At our fall residency, we celebrated the landmark studies of three new graduates:
- Krista Gromalski, who is helping young journalists tell the stories of their communities in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region;
- Nina Smolyer who shows us how to embrace conflicts within communities as a path toward sustainability and health; and
- Kyla Marie Basher, who advocates for creative natural spaces in education.
Here are summaries of their graduating student presentations. For prospective students interested in undertaking similar work: stay tuned! We plan to launch a new MA program involving social innovation and sustainability soon.
Coal Cracker: Youth–led Engagement Journalism Creating Positive Change Through Culture, with SBC graduating student Krista Gromalski. This presentation tells the story of my journey toward launching Coal Cracker—a mission– driven media outlet using the lens of critical literacy to cultivate young journalists within Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region. A place–based approach is applied, which recognizes culture as a fourth pillar of sustainability alongside people, planet and profit, viewing culture as a dynamic and participatory process capable of synthesizing positive community transformation by fostering shared connection and the capacity for personal reflection, self–expression, community dialogue and solution–based action. Engagement journalism, youth participatory action research, arts based research, aesthetic journalism, critical literacy and storytelling are examined and recommended as pedagogical tools that can facilitate civic participation and connection to place.
Conflict is Not Real! And How to Realize That, with graduating SBC student Nina Smolyar. Sustainability is imperative for humanity, given the grave risks of the current ecological degradation and social strife on the planet. Living and working in intentional community is one of the strategic changes society needs to implement, on the path to sustainability. While community can be a beautiful way to live, it is often too difficult for people to sustain, and part of the reason for such difficulty is our conditioned negative relationship with conflict. However, it is possible to view and embrace conflict as the powerful force that it can be for personal healing & growth, and for strengthening the community. Such an embrace includes personal development work to grow in self–awareness, neutralize stress, and nurture positive emotions during conflict. It also includes compassionate communication and a deep respect for everyone’s needs, boundaries and autonomy. Committing to the project of personal evolution and growth in self–love and acceptance and to extend the same to others is the pathway from dysfunction and suffering to transformation, responsibility and harmony. In this presentation, I analyze the psychological dynamics and contributing factors to conflict in community, such as stress and denial. I follow with offering some fresh perspectives, methods and tools for transforming conflict and strengthening a community, both on the individual plane and in interpersonal relationships, through self–care, self–reflection, re– framing and commitment. Time permitting; I will also cite examples of various instances and outcomes of conflict in community from my personal experiences. Lastly, I aim to incorporate a centering exercise: a guided visualization and meditation, to demonstrate a piece of the discussed strategy for conflict transformation.
Seeking the Edges: Advocating for Creative Natural Spaces in Education, with Kyla Marie Basher. The best way to educate for both personal and global sustainability is to understand ourselves as part of a dynamic, symbiotic and organic process that is informed by our relationship with the natural world, each other and the places we inhabit. To do this we look to the natural world for inspiration and guidance. Ecological Edges and Ecotones can provide insight to the way we look at education and our connection to place and the outdoors. Ecological Edges are meeting places between two ecosystems which give rise to Ecotones or the zones of transition occurring as a result of Edge–space.