Series Provides University Students With Insights into Scranton Community

Community-Based Learning “CBL Talks” Series provides students with the opportunity to learn about Black history, economic insecurity and immigrant inclusion.
Series Provides University Students With Insights into Scranton Community

As the pandemic continued during the spring semester and community-based learning pivoted to a remote format, the Office of Community-Based Learning in collaboration with various campus partners created a new series of “CBL Talks” to give students a way to learn about the city of Scranton’s people, challenges, and opportunities and how students can be a part of positive change.

From February to April, a series of three live sessions were offered to students so they could hear from various speakers from local organizations and ask questions about Scranton community issues and topics. Overall, a total of 280 students and faculty attended the events, often as part of a CBL or other relevant course.

This series began during Black History Month with a presentation from the Black Scranton Project founder and CEO Glynis Johns. In her CBL Talk “Black Scranton Then and Now” on Feb. 23, Johns presented on her research into the longstanding roots of the Black community in the city of Scranton, including notable figures in local Black history, as well as University history related to a regrettable regional and nationwide pattern of past “mock slave auction fundraiser” events. She focused on how we can examine both our city and University history to identify ways in which we can make positive change moving forward, to create a more equitable and inclusive community.

The next “CBL Talk” in the series, “Economic Insecurity Amidst a Pandemic,” was offered to students on Tuesday, March 16. This event featured speakers Lisa Durkin, CEO of United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA, and Meghan Loftus, president and CEO of Friends of the Poor.  Durkin and Loftus shared information about the work of their respective organizations to address the needs of low-income neighbors in our community with the impact of economic, food and housing insecurity, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Durkin discussed the problems of negative assumptions sometimes made about people facing poverty and the stigma that can be associated with receiving charitable or governmental aid. Loftus focused on how their efforts at Friends of the Poor address both urgent needs and long-term solutions and reflected, as a University of Scranton alumna, about the rewards of work in the nonprofit sector.

The final event in the series was on April 12 and focused on “Immigrant Inclusion,” and featured the chairs of Lackawanna County’s Immigrant Inclusion Committee, Alejandra Marroquin and Jenny Gonzalez, who have worked to address bias in the community and advocate for greater inclusion. They talked about the diversity of recent waves of immigration from a variety of Latin American nations, the different factors and causes that lead to migration – from extreme poverty to civil war – and the challenges and promise of the American immigrant experience. Marroquin and Gonzalez also talked about current challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border and the ongoing and urgent need for solidarity.

Co-sponsors included the Office of Community-Based Learning, Office of Community and Government Relations, Center for Service and Social Justice, Black Student Union, Multi-Cultural Affairs Office, and Latin American Studies Program. While instituted during a pandemic year, these events may become an annual tradition, serving as one way to foster community-engaged learning, discussion, collaboration and solidarity. 

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