All posts by dityat

Happy 20th Anniversary, Mogridge Center for Public Service


Yesterday was a major event organized by the Morgridge Center for Public Service, UW-Madison. Also attended by the Morgridges who have been all along from the beginning strengthening UW-Madison’s public service initiatives.

I would like to address one of the questions asked by a faculty member during the students’ lightning presentations. The question was something like what a faculty member should do if a graduate student quits finishing up an action-research dissertation research.

Continue reading Happy 20th Anniversary, Mogridge Center for Public Service

Being friends in a partnership


A few months ago a potential student was suggested to talk to me. Most of our discussion was about how community-based research (CBR) efforts could fit in a relatively short graduate study program. Her last question was what would be my one suggestion to start/navigate a successful CBR, and I responded by saying “be a good friend, build a genuine friendship with your community partners.”

That was my first occasions suggesting that. Lately, I have reflected on that comment, and connecting with my current partnership.

Community -university partnership is ultimately a way to connect both parties in a meaningful collaborative initiative that would benefit them. Both partners need to come to an understanding about the goals of their initiative. The disconnect of their ideas could lead to partners who would see the partnership as a mere work together (note I don’t use the word collaborative) for the sake of partnership, something they could talk about to their peers but not care enough to deliver a successful project.

Continue reading Being friends in a partnership

About media and communications


One of the toughest realities when working with grassroots communities is that it is hard to get a media coverage on the cool things that we do–At least I have to think that my work is cool, right? So that I could have the confident of telling people what is so cool about my work.

This somewhat pessimism is what lead me to want to know who to write a journalistic article. Because, just by investing a web domain (even a free domain would do), and social media accounts, I can develop and circulate my stories around my cool work.

I am grateful that the Nelson News has been supportive to me. Overall, my Monona partnership had a couple of publications at least. During the initial years of South Madison partnership, the Nelson News sent their “journalist” to write about or project. It was not until we won multiple awards that journalists from multiple platforms are approaching for news about our project.

I am certainly having better understanding about how the media works, especially when it comes to grassroots initiatives.

Anyway, one of the South Madison project articles made the homepage slider of the Nelson Institute site. That is cool! This one (click on the image) is written by our own student Kelcie Kempenich who is majoring in strategic communication and environmental studies. The University Communications is also working on another this semester; so I am looking forward to that.

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See also other articles about our project:


On teaching, learning, and service


My current community-based project has brought lots of reflective thinking. On one hand, I am blessed. On the other hand, I could not really avoid them. Here is my latest reflective thinking that I recently shared with my “partners in crime.”

If done right, community-based project is one of the most frustrating projects. Sometimes, one of the most successful is among the most frustrating. People might argue it doesn’t have to (be frustrating). I would argue back, I am not sure if he/she truly understands the complexities of a true community-based project.

One of the possible source of frustrations from this process is that I follow a learning process/theory called popular education (see Paulo Freire and Myles Horton if interested). While the very large majority of instructors follow traditional learning approaches called pedagogy (teaching for children) and/or andragogy (teaching for adult). Popular education is mostly adopted and continued to be developed in a specific area of sociology and community psychology. While pedagogy and andragogy are exclusive in school of education. Most of their strategies are contradictive.

In addition, I am *very* flexible, but I realize it does create confusions and messiness around me sometimes, and maybe they could be counter-productive. But as long as it produces good impacts on community partners and their immediate communities, that is all that matters to me, to be completely very honest. I don’t mind at all with all the messiness, I will have to deal with them.


” … to put simply, I am lost” : the reality of “unreal” world


” Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.” – Steve Jobs, 6/12/2005

This week, I completed my first sessions working with a total of 51 undergraduate students; out of 275 or so total students  enrolled in the course .  In short, the course is to address students’ anxieties about the “real world” so they can strategize their college years.  The INTER-LS 210 2nd Yr Career Course “Taking Initiative” largely builds on the idea of liberal arts education that encourages students to think creatively about themselves, and eventually about the environment they belong to.

Rightly so, reading my students initial reflective writing, which is one of the assignments in this course, I have learned overwhelming  number of students experiencing fear about the “real world.”  One student wrote, “I have never understood how the real world works.”  This leads me to think, are we (students) now in an unreal world?   This post is my elaboration on the question. Continue reading ” … to put simply, I am lost” : the reality of “unreal” world

Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

Reciprocity, just like many other terms such as equality, justice, participation, have become a rhetoric where we are often stuck with the talk rather than the walk. Because, in each of these terms, it involves at least two completely difference universe.

Let’s talk about it in the context of community-academic partnerships, and I would use a very specific case when people have differing opinions  leading to arguments. A phrase I was told says that “an argument is a moment of a productive conversation.” In this case, at least I would try to explain that the idea of reciprocity means almost nothing. This is because academics and community members are in two very different social constructions when committing to argumentative conversations.

Continue reading Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

A new UNESCO report on community-university partnerships


A new report on community-university research partnerships has been published by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  I have the privilege to work with my colleague UW-Madison Morgridge Center’s Beth Tryon and Loyola CURL’s Phyl Nyden on a chapter that features a critical analysis of practices in the United States.

The Strengthening Community University Research Partnerships: GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES report outlines a number of important practices in how research partnerships are conducted from the beginning to the end.  On their website, the UNESCO introduce the report as “a global study of institutional arrangements for the facilitation and support of research partnerships between Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and Higher Education Institutions (HEI).”

This book is available for download.