English lecturer encourages students to rethink citizenship and social justice issues by engaging with the local community
In his research, Michael Lasley examines political moments that have shaped immigrant identity and the growth of community-based learning (CBL) programs in academia. With his advanced writing class, ENGL 106EL, Lasley challenges students to engage—through texts and CBL placements—with both academic theories of what shapes "good citizenship" as well as the practical realities experienced by individuals.
Researching Good Citizenship
Lasley's research on citizenship and CBL programs informs the experiential learning component of ENGL 106EL. "My dissertation is trying to understand the political and economic policies that shaped moments in academia, especially in the 90s, and to situate community-based learning programs within those moments," he explains. "To do that, I'm looking at immigrant identity because the idea of ELSJ or ELSJ programs is to produce good citizens."
Experiential Learning for Social Justice (ELSJ) is a key component of every Santa Clara University student's education, and offers students the opportunity to critically rethink issues of citizenship and immigration in the local community. "The idea of social justice and solidarity with the community seems to be a large part of the Jesuit mission, and I think that having courses that get students into the community to form relationships with people outside our community, even if it's just for a quarter, is important. I think my research is trying to build some sense of solidarity, and I think it fits directly with the core values of the University."
Practicing Good Citizenship
As an advanced English writing course, ENGL 106EL invites students to think about political and social issues deeply and critically through writing. The wide range of immigration-themed CBL placements available to students in the course encourage them to consider the idea of the citizen and how citizenship varies within the community. Opportunities such as tutoring or working with adults studying for their citizenship exam provide students with experiences that may challenge their view of what it means for an individual to be a "good citizen."
Lasley's intention is for students to engage with both individuals in the community and with their own ideas on good citizenship. "The idea of citizenship is tied to the political moment, and the political and economic policies that are enacted affect these communities and the way that they are seen as citizens," Lasley explains. The placements aim to involve students in the larger community in order to "imagine ways of working for change regarding social injustices and to rethink our positions as citizens who have the power to create a more equitable notion of citizenship for everyone."