Community-Engaged Scholars Tackle Daisy Wilson

From time to time in this space we like to have a guest blogger join us to share a unique or interesting story. Today is no different. Meet Dr. Evan Stoddard.  Dr. Stoddard serves as Associate Dean of the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts. Today, he shares his experience teaching the Community and University Social Justice Honors Seminar during the spring semester.

I’ve also included a few photos from the final presentations.


“Community-Engaged Scholars Tackle Daisy Wilson”

These Duquesne students just get better and better. Every time I teach the Community and University Social Justice Honors Seminar my students exceed my expectations. This semester was no exception. Here’s some background.

The Daisy Wilson Artist Community, a small nonprofit, wants to restore famous playwright August Wilson’s boyhood house in the historic Hill District, just blocks from Duquesne University’s campus. In 2011 Daisy Wilson entered into a signature partnership with Duquesne’s Honors College. Duquesne promised to help Daisy Wilson accomplish its goal; students learn important lessons in the process—about the Hill, African-American culture and history, August Wilson, how to work effectively in a multidisciplinary team, and more.

In spring 2012 the Community and University seminar developed a strategic plan for the partnership. The spring 2013 seminar created a narrated tour of August Wilson’s Hill District and supported a community celebration of drama and music on the grounds next to the August Wilson house.

This semester Daisy Wilson asked if we could help with business planning and preparing for crowdfunding. The students did that—and way more.

Stepping back from a business plan, they asked, “What problems can the house solve?” Since they didn’t know, they asked. They surveyed Hill residents and others and developed three outstanding pitches that Daisy Wilson can consider making to prospective investors. The house could include:
• A bed and breakfast with an African-American appeal
• A community center focused on college preparation for teens and rental space for receptions and meetings
• A center to showcase the Hill’s rich history

Thinking of prospective investors, my students noted that Daisy Wilson had no presence on the Web—none. So with Daisy Wilson’s support they created one. They built a Web site and created a Facebook page. In the process they created logos for Daisy Wilson and for the signature partnership. They also made a simple brochure and designed a banner for the house to inform passers-by of its significance.

When they presented their work to the board of Daisy Wilson this week they got the accolades they deserved. Imagine the value of the work the students contributed to the partnership this semester to strengthen the Hill community. Also imagine how much they learned in the process.

Dr. Evan Stoddard

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