A few weeks ago I went to an event at the University of Southern Maine on the barriers New Mainers face in navigating higher education. There was a panel of refugees ranging from high school students to one of my co-workers at Catholic Charities who finished law school. There was also a panel of individuals working in service organizations and education. Here is a link to a story MPBN did on the event: MPBN event.
After the event at USM, I was able to interview two individuals working at different local high schools. Our conversations were fascinating, and I was surprised to find out how high the percentage of refugee and immigrant students were in the two schools (at the school in downtown Portland it’s about 1/4, and at the other school ten minutes out of town it’s about 1/3). In both conversations we spoke about barriers these students face, the biggest being language, as well as the programs schools are using to address these issues.
The interviews I have been able to conduct have been very rewarding and I have met some of the nicest people through the process. That said, it has been a lot more difficult than I expected to get individuals to commit to an interview. I feel that my project is only just now really gaining some ground and I don’t feel ready to return to school for the senior conference and then classes. I am excited to start the writing process again, but I feel as if I need more time to follow up on all of the new contacts I have been given (perhaps I will have to come back to Portland on the weekends or conduct interviews over the phone). I do not know if one ever feels quite finished with this type of research, but I definitely feel as if I need more closure to this project. Six weeks has felt like just enough time to get my bearings and to skim the surface. It is hard to leave just as I am getting at the good stuff!
This past week I have had the pleasure of going through and coding the recordings of all of the interviews I have conducted so far this Field Work Term. While this can be somewhat laborious, the chance to see some of larger themes coming across in multiple interviews has been really wonderful. So many of the students I have talked to talk about what a positive influence the Bennington Sustainable Food Project has had on their education here, from the people they have met, to the opportunity to be a part of a group that is working together an enacting real change here on campus. I have seen interview after interview, people talking about the importance and the value of community, both within the Bennington Sustainable Food Project and the school at large. It has been a gift to be reminded of how intelligent, diversely interested, compassionate, and amazing my fellow students are here at Bennington are.
I arrived at my interviewee’s home mildly sick and bundled against the chill of this unusually cold New Orleans winter. I was welcomed in, preoccupied with how I would suppress my coughs for the sake of the audio recording, and was pleasantly surprised by a warm and welcoming tea spread in his living room. We chatted and the interview got started, taking a familiar trajectory right off the bat.
“Nature for me is something that I’m not connecting to in New Orleans and so I- when I think about it I almost feel lost […] Nature for me is- in this area is, the swamps and dangerous and kind of scary and uncomfortable.” We continued to talk, covering topics from the mostly invisible but groaning Mississippi to the museum-like Audubon Park, this feeling of disconnect following through. “You know, we’re sealed off from the river. We don’t- we have this big wall that goes down, so we can’t even really see it unless Read More…
This winter I have had the opportunity to have some really fantastic conversations in the interviews I have been conducting with members of the Bennington Sustainable Food Project (BSFP) and administrators at Bennington College.
I have been hearing about the experiences my friends and peers have had here at Bennington and with the BSFP, and have been overawed by their excitement and enthusiasm for Bennington and the educational opportunities offered here. And in talking with administrators I’ve been able to pick the brains of the people who shape the Bennington educational experience in a very real way, and see how they think about how students are and should be taught here. The timing of these conversations could not be better, as I begin to reflect upon my own time here and prepare for my final term. All in all, I count myself lucky as I cherish the opportunity I have been given to conduct this research, have these conversations, and hopefully have a positive influence myself on the education here, all because of how Bennington is structured and the focus that is put upon student driven education.
I very much look forward revisiting these conversation (quite literally as I go back and code my recordings) and to seeing where they take me, it has certainly been a great ride so far.
I had made the mistake of sitting almost directly under the speakers that provided music for the whole cafe. Some soft rock was playing right above our heads, and it seemed to rain down directly into my recorder. Still our conversation moved along. “And um, but, it seems like the way that I feel constantly changes. You know it goes from not thinking about the place [Baku, Azerbaijan], there’s nothing that ties me to there, but at the same time I lived there for thirteen years. You can’t take that out, you can’t take that away.” I nodded in agreement. At the start of this project, I didn’t think I was going to be examining the spaces of diaspora (whether those spaces are emotional, mental, cultural, geographical, etc.). But here I was, listening to a woman describe the constant tension she experienced in trying to reconcile her relationship with two different homes (Providence and Baku).
That sense of home, however bifurcated, was tied directly to the people she was with. In Baku, her fellow Bakutsi Armenians, her Azerbaijani neighbors, her Russian schoolmates Read More…
My name is Jiray and I am a senior at Bennington where I study anthropology. My senior work has taken the shape of a thesis on the Nagorno-Karabakh War (fought between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the late 80s/early 90s). Here is where things get interesting! Originally, I had planned to travel to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) for my independent study in order to interview Karabakhtsis (Armenian term for people who live in NKR) on Armenian social identity (i.e. various traditions and practices that make Armenians in distinct form others). Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, I was unable to travel to Armenia or NKR. In light of those changes, I will be undertaking my independent study in Rhode Island, where I am from.
In many ways this adjustment has been an ongoing challenge, but in the week that I’ve spent preparing my reoriented IS, I realized a number of really important things I may have taken for granted had my plans gone accordingly. In conversations with Noah and Mirka, I realized that doing participant observation amongst Armenians (especially in disparate places like NKR and the northeast United States) begs the question: where does one observe a diaspora community? What common denominator ties these geographically separated populations together? Is it possible to link observations and interviews done in an Armenian community in Providence, RI to the lived experience of those Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh?
I realized that, as Razmik Panossian puts it, the Armenian “nation” is Read More…
My name is Scott Milliman, and I am a senior studying environmental studies and education here at Bennington, with the intention of pursuing a career in outdoor education after graduation. Over the course of this Field Work Term I will be conducting interviews with students and administrators at Bennington College in preparation for my senior work. My research is on the Bennington Sustainable Food Project (BSFP), a student organization at Bennington, with a focus on the educational value involvement in the BSFP affords students, and in turn to the college. I will be trying to discern whether or not students learn useful skills or build capacities through their involvement with student organizations like the BSFP. My research is also rooted in the educational philosophy of John Dewey, and in the more contemporary educational model of experiential education, and I hope to use this theoretical basis to ground my findings as well as to join in the discussion on co-curricular education and the role of experiential education in higher ed. In addition to my research I will be working as an EMT with a local ambulance provider, and I will be living here in beautiful North Bennington, Vermont.