By Sophie Foster
The Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is looking to increase student engagement with the Chestertown community — an endeavor that starts with increased conversation about opportunities for interaction.
A fixture at Washington College, the Starr Center “explores the American experience in all its diversity and complexity, seeks creative approaches to illuminating the past, and inspires thoughtful conversation informed by history,” according to the WC website, which identifies hands-on learning and interactive experiences off-campus as key tenets of the Center’s mission at present.
According to Deputy Director of the Starr Center Pat Nugent, “the Starr Center is interested in learning more from students, staff, faculty, and community stakeholders about how we can support and connect all of the incredible civic engagement work already going on at the College.”
Nugent said that the Center is looking to bolster some of the civic engagement work being done by students and faculty, with an emphasis on collaboration.
“From what I’ve heard in my conversations with students so far, two important themes continue to resonate,” he said. “First, they report that students, staff, and faculty are currently doing a breathtaking amount of civic engagement work to serve and collaborate with off-campus communities. And second, they believe the campus community can and should do more.”
The Student Government Association’s Senate minutes from Feb. 15 noted current student projects for furthering community involvement in the Chestertown and Kent County area, including the SGA’s role in petitions and resolutions regarding housing discrimination in town; the Black Student Union’s work establishing a mentorship program between town youth and Black students of the College; and the College Democrats’ efforts to bring voter registration drives and Congressional candidates to the campus.
Going forward, the Starr Center hopes to build on these approaches by keeping communication open between the student body and members of the broader community, centering the dialogue about and promotion of collaborative endeavors between the College and the Chestertown communities.
One such undertaking is the Chesapeake Heartland Project. According to the project’s website, it is “an innovative new collaboration between Washington College, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a broad array of community partners in Kent County” that aims to “preserve, share, curate, and interpret a broad array of material that documents the many facets of Kent County’s African American history and culture.”
The Starr Center wants to generate more ideas and initiatives that align with the goals of this project and others like it, Nugent said.
According to the SGA minutes, 5% of the population of Kent County lives on the WC campus, which indicates substantial room for working with the surrounding community in new, innovative ways.
Nugent is assembling a team of WC representatives to attend the Campus Compact Virtual Conference, which will be held from March 29 to March 31. The conference, which aims to address civic engagement, provides an opportunity to consider what other colleges are doing in that realm.
There are numerous opportunities for students to seek out civic engagement on their own, be it through ongoing initiatives or the proposal of new ones. Students who are interested in engaging with the community can contact Nugent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Olivia Dorsey
Featured Photo Caption: For the remainder of the spring semester, the Starr Center for the American Experience (above) seeks to further encourage, engage, and connect Washington College students with the surrounding Chestertown community.