An Inter-institutional Partnership to Promote Community Health
Published April 02, 2014 under Voices of DGHI
By Suellen Li
Our Bass Connections project team is busy preparing for an intensive summer project in an under resourced neighborhood in Dallas. We will use community-based documentary tools such as PhotoVoice to tell the Highland Hills community’s story of living with environmental injustices. The neighborhood is a food desert. With only a local convenience store selling primarily junk food, families are left without healthy and affordable alternatives. In addition, the community has been the victim of proposed city legislations to dump most of the city of Dallas’s trash at the Highland Hills landfill. We hope to empower the community to make their voice heard through images and videos that will raise awareness about these issues, and spark change that will improve the well-being of the neighborhood.
To tackle this project, we have assembled a very unique team of faculty and students from many disciplines and from two different places—Duke and Paul Quinn College, Durham, and Dallas. The students and faculty members have been meeting regularly via Google Hangouts, a platform which has allowed us to bring together our diverse backgrounds and perspectives to work on this project. Our classroom is set up with cameras so that everyone can see each other, and can contribute equally to the conversation. Each class involves interactive back-and-forth discussions between members of the two institutions. A faculty member will pose a question, and students from both sides of the computer screen are able to answer and bounce ideas off each other.
The distance-learning aspect of this project has been a challenge, especially when it comes to working collaboratively on different assignments or putting together workshops and skills training sessions. However, this inter-institutional collaboration has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the project. For the Duke team members, the students at Paul Quinn provide crucial insight into the community in which we will be working. Their perspective, passion, and knowledge of the community have been essential in the development of the project. For the students at Paul Quinn, the collaboration gives them access to the resources and opportunities available at a large research institution such as Duke. They are able to work closely with faculty researchers to design and conduct a research project that benefits the community around them.
We still have a lot of work to do before we go into the field this summer, but we have a truly amazing team in place, and are excited to work with the Highland Hills community to put our ideas into practice. We will be blogging about our progress throughout the next couple of months, especially once we get to Dallas, so stay posted!