In January, President Jim Wagner inaugurated this column contemplating
the practice of community as a distinctive part of Emory’s
mission. While the focus at that moment was on Emory’s internal
sense of community, the University’s Vision Statement advocates
that members of this “inquiry-driven, ethically engaged and
diverse” Emory community also “work collaboratively
for positive transformation in the world.”
Atlanta, Emory’s immediate wider world, has become increasingly internationalized
in the last decade, making our nearest neighbors also sometimes our windows to
the far reaches of the world beyond our national borders. There has been a parallel
internationalization of Emory during the same period.
As long as these two internationalizations remain parallel—without intersecting—Emory
misses opportunities to engage in the practice of community beyond our campus.
When they cross paths, extraordinary relationships and exchanges can result.
Working with many members of the Emory community, the Department of Spanish and
Portuguese has in the last three years established links with Atlanta’s
Hispanic/Latino community, encouraging students, faculty and community members
to create long-term, fruitful relationships.
Through the integration of Theory
Practice Learning components in courses at several levels, Emory students now
have a logical progression of involvement in the Spanish-speaking community.
In an intermediate course, they interact with Spanish-speaking children
from area schools through programs designed in collaboration with
the Carlos Museum and based on the museum’s ancient Americas
In an upper-level course, “Writing, Context and Community,” a significant
part of the learning takes place during students’ work with Hispanic/Latino
children. Some students work at Sutton Middle School tutoring ESOL students;
some are at Cary Reynolds Elementary teaching Spanish-speaking children to
read and write in Spanish, helping them work toward full, bilingual literacy;
some go to Caminar Latino, a program for Hispanic families dealing with domestic
violence. Emory students may then complete internships at Sutton Middle School.
Or they may choose to participate this summer in the Mexican Cultural Immersion
Program here on campus in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate, Cary Reynolds
Elementary and the Carlos Museum. This intensive program in Spanish for Hispanic
children will be facilitated by teachers from Mexico assisted by Emory interns.
The extraordinary results stretch beyond the classroom. Emory graduates who
have participated in these programs are now in the wider world running a literacy
program in a public library system; or coordinating a Girl Scouts “Hermanitas” program;
or studying public health or medicine with the intention of working with Hispanic/Latino
families; or otherwise engaged in many similar activities.
This year the Emory College Language Center hosted a commemoration of Martin
Luther King Jr.’s life in which members of Emory’s community read
selections in languages other than English. The notion of “Emory community” included
a group of Hispanic 8th graders in the ESOL program at Sutton Middle School.
Each read a poem in Spanish, accompanied by an Emory tutor who read in English.
Some Emory students are still talking and writing about this event, and the
Sutton students and their teachers consider it a watershed moment in their
An Emory intern at Sutton this semester has taken on a separate project, privately
tutoring one of the most academically promising—yet most at-risk—13-year-olds
in the school. Because of the intern’s intervention, an immigrant child
who likely would have dropped out of school now sees a different possibility.
Because Emory created a mechanism for the intern to become involved in Atlanta’s
larger international community, she can make that difference.
A number of similar
initiatives exist across campus. For example, through the efforts of the
Office of University-Community Partnerships, Emory has received
a grant to implement Project SHINE (Students Helping In the Naturalization
of Elders), which will further involve students with international
immigrant communities. In Atlanta, some of these are from unfamiliar
countries. But when we take our practice of community beyond our
borders, we not only broaden the para-meters of academic reflection
and inquiry, we also better comprehend what it means to “work
collaboratively for positive transformation in the world.”