CCBL Conference Set for Sept. 27-28
When Luis Lopez ’88 M’89 became principal of his alma mater, Franklin High School, in heavily Latino Highland Park, he was determined to reduce the high dropout rate.
A math major in college, Lopez knew that passing ninth-grade algebra had become a major obstacle to student retention.
So he turned to math faculty and students at nearby Occidental College. Going beyond conventional tutoring, faculty and students in Mathematics 201, “Mathematics, Education, and Access to Power,” collaborated with Franklin faculty to shape what Lopez calls “a formula for how to teach math in ways beyond the book.”
That partnership and other collaborations between Occidental and Franklin reflect both the quality of Lopez's leadership -- Franklin’s retention rate from ninth to tenth grade improved by almost 50 percent in just one year -- and the unique character of Occidental's community-based learning program, the focus of a Sept. 27-28 conference at the college.
In community-based learning, “academic credit is based on research, analysis, and creative work -- not simply community participation,” said Maria Avila, director of Occidental’s Center for Community Based Learning (CCBL). “Relationships with community partners are the result of a thoughtful, deliberate collaboration based on mutual self-interest and genuine respect.”
The celebration of the six-year-old center’s efforts will feature a keynote address by Manuel Pastor, professor of geography and American studies and ethnicity at USC, "Public or Perish: Engaged Scholarship, Community Connections and the Future of the Academy," and presentations by faculty, students and community partners about successful collaborations in a wide range of fields.
Dozens of community-based learning classes are now offered at Occidental each year in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, working with such community partners as the Little Tokyo Service Center, the YWCA of Glendale, Solheim Lutheran Home in Eagle Rock, and many local schools. Occidental’s work has drawn visitors from colleges across the country, including Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Hawaii Pacific University, and the University of San Diego.
The conference in the lower level of Herrick Chapel and Interfaith Center will begin on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. with a welcome by Occidental President Susan Prager and stories about their experiences in community-based learning by students, faculty, and community partners, followed by a mixer.
The second day of the conference, which will begin at 9 a.m., features panels with faculty, students, and community partners and a 12:30 p.m. luncheon and keynote speech by Pastor. “Our purpose is to provide a forum in which all partners can share the lessons learned over the past six years, and how this approach can be applied in the future,” Avila said.