By Ga Eun Cho
Political Science & RIC
On Friday, October 13, over 20 participants gathered for the first of two community-engaged learning conversations planned for Fall 2023 through the proposed undergraduate major Critical Diaspora Studies (CDS) in the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship.
The event featured presentations by Dr. Erin Aeran Chung, Dr. Shawntay Stocks, and Vanessa Han (’26), Angela Tracy (’25), and Ethan Tan (’25), moderated by Kobi Khong (’24). All have been actively involved in community-engaged learning and research in Baltimore.
The presenters discussed their experiences with community-engaged learning, how it has shaped their intellectual development, what challenges they have faced, and what tips they would offer for future and aspiring projects.
Dr. Chung discussed the importance of community-engaged learning in the context of the development of RIC, CRAAV, and the CDS major. She emphasized the importance of community-engagement as the centerpiece of what connects RIC, CRAAV, and CDS, and indicated how the curriculum design for the new CDS will center around community engagement, rather than being a peripheral extension of the program.
Dr. Stocks, the Associate Director of Fellowships and Community Engagement of Inheritance Baltimore, highlighted the importance of being attentive to the needs, history, and experiences of the community researchers engage with. She stressed that researchers must always understand the positionality of the researcher vis-à-vis the community and engage in critical reflexivity about the research and its purposes.
Next, Ethan Tan, who had taken part in the community-engaged Humanities Research Lab: Asian Diasporas in Baltimore, led by Dr. Yumi Kim in Fall 2022, shared his experience interviewing Chinese Americans to understand the history and importance of Chinese restaurants in immigrant life. Tan reflected that he was compelled to engage more deeply with the community and individuals’ family histories because of the scarcity of archival or other sources to represent such an integral part of the immigrant community. For Tan, the struggle to do justice to the vulnerable and personal knowledge he was entrusted with was the main challenge for conducting research.
Vanessa Han and Angela Tracy also shared their experience working as part of an undergraduate team that conducted elite interviews and focus groups with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Baltimore. Through the experience, Tracy realized that profound insights can be gained “when experience becomes data” through collaboration with community members and the researchers. Han elaborated on the logistical challenges of community-engaged research, such as finding a suitable meeting times for participants working long hours, and communication challenges such as cultural or language barriers to research.
During the Q&A that followed, Dr. Chung, Dr. Kim, and Dr. Stuart Schrader shared their plans and thoughts on the opportunities and challenges provided by the CDS expansion to DC through the Nexus Award. Participants also engaged in a conversation about the difficulty of identifying, contacting, and communicating with community partners. But all agreed that the rewards of this work far outweigh the hurdles that must be overcome.
The companion to this event will take place at the new 555 Penn Hopkins Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, November 4. The event will feature a panel discussion with speakers from community partners, and it will introduce students to research, engagement, and internship opportunities in Baltimore and D.C. Lunch will be provided. JHU students attending the event will also receive train fare and a giftcard! RSVP to gcho2 at jhu dot edu.