap, and DeMond S. Miller. SUNY Press: 157-171.
  • Santiago-Rivera, Asara L., Gayle Skawennio Morse, and Anne Hunt. 1998. “Building a Community-Based Research Partnership: Lessons from the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne,” Journal of Community Psychology 2: 163-174.
  • Maathei, Wangari. “Foresters Without Diplomas” (chapter 6) from Unbowed 119 -138. 

Tues, April 2            - Building Trust as a Researcher
Professor Beth Kinne: Legal right vs moral right; Trust; Humility & accountability; Implications for oral interviewing

Thurs, April 4 - Where Do We Go From Here? The Dialogues
Interviews: Jeanette Vaughn, Race Dialogues Facilitator; Osbaldo Arce, Race Dialogues Facilitator; Janet Russell, Caucasian Race Dialoguer; James Elkin, Caucasian Dialoguer; Victor Dillard, African-American Dialoguer; Cecilia Rodriquez, Latina Dialoguer. Assigned Readings:

  • Department of Justice. 2003. “Community Dialogue Guide: Conducting a Discussion on Race.”
  • Frances Moore Lappe and Paul Du Bois. 1997. “Race Dialogue and Common Work” Yes Magazine.
  • com “A Complete Guide to ‘Hipster Racism’”


Tues, April 9            - Where Do We Go From Here? The Dialogues (cont’d)
Follow-up discussion concerning Thursday’s interviews and assigned readings


Thurs, April 11 – Performance as Communication of Social Issues
Assigned Reading: Anna Deavere Smith, “Shades of Loss”
View Anna Deavere Smith, “Twilight: Los Angeles” (documentary based on play written using data from 300 interviews about the LA Riots of 1992)

This two week unit focuses on communicating findings and communications with community partners and other audiences.


Tues, April 16 - Traditions in Documenting CBR, with Emphasis on Process
Assigned screening: The Storytelling Class (Bullfrog Films, 2011) (students should watch before session begins)
Assigned reading: “A Bridge Between Communities: Video-Making Using Principles of Community-Based Participatory Research” Chavez, et. al.



Thurs, April 18 – From Interview to Communication
Screening: examples of different interview styles and formats, such as work from: This American Life, Studs Terkel, Jacob Riis, Weegee, Maysles Brothers, etc.
writing: students provide class with a prospectus of their proposed project (due at start of class)
In-class: students work collaboratively to write an editorial rubric for peer interview projects
Presentations on basic video skills for interviewing, basic interview skills

Tues, April 23 - Lab
writing: Students bring script for one to two minute exercise in creating communications
in-class: focus on skill building – podcasting and video software training (Garageband, iMovie), presentation skill tips (with assistance from CTL), testing different storytelling applications (Story Kit, Aris, Animoto)
Discussion of ways to emphasize contributions of community partners (having community partner craft script, collaborative creative processes, etc.), discussion of different modalities for communicating with community partners and other audiences


Thurs, April 25 – Learning to Critique
writing: Students will complete and share rubrics in response to presentations
in-class: discussion of presentations of media from lab day, possible other modes for communicating locally (local and national production companies, radio, public access)                                   

Tues, April 30 – Student presentations                              

Thurs, May 2- Student presentations

May 7 – Student presentations (last day of classes; Engaged Scholarship Forum)

Final exam/paper due Sunday, May 12th by 11:30 am.

Happy Summer!

[1] For students who choose to participate in Community Read and write extra-credit paper.