NEH Summer Institute on Transcendentalism and Reform: The Age of Emerson, Thoreau and Fuller

In June of this year, I spent two weeks in Concord, MA as a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar attending the Transcendentalism Institute.

Highlights of the Institute included visits to Walden Pond and the site of Thoreau’s cabin, the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott, the Black Heritage Trail in Boston, industrial revolution sites in Lowell, and archival libraries in Boston and Concord.

Check out the Massasoit Commons to learn more about my participation in the program, and my responses to some questions about the Institute are below.

What inspired you to apply?
I believe the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes are unparalleled in their depth, breadth, and quality of experience as professional development for college faculty. I was looking for an enriching summer professional development experience and the NEH Transcendentalism Institute in Concord had previously been recommended to me. NEH Summer Institutes are tuition-free, and I encourage any interested faculty at Massasoit and other Massachusetts Community Colleges to apply!

How long did the Institute last, how many participants, from public and private, two and four-year institutions?

The Institute was two weeks long and there were 24 participants who are instructors from a range of institutions across the country including public, private, two and four-year institutions.

What did you gain from it?
I gained an awareness that commitment to the environment, social justice, and human rights in Massachusetts and America stems, in part, from the progressive thinking of individuals in Concord and Boston in the 1800’s.

I have a deeper appreciation for the importance of place-based learning and helping students find their own “Walden” in terms of local stewardship.

I’ve also brought a new focus on the great American tradition of journaling to my  teaching of writing in First Year Composition and developmental writing courses.

What are you teaching this fall?   English Composition 102, Shakespeare, and Reading and Writing Seminar. I also look forward to teaching two sections of American Literature this spring.





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Filed under American Literature, Composition 102, Developmental Reading, Developmental Writing, Experiential Learning, Intro to Humanities, Uncategorized

Reading and Writing Seminar Success!


All 17 students enrolled in ENGL 095-04  Fall 2015 at Massasoit Community College passed this developmental level combined 6-credit course I taught in reading and writing.  On the  last day of classes, students presented their final projects on a theme in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. Projects included multimedia presentations featuring music and visual imagery, as well as original sketches, drawings, and collages.

Here’s our catalog course description. We’re looking for students to enroll in Fall 2016!

ENGL 095 Reading and Writing Seminar 6 credits

This course strengthens students’ reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in preparation for college-level courses. Students develop strong critical reading skills, as well as background knowledge, vocabulary, and study skills. The course involves intensive practice reading complex texts and writing essays that indicate readiness to succeed in ENGL 101 English Composition I and other college-level courses. It also includes the study of usage, mechanics, and sentence development. Credit earned in this course cannot be applied toward graduation. (This course serves as the equivalent of two courses: ENGL 092 Preparing for College Reading II and ENGL 099 Introductory Writing.)

Prerequisites: ENGL 091 Preparing for College Reading I and ENSL 102 College ESL II; waiver by placement testing results; or departmental approval.

COURSE THEME: Art 4 Impact

Build your college reading and writing skills through this arts-themed course focused on at least four genres of the arts: visual arts, music, literature, and film. Through readings and writing assignments about the arts we’ll consider the following questions: Can the arts make us smarter?  How important is creativity to our 21st century lives and careers? Can art bring forth positive change in the world today? You’ll also engage in hands-on projects and activities to explore class readings in creative ways. The course will culminate in a final reading and writing project including your opportunity to make art through your choice of medium and genre. Throughout the semester, expect to engage with the arts firsthand on our Brockton campus!
*No prior artistic experience necessary to enroll – only an interest in creativity and an open mind!

Reading and Writing Seminar SYLLABUS Art4Impact FALL 2015

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Filed under Developmental Reading, Developmental Writing, Integrated Reading and Writing, Teaching Through the Arts, Uncategorized

Teaching College Writing Through Drama Pedagogy

In January, I presented “An Introduction to Drama Pedagogy, An Arts-Based Engagement Strategyat Middlesex Community College’s Winter Workshop for English Part-Time Faculty and “Off the Page, Onto the Classroom Stage: Discoveries Through Play with Text and Language”  at New York City at the CUNY Games Festival, a games-based learning conference.

Here’s my description for my presentation at the CUNY Games Festival:

Looking for new ways to interest and engage students in writing? Using the creative techniques of drama and playwriting, these games will hook students’ attention easily and open new pathways to course learning outcomes. I’m a composition instructor with a passion for drama, and I created these games to “stir up” my classes and encourage students to get excited about writing!

1.“Quote Combat”: An interactive exercise to discover how writers construct arguments

2.“Opposites Attract”: A dialogue writing exercise to explore opposing viewpoints

3. “Eagle Eye”: An interactive exercise to improve observation skills and incorporation of descriptive details into writing

My presentations at Middlesex and at the CUNY Games Festival were both well-received!

Next up, the 2014 American Democracy Project /The Democracy Commitment National Meeting through the Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation initiative in Louisville, Kentucky this June.  Plans are under way for a co-presentation on drama pedagogy and service-learning. Looking forward!

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Filed under Applied Theatre, Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation, Composition 101, Drama Pedagogy, Service Learning, Teaching Writing Through Drama, Uncategorized

The Dark Lady of the Sonnets


Directed by Katherine Di Marca

May 11th,
Shakespeare Slam (2-5 PM), The Burren, Somerville, MA
April 18th, 8PM Semel Theatre, Tufte Building

An Emerson College Graduate Theatre Education Directing Project
& Anarchist Society of Shakespeareans‘ production

Shakespeare is a lover of wit, women, and words in Bernard Shaw’s “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets.”  Caught in a fiery love triangle between Queen Elizabeth and the Dark Lady, Shakespeare risks everything for his art and ambition. Meanwhile music is the food of love for a guitar-playing royal guard who falls head over heels for Shakespeare’s Dark Lady – an Eliza Doolittle of the Elizabethan age. Will love – or art – conquer all?

Shakespeare – Jon Taie
Queen Elizabeth – Marty Seeger Mason
Dark Lady – Mary Ferrara
Royal Guard – Tom Beyer





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Filed under Directing, Shakespeare

Service Learning and the Local Arts Community

DSCN1918  DSCN1919 - Version 2
Fall 2012
HUM 102 Introduction to Humanities at Middlesex Community College
What was the project?
A team-based project involving experiential learning outside the walls of the classroom (in the local community!)
What did students do?
Students visited Lowell Open Studios in October and interviewed local artists as research for a proposed art center in downtown Lowell.
What service did students provide to the community partner?
Students created a booklet of artist profiles and a database of information on local artists and their work.
What goals/objectives were met through integrating service-learning into the course?

Students made real-world connections between Into to Humanities course content and the local community.

Through experiential learning, students now understand:

  • Art can have a positive impact on communities and can create positive change. Expressions of the humanities are not static but dynamic; art is not just a hobby or a type of entertainment but it can affect all of us in powerful/meaningful/life-changing ways depending on our level of engagement with it.
  • Art is communication. Artists communicate messages to us in their work. We need to communicate with each other about their work to more deeply discover meaning.
What was the impact on students?
“I’ve been familiar with Lowell for many years now so I never really gave into the stereotypes; but honestly before Lowell Open Studios “artistic” was never an adjective I would use to describe it. It really opened my eyes to a community in Lowell that I never knew existed. I’m looking forward to attending again soon.”
– Ali V
“I associate Lowell with boxing, with a working class community and never with art, so seeing all this art there was really surprising and nice. It made me see Lowell in a very different context.” – Danny
“I have lived in Lowell for three years now, and since I was never a city girl I had negative views about Lowell when I first moved to the city. I learned very quickly how great Lowell is and now seeing how much Lowell appreciates art makes me love my city even more!” -Vanessa

This service-learning project supports MCC’s participation in the Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation initiative and the Democracy Commitment to foster engaged student citizens.


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Filed under Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation, Intro to Humanities, Service Learning

Senior Moments: Expanding Students’ Perceptions of Senior Citizens Though Image Theatre in English Composition 101

Image Theatre Team Green Image Theatre TEAM GREEN

Image Theatre TEAM RED

Theatre techniques enable students to emotionally connect with senior citizens, or any population, in their struggles and successes.  Image Theatre techniques, in particular,  impact student engagement, motivation, learning, and success when integrated into a writing project.

I transformed my English Composition 101 course at Middlesex Community College in Spring 2013 into a course based on “real-world writing” in which writing for community change  became the main focus.  A class service-learning project to support CTI’s low-income senior volunteer corps in Lowell, MA enabled students to both observe and take a positive role in working for local community change.  I integrated performance-based activities including Boal’s Image Theatre techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed into curriculum to help the students unpack the local community issue and impact student engagement, motivation, learning, and success.

Performance-based activities, when paired with specific writing and research tasks in the curriculum of a college composition course, can engage students and inspire them to work for positive change in their communities.

These changes were assigned to increase students’ competency in writing, critical thinking, and communication skills.

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Filed under Applied Theatre, Composition 101, Drama Pedagogy, Service Learning

From Images to Reality – Image Theatre for Academic Success

In the Fall of 2012, I integrated techniques from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed into the College Success Skills course that I teach at Middlesex Community College’s Early College High School program at Billerica Memorial High School.

From Images to Reality – Image Theatre for Academic Success_FINAL

The attached paper addresses the following goals of my project:

(1) To empower Billerica’s young students with the skills, motivation, and confidence they need to be successful college students.

(2) To align my use of Boal’s techniques in ECHS coursework with the Democracy Commitment, a community college initiative established in 2011. Boal’s techniques are democratic in addressing the specific needs of each student, and would allow each student to participate in his or her own unique way.

The Democracy Commitment (TDC) is a national initiative providing a platform for the development and expansion of community college programs, projects and curricula aiming at engaging students in civic learning and democratic practice across the country. The goal of TDC is that every graduate of an American community college shall have had an education in democracy…. Our declaration states our dedication to the cause of democracy in higher education and to make democratic ideals available to all individuals who desire a voice and a seat at the table of local, state and national democracy  (The Democracy Commitment, 2011).

Through participating in activities such as Image Theatre and Boal’s many theatre games,  students will understand how democracy has shaped their lives and why they ought to support efforts to improve the state of our democracy in America today. As the ECHS students are only fifteen to sixteen year olds, and are taking college courses, educating these students about democratic values when they are young has the potential to make a far-reaching impact on their lives and the direction they choose to take their lives. By the time they are eighteen, not only will they make the decision to vote because they understand the importance of voting in their lives and communities, but they might also be motivated to be civically engaged in other ways – for example, volunteering their time to community development projects.

(3) To connect students with one another and the larger community. Six weeks into this school year, I was struck by how one student responded to the following question, “Who are you right now?” She wrote, “I am a sophomore with really no input on the world.” This student is voicing a frustration about feeling disconnected with the world. I can’t help but read this statement as a plea from this student for a sense of purpose in her life. Aligning Boal’s techniques with the objectives of Democracy Commitment will help to empower this young woman and all the young people in the ECHS program. I plan to integrate a service-learning component into the course next year so that students can feel more connected to their local community and understand the ideas of democracy in action – building and connecting communities.

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Filed under Applied Theatre, College Success Skills, Drama Pedagogy