We are a cycle and we are now complete


Thursday May 9th was the last instructional day of spring semester 2013. We gathered in Room 15 Science Hall to deliver what we have learned from our community-based research to The Natural Step Monona (TNS Monona). It sounded like any other classes in the last week of semester. However, it was rather special for me–a bittersweet moment–after deeply involved in three-academic-year of community-university partnership between the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and TNS Monona, we arrived to the end of a cycle.


Here it is a list of highlights from how I reflect on the partnership:

  • It allowed a collaboration between TNS Monona (a grassroots community organization focusing on sustainability) and Randy Stoecker (a professor with expertise on civic engagement). After working with each of them separately, I know the two knowledge–local knowledge and academic knowledge–can complement each other in creating the change they have been fighting for.
  • It allowed me to experience in-practice how local knowledge and academic knowledge interacted from the initial stage until the final stage in a community-based project. This means, I was able to observe how an issue was diagnose, strategies were prescribed and then implemented, and lastly impacts were evaluated.  Especially the evaluation part, it is a stage of research that is limitedly conducted by many.  Being able to run them all in a long-term community-university partnership like this one, and experienced how TNS Monona and Randy interacted, is a real privilege.

  • It allowed me to work alongside with three uniquely talented and dedicated groups of Nelson Institute undergraduate students. From the beginning, Randy and I realized that a community-based project is not a popular topic. We were very pleased to have these students who passed an unusually-serious test by submitting a writing assignment before the first meeting. The submission told us a LOT about them.

Pictures of students from all of the three capstone groups

The title of this reflection was inspired by a tweet from one of my students Antonia McGinn @missmcginn. It came from Randy’s closing statement, apparently was important enough for her to put in her tweet. And it was too for me.

This whole partnership has more values to me as I have been involved in this project from the very beginning in Fall 2008 when started to be a part of TNS Monona. Hoping to graduate next year, this partnership is among my academic highlights during this graduate study career. Being able to start a partnership with a grassroots community, connect them with a higher education institution like UW-Madison, facilitate a partnership between them, engage students and learn together with them, I could say that all of these have been my dream. And I am more than pleased that I could have the experience to go through every single of them.

We are a cycle and we are now complete. A memory that will last for a very long time in my life.

Please consider this post as a reflection that I owe to my students.  Especially after asking them to submit a weekly reflection for 16 weeks for each of the three capstone courses.

Thank YOU!