NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1140567
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1534-9322
Rhetoric and Composition as Community Engagement: Toward Mending Community and Town and Gown Divides
Accardi, Steven
Composition Studies, v45 n1 p143-165 Spr 2017
Penn State Hazleton sits at the very edge of town, on the top of a large hill, literally, as far removed from Hazleton as it possibly can be. Only a handful of professors actually live in Hazleton, and nearly all students return home for the weekend. Compared with the main campus, the student population at Penn State Hazleton is quite diverse. Hazleton was once a robust city, thriving as the coal was mined, but once the coal industry left in the 1950s, so did about a third of the population and many job opportunities (Gilgoff). At the turn of this past century, economic incentives and Hazleton's location, at the intersection of I-80 and I-81, en­couraged new businesses, such as, Michael's, and Office Max, to build distribution centers (Kroft). These unskilled jobs, combined with the low cost of housing, attracted many immigrants--mainly Dominican and Puerto Rican--from New York City and New Jersey to relocate to Hazleton. Accord­ing to the 2000 census, only 4% of the Hazleton population was Latino, yet by 2010, that number jumped to 37% ("Hazleton, Pennsylvania Population"). Some of these new residents were not authorized to live and work in the United States. In 2006, then mayor Lou Barletta signed into law the "Illegal Immigrant Relief Act," which sought to fine businesses and landlords for hiring or renting to unauthorized immigrants (Kroft). It also made English the official language of Hazleton (Powell and Garcia). The law was eventually deemed unconstitutional, but current mayor Joseph Yannuzzi continues to file appeals (Yannuzzi). The fallout from Barletta's law is still felt today, in town and on campus. The city is divided, and Latinos are often scapegoated for the rise in violence, crime, and drugs (Gilgoff; Kroft). In the Spring of 2014, Steven Accardi decided to redesign his sections of English 15 to include a community engagement component. English 15: Rhetoric and Composition as Community Engagement, had the ambitious goal of not only redirecting students to center their research and writing on the community instead of themselves but also mending these divides, in whatever small way it could. Accardi hoped that getting students out into the community and spending time talking and writing with locals would build bridges between the community and the university. Accardi believed that once community members and Penn State Hazleton employees read the stories that students and locals wrote together, they would recognize the similarities among the communities, rather than the differences that are often emphasized. This article describes Accardi's journey through this redesign, how he chose writing projects for the class, what worked, what didn't, and reflections on what he learned in the process of this course development. A completed course description is included.
University of Cincinnati. Department of English, P.O. Box 210069, Cincinnati, OH 45221. Tel: 513-556-6519; Fax: 513-556-5960; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A