It’s a common experience for many university undergraduates: You’re told to spend a certain number of hours doing community service, you log the hours during the semester, you get the grade, you move on.
This setup often benefits the student more than it does the community organization, who has to manage a rotating cast of untrained volunteers, fill out paperwork on their behalf, and start all over again four months later.
But there are other ways to think about university–community partnerships. One nationally recognized example is right here in our own backyard: the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School, a collaborative program at the University of Wisconsin’s campuses in Milwaukee and Madison.
The Field School has done a number of projects, including sustained work in Milwaukee neighborhoods like Washington Park. This work has been featured on the Human Powered podcast from Wisconsin Humanities, the Love Wisconsin project, and most recently in The Progressive magazine.
For today’s show, guest host Richelle Wilson is joined by architecture professor and Field School co-founder Arijit Sen, architecture PhD candidate Chelsea Wait, and professor and reporter Douglas Haynes
They talk about the transformative work of the Field School, the role of reciprocity in university–community partnerships, the importance of care work, the argument for repair over redevelopment, and how higher ed can and should reimagine itself in the wake of the pandemic.
Arijit Sen teaches architectural design, urbanism, and cultural landscapes at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. He is co-founder of the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School.
Chelsea Wait is a PhD candidate in architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Douglas Haynes is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh and an affiliate of the Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations.
Cover photo: Film still from YouTube video “UWM students document culture and history of Milwaukee’s overlooked neighborhoods,” courtesy of UW–Milwaukee