November 9th, 2012

Faith, self-awareness, and community engagement were the trending themes last Friday, November 2, at the 2012 Lifetime of Learning Conference: Engaging in Dialogues about Power and Privilege in Service to Build Inclusive Communities.

The event, held at APP Cornerstone Member Birmingham-Southern College, brought together more than 60 higher education, faith, and community partners for dialogue prompted by speakers who challenged attendees to think deeply on how race, personal biases, faith perspectives, and cultural familiarity shape an individual or group’s community service.

Jackie Walker, coordinator of service-learning at BSC’s Bunting Center, reflected on a key theme of the dialogue, “Listening is where the magic happens. Listeners will greatly impact both sides of a service-learning interaction, but we need to open up even more than we have. How will we listen without everyone at the table?”

Dr. Yvette Richardson of the Alabama State Board of Education kicked off the day’s programming with a spirited take on the need for motivated, personal, and committed service efforts to bring about sustainable change. Kristina Scott, APP Executive Director, offered attendees county-by-county statistics on poverty and inequality in Alabama in order to shed light on how power and privilege affect financial security for Alabamians.

Keynote speakers Dr. Nadjwa Norton, associate professor at the City College of New York, and Dr. Courtney Bentley, associate professor at the APP member University of Montevallo, spoke to conference attendees about the power of self-awareness in service to communities.

Dr. Norton offered that in order to best structure a community service initiative, an individual or group needs to read, reflect, and discern on the rhythms, needs, assets, and members of that community. She lives in New York City and her flight to Birmingham was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. Thanks to Skype, she was able to join us anyway.

Highlights of the conference were research and service-learning presentations delivered by community and higher education partners from Baptist Church of the Covenant, Jacksonville State University, Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, Northwest-Shoals Community College, and the University of Montevallo.

Nora Lee, advisor for the Alabama Region of Phi Theta Kappa, said of her students’ participation, “It was a great conference, and my students were thrilled to have the chance to do a presentation.”

Many thanks to this year’s Lifetime of Learning co-sponsors: BSC and the University of Montevallo.