Teaching the Action Horizon

Through this immersive academic experience I learned how to use new media to analyze complex social problems.

I walked into the classroom on the first day, and I was presented with a surprise. There were no desks. There were about 16 chairs organized in a circle. Multiple video cameras were set up to record the circle of chairs from every corner of the room. So much for sleeping through this class.

Somehow, I registered for a pilot class that had just been invented by the Executive Director of the Writing Program, Dr. Richard E. Miller. The class was sponsored by Apple, we had an Emmy nominated backpack video journalist, Bill Gentile, train us during the second week, and I learned how to use the internet for something other than a distraction.

I knew, on the first day, this was the moment I had been waiting for. I immediately knew that I had finally found what I was missing.

Through this immersive academic experience I learned how to analyze complex social problems using new media. I have come to find this skill to be worth great value as it may be the key to a door that leads to an opportunistic future for humankind. Look for me in the video…you can see/hear me say “This has to come with me.”

As you read through the next few sections I kindly ask that you remember the items in this list:

  1. Humanity
  2. Community
  3. Incubation
  4. Impact

Reconnecting With My Humanity

This class reconnected me with my humanity. Something magical happened to me when I was collaborating with my group on our project. We had to research the gray area of a particular issue. It took at least a full eight hour day for me to understand that the research we were doing on the laptops in class was not necessarily looking for any one thing in particular. I must have raised my hand ten times asking one of the teachers or mentors, “Is this right? How about this? Should I do it this way?”

Typically, we were told to memorize things in school, and match the letters up with exact answers. This type of testing did not prepare me for the realities of the economy.

In this class, we were working on a project from day one. We were told what the end goal was — a video. We were given tools and skills through short lessons provided by the professor at the beginning of the course. It was up to us to work together to determine who was going to do which parts of the project and to figure out how we might best leverage the collaborative power of working with four people.

Each group was to have completed their video by the last day of class. I had never interviewed someone or edited video or created anything close to this project. I had to make decisions about which direction to take my research in. I was given the agency to make these decisions myself. Filming the various stakeholders in the community as they voiced their emotions and voiced their concerns I absorbed their presence and listened with intention. To see how appreciative these people were that someone was willing to listen to them and create access to information showcasing their story was incredibly moving. This is what life is all about. Socializing. Helping. Seeing the joy in someone’s eyes.

Thank you for everything, Julia.

This is when I began to establish the relationships with community members who helped me sew myself into the cultural fabric of the city.

Immersing myself in the community

After the class was over, I utilized those relationships. I immersed myself in the community. I had never done anything like this. “Getting involved in the community” was not something the “cool kids” would do.

The first person I followed up with was a community organizer who was working in local city politics. I quickly learned there was no access to information in the city. Residents had almost no way to find out what was going on unless they attended the city council meetings for themselves. This was nearly impossible for most who worked various jobs to support their families.

I began filming city council meetings to provide a window into the way things were running.

That led to me filming the board of education meetings for mothers who would call me because of a situation happening with her child.

After working in government, politics, and education, I naturally moved into the art and culture scene. In the following video, you will see an event I hosted at my home — that’s my apartment in the video — ArtHouse can take place in any home, apartment, building, or available space. The organizers will come to the home the night before the event and transform the space into an art museum, spoken word poetry performance, and basement show with bands from the local area.

I settled into the art and culture scene. I enjoyed it the most. I felt most welcomed. Perhaps because there was little oversight. We were guided by our own decisions.

One of the videos was a 45 minute documentary for an all ages arts and music event known as, Hub City Revival. Here is the trailer:

I filmed, edited, and produced about 10 videos for local organizations over the course of the year. Each project allowed me to deepen my sense of empathy for others. Especially the Haiti Tribute in Highland Park:

I refined my video editing skills and was now being offered paid jobs from various departments in the university. Continue reading to see how I went from an intern to the CEO of my first company in 90 days.

Other notable videos were the 20 minute multimedia composition for the Rutgers School of Social Work’s Summer Housing Internship Program, and the Citizenship Rutgers video for the Eagleton Program on Immigration and Democracy:

Transformative Learning Experiences

Something happened to me in the class. That “something” I refer to is one of the transformational learning experiences we now offer our scholars in Action Horizon. I realized if we offer this training early in the program, then it will drive the decisions the scholars make as they move through their life. As it did for me, it will recalibrate the scholar’s mindset, reconnect her with her humanity, and cultivate a deep sense of empathy. All of which are prerequisites of becoming a social entrepreneur. Learn more about how I am doing this by reading my Theory of Change.