Prof. Erin Johnson Honored for Bringing Community Service to the Classroom

Erin Johnson

Erin Johnson, a visiting assistant professor at Bowdoin in the two departments of Visual Arts and Digital and Computational Studies, is being recognized for making public service an integral part of her classes.

Each year, Maine Campus Compact honors faculty members in Maine who excel at incorporating community service into their teaching. Johnson is one of three professors receiving the organization’s 2018 Donald Harward Faculty Award for Service-Learning Excellence, and will be recognized at a gala event at Bates College on April 25. “Being chosen for this award is a tribute to your teaching, commitment, and advocacy,” Sally Slovenski, the organization’s executive director, wrote in an email to Johnson.

Maine Campus Compact is a coalition of 18 colleges and universities that aims to “reinvigorate” the civic mission of higher education, so as to help campuses develop informed and active citizens, stronger communities, and a more just democratic society, according to its website.

In a statement, Slovenski says the Donald Harward Faculty Award recognizes outstanding Maine faculty who “have shown clear evidence of reflection, community benefit, reciprocity with community partners, and a commitment to advocating for service-learning and/or community action on campus and beyond.”

Johnson has integrated community action and service learning into her courses in different ways. This semester, she is teaching a course called Art, Technology, and Design for Social Change. Working in interdisciplinary teams, her students are designing and implementing dynamic art projects and new technological tools for two nonprofits in Maine — Catholic Charities, which assists immigrants and refugees, and Avesta Housing, which helps Mainers access affordable housing. The projects will help these organizations solve specific challenges they presented to students at the start of the semester. [A more detailed story on this course will be posted on Bowdoin’s website in the coming weeks.]

Johnson has also taught a class titled Site-Specifics: Production of Socially Engaged Media, in which students worked with local organizations and elementary students to create video, sound, and new media artworks that were distributed and displayed through mobile devices, projection, installation and online platforms.

“I am really invested in connecting teaching with the larger community and opening up the classroom,” Johnson said. “These classes allow students to learn more about the state they’re living in and contribute to the good work that is happening in the Brunswick area and beyond.”

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