East Hill Notes: Engaged Cornell projects to be focus of event

By Gary Stewart

Photo by Cornell University Photography
More than 200 people gathered in Willard Straight Hall April 24 to honor the civic engagement of Cornell students. The Showcase highlighted several dozen projects, each in partnership with a local or global community, and Student and Community Excellence in Community Engagement Awards and the George D. Levy Faculty Award were given.

Ever have a question about Engaged Cornell and how it works? Here’s your chance to get an answer.
The Engaged Cornell Local Partnership Forum – sponsored by Cornell University’s Office of Community Relations and Office of Engagement Initiatives, in collaboration with Community Foundation of Tompkins County – will take place from 8:30-10 a.m. Wednesday, September 27 at The Space@Greenstar, located at 700 W. Buffalo St. in Ithaca.

The event – free and open to everyone – will update community members on dozens of local Engaged Cornell (oei.engaged.cornell.edu) initiatives, with brief overviews on a handful of projects, and time for Q&A.

Some representative partnerships that will be highlighted at The Space this week:
— Cornell Legal Research Clinic: Cornell Law School, Loaves and Fishes
— Making Films, Friends and Futures: Cornell Education Minor, Spencer Van Etten Middle School
— Communicating Psychological & Brain Science to the Public: Cornell Psychology Department, Sciencenter

The Cornell Legal Research Clinic initiative addresses the pressing need for legal advocacy among community members: “The Clinic is a community resource that provides crucial legal advocacy to those who need it most, but can least afford it,” according to a description of the initiative. “Local nonprofit organizations, public interest attorneys, low-income individuals, and startup businesses in Tompkins County and throughout New York state benefit from the clinic’s pro bono legal services.
“The clinic has also achieved an international reach by offering legal research assistance to foreign judges from around the world. Students working with the clinic have the opportunity to cultivate important professional and interpersonal skills — including a deeper awareness of ethical and cultural issues — by directly engaging with community clients and counseling them on actual legal issues rather than working with hypothetical scholarly exercises,” it continues. “These real-world experiences increase student aptitude at researching, analyzing and interpreting the law as well as exercising sound legal judgment.”

Making Films, Friends and Futures reduces summer learning loss by teaching middle school students from low-income families to tell stories through film.
“The young filmmakers had to follow a few simple guidelines – the films had to be rated PG, contain at least one outdoor scene, have a story with a rescue or quest theme, and feature an underdog as an unexpected hero,” noted a late August Cornell Chronicle story. “Split into two teams supervised by Cornell student counselors and overseen by Duff, the middle school students took on different roles for their projects – filming and editing, recording sound, acting, writing and directing, and designing titles and a studio logo. They also produced a short public service announcement on cell phone etiquette.”

Nicole Oliveira ’20, an ILR major, said she saw new friendships being formed, and observed “how thoughtful the kids were with each other” in valuing each other’s input. Added Brendon Nguyen ’20, a computer science major/education minor who plans to become a teacher: “Filmmaking as a project brings out the talents and abilities of the kids way more than any other project that I’ve ever worked on. It takes so many different skills.”

Communicating Psychological and Brain Science to the Public finds fun and engaging ways to connect children and families with developments in psychological and brain science: “New discoveries about psychological science regularly appear in the news, but students receive little training on how to share this research with a general audience,” the description states. “This project develops a course to teach students how to inform the public, and in particular children and families, about psychological and brain science. Students work with the Sciencenter to develop two prototype exhibits on psychology or brain science. While preparing these exhibits, the students learn how to choose topics that are engaging to children and families, how to design exhibits and how to install them. The Sciencenter benefits from the partnership by collaborating with students who have the expertise in a field that is not regularly highlighted in the museum but has the potential to attract significant public attention.”

These handful of Engaged Cornell-funded projects represent a slice of a great town-gown initiative that has served people of all age, from every walk of life, on a variety of important topics.
Hope to see you Wednesday!

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East Hill Notes are published the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Gary Stewart is associate vice president of Cornell Community Relations.