#CapturingCommunity: Caitlin Thornbrugh

canva-photo-editor (3)Name: Caitlin Thornbrugh
Role within Service-Learning: Faculty member for Service-Learning courses First-Year Writing and First-Year Writing for Multilingual Learners

How are your values expressed through your community engagement and Service-Learning work?
In every class I teach, I try not to shy away from difficult conversations while at the same time making sure all voices are valued and heard. Part of doing this is assigning readings that help us engage with race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. With Service-Learning, we get to take what we read and discuss in the classroom and act on it in our community. I believe writing creates change and hope my students come to learn how the two are connected. I also believe urban universities are directly connected to and responsible for their cities; Service-Learning is one way students and faculty can begin to learn about their place in this relationship.

What is one thing everyone should know about Service-Learning?
It’s surprising (in a good way)! It always brings up unexpected things for everyone involved- students, faculty, community partners, etc. I have learned so much from each person involved and continue to with every class discussion.

Did you find Service-Learning or did Service-Learning find you?
Both! A decade ago, as a Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major, I did Service-Learning as an undergrad and loved it. This is my first semester working with the S-L program at Northeastern. I first heard about it during the Writing Program’s new faculty orientation.

What is your favorite memory of Service-Learning?
So far this semester, one of the class discussions that has stuck out to me is about this Grace Lee Boggs quote: “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it; unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” All of my students spoke thoughtfully about their own communities and our collective classroom, university, city, country, and world. The class discussion took place a day or two after the Florida shooting and one of my students brought up gun violence and what it means to swipe away a news alert on your phone. He talked about how we’re all complicit and responsible for one another. This inspired me and made me even more committed to connecting our work with Service-Learning to both the local and global community.

If Service-Learning were a song, what would it be and why?
There are so many great songs about creating change. I’m going to go with “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. He’s asking questions about what is going on in our society, calling out police brutality, and also wanting to bring love to the problem. It’s also important to think about the long history of the issues we have been singing/fighting/talking about and working toward helping with Service-Learning.


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