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Communication Studies

Communication Studies at Edmonds Community College

Department of Speech - A Community of Voices

A Case Study Project

Contents of this folder:

History of the project:

The Community of Voices project at Edmonds Community College began with the idea planted by the Washington Center-sponsored workshop "Critical Moments: A case story approach to cultural diversity". The "Critical Moments" paradigm, developed by Diane Gillespie and Reshell Ray (1998), used case stories to "prepare students to respond proactively to campus events that involve issues of race, gender and class."

A cross-section of college members attended the workshop and discussed how to implement some of these ideas on the EDCC campus. From this seed of an idea, the EDCC college community nurtured a vision that has finally come to fruition. Using some of the process elements suggested by the Critical Moments project, the financial support of campus resources, the input from a broad cross section of this campus community, the "voices" of student interviews and stories, and the talent and intellectual backing of campus colleagues, the Community of Voices project has been completed. The parts of the project include case stories and discussion questions, videotapes of some of the case stories, and a campus play production.

The students of EDCC wanted to talk: about diversity; about power; about stereotypes; about the ghosts of misunderstanding; about experiences that divide students from each other; and about experiences that draw them together. Those conversations and interviews are the core of an original play, titled "A Community of Voices" written by Sue Sather, a local playwright and college educator. This production was directed on the EdCC campus by Loren Reynolds.

The play took over a year to write. It began as a vision in the mind of a member of the Teaching and Learning Diversity Committee. Committee members designed a project to gather interviews from EDCC students and to give voice to student experiences that are often framed in silence. From those interviews came a series of case studies and videotapes for classroom use. The videotapes were written and produced by Lilly Swardstrom and Dan Dootson. The case stories were revised and adapted by Sandra Cross who also wrote this instructor manual. Both the videos and the instruction manual are available for use on the EdCC campus and can be borrowed from Multicultural Services or the library.

Goals of the project:

This project was designed to prepare students to interact in a multicultural world where issues of power, status, gender, race, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, age and other markers of diversity are enacted in a variety of ways. The basis for the case stories and the play was a series of student interviews that gave voice to various student perspectives and let them be heard. These student stories or "voices" presented issues that are often silenced in the curriculum or are used as "examples" rather than as daily issues faced by many community college students.

The case stories are written to highlight certain issues yet be ambiguous enough to foster classroom discussion. The goal of the case story discussion is to develop critical thinking, cultural perspectives and social skills.

Critical thinking is a result of discussion members discovering and defining the issues that the story presents. This skill includes being able to state the influences or pressures on the story's characters and to be able to see the issues from a variety of viewpoints. As part of critical thinking, discussion members may be able to uncover how different cultural patterns and ways of thinking create issues for the characters in the stories.

Once the issues or the decisions of the characters are stated the discussion members are asked to present supporting materials for their perspective. This process is an opportunity to present the implicit and explicit assumptions and inferences that discussion members may be using to support their statement of an issue.

From thinking critically about the issue, differing cultural perspectives such as institutional "isms", stereotypes, labels, social class, gender, as well as the relationship between presented identity and lived experience can be discussed. If the discussion members are not prepared to use these frameworks, this is an excellent opportunity for the discussion leader to introduce these perspectives.

Finally, social skills can be practiced in the discussion — how to disagree, how to present new information, how to use evidence to support a statement, how to build consensus and how to resolve conflict. Social skills can also be practiced as a role-play of the story characters. For example, the discussion leader may ask group members to present a more effective interaction than that presented in the case story. Some of the discussion questions suggest this tactic directly.

The Case Stories and suggested topics for discussion.

There are eight case stories and five videos. The following case stories have characters that refer to each other.

Vicente and Guadalupe are brother and sister. Their stories refer to each other.

Sara and Kaitlyn are friends.

William and Franklin are friends and their case stories refer to each other.

Franklin and Josh have a classroom interaction in common.

Some topics that are in each case story:

Serena - importance of family and family identity, social construction of in-groups and out groups ("safety"), gender, stereotypes (racial features, accents, second generation immigrants), lack of knowledge of immigration patterns, difficulty in crossing cultural boundaries to develop friendships, rape, sexual orientation, and culture shock.

Kaitlyn - stereotypes (race, status), parental expectations and pressures, in-groups and out groups, gender and social expectations, peers helping peers, outside resources for problems, and carrying the burden of a whole group.

Sara - stereotypes (both from within and without one's groups), culture shock, language (home, too American), social hierarchy, cultural relativism, collectivistic vs. individualistic orientations, internalized oppression, and tradition vs. change.

Guadalupe - accents, socioeconomic status, social hierarchy, language (too Latin, gringo, American), gender and social expectations, power and social expectations, and power and gender expectations.

Vicente - names and naming, colloquial and idiomatic language, tradition, social hierarchy, difficulty in crossing cultural boundaries to develop friendships, stereotypes, importance of family and family identity, national pride and language and social expectations (what does it mean to be family?).

Franklin - age difference, interpersonal style differences (wife, Franklin), empathy, stereotypes, occupational roles vs. racial stereotype (white cop - black cop), dominant group cultural/historical hegemony, lack of dominant culture knowledge of other histories and points of view, value of education, and academic canon hegemony.

William - disability identity (his other identities are more important to him than what others see), stereotypes, disability culture, identity management, stereotypes, cultural basis and understanding of humor, vet perspective, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and empathy.

Josh - age, stereotype of young, black males, institutional racism, family life, education, and peer pressures.




A Special Thank You to all the students, community members and campus personnel who volunteered their time for the "Community of Voices" video project.


Acknowledgement to:

Dan Dootson, Video Production, Media Services
Lilly Swardstrom, Video script and production, Media Services
Sandra Cross, Project Coordinator
Sue Sather, Playwright
Loren Reynolds, Play Director
Dee Olson, Director, Services for Students with Disabilities
Kayleen Oka, Director, Multicultural Services
Pat Nerison, Teaching and Learning Diversity Committee
Media Services for their video expertise and support
Teaching and Learning Diversity Committee

This production has been funded by: the Campus Enrichment Program, Multicultural Services, Office of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities, Student Programs, and The EDCC Foundation.


A production like this does not happen by itself. Thanks to all for your help and support.

For further information about any part of this project, please contact Sandra Cross at 425.640.1389 or scross@edcc.edu.