Thursday, January 20, 2011

Introductions: What is the Urban Studies Department at Eastern University?

Welcome social revolutionaries, change makers, advocates, community organizers, people who want to make a difference!  

The Urban Studies Department at Eastern University is a place where people such as yourself meet, learn, and become change in urban communities.  The Urban Studies Department primarily functions through the Masters of Arts in Urban Studies (MAUS) program. While I could give you a long explanation of the program's history, purpose, format, and content, it is only when I share about the change being done in Urban Communities that you will really understand the heart of the MAUS program.

What is the MAUS program? MAUS is a program deeply committed to revitalization of urban communities through the avenue of three concentrations: Community Development, Youth Leadership and the Arts in Transformation.  With a purpose of preparing student to be change agents serving in urban communities, have we succeeded in fulfilling this in our student's lives?  From the contact I have had with alumni over the last few month, I can emphatically say YES!

Let me share with you some stories that have grown out of the Urban Studies Department at Eastern University!

Ron Tinsley 08' Youth Leadership concentration

"I am the Communications Director at Philadelphia Mennonite High School. But since I graduated, the school has also made me the Bible teacher. I was hesitant at first because I saw myself as taking a break from any work related to youth ministry,  since I moved on from Young Life in 2006. But as I thought about it, I saw these classes as a way to communicate many of things I learned in the Urban Studies program. Along with teaching Old Testament, New Testament and Church History, I am able to infuse basic research methods, youth ministry, and social justice issues into my class. This has allow me to not only to expose the students to new ideas but to minister to them as well. Although I am limited physically to the classroom, I am able to make full use of technology to broaden their horizons. The goal is to help them be more spiritually aware of the things going on around them and prepare them to be lovers of people and God's Word."

Janice Gillyard 08' Community Development Concentration

"I am the founder of Faithfully Fresh Community Produce Market, a small shop that makes affordably priced fresh fruit and vegetables available to the residents of an inner city Philadelphia neighborhood.  People come to Faithfully Fresh not just for the quality and variety of the produce but also because nothing is sold for over $2.00.  In the current economy household budgets are stretched to the point of breaking.  But limited, financial resources do not reduce the need for families to eat healthy and nutritious meals. In business for just over one year, Faithfully Fresh has quickly become an important resource in the Frankford community.  But it only exists because of Eastern University’s Urban Studies program.  Born out of a business plan written for a thesis project, this market is the result of everything that was learned in the time spent at Eastern. 
In September of 2008, Faithfully Fresh began work as a community partner with the Allen M. Stearne Elementary School.  We worked with two sixth grade classes who themselves also became change agents through their assistance in preparing the produce for sale to their classmates as well as to the faculty and school staff.  It is really rewarding to watch young children begin the process of understanding the importance of good nutrition and then following through by actually choosing healthy snacks in place of the usual junk food.   Mrs. Darlene Vaughn, the principal has already invited us back next year.  We have also received a request to replicate this project in an area high school.

Who would have thought that something as simple as a produce market could make a difference in an urban neighborhood?  But by God’s grace Faithfully Fresh Community Produce Market is impacting the lives of families in Frankford one apple, orange and grape at a time."