Community Collaborations

Urban Narratives and the Provo City Planning Commission

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Community Collaborations, Homepage Features, Public Humanities | 0 comments

Urban Narratives and the Provo City Planning Commission

In 2013, Dr. Jamin Rowan of the BYU English Department attended a neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposed routes for the new Bus Rapid Transit line that will soon connect the Provo and Orem Frontrunner stations. Although he had never imagined that he would be involved in city politics, participating in this meeting helped him recognize that his interest in urban literature and culture had put him in a position to contribute to his community’s conversation about planning issues. Shortly after that neighborhood meeting, he began a three-year term as a member of the Provo City Planning Commission. His research on how urban narratives shape the city’s built environment and social landscape has enabled him to approach the development proposals, zone-change requests, and other issues that come before the planning commission in a unique way. Additionally, his exposure to the particular urban narratives embedded in zoning codes and city ordinances has refined his understanding of the social values and cultural desires that shape those narratives. Being on the city planning commission has not only strengthened his writing, but has also informed the courses he teaches. He loves taking students on walking tours of Provo neighborhoods to help them see how the study of twentieth-century U.S. literature can help them make sense of the landscape they currently...

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Utah Literacy Project

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Community Collaborations, Featured Outreach | 0 comments

Utah Literacy Project

The Utah Literacy Project is a door-to-door survey initiated by Wendy Baker Smemoe, assistant professor of English language and linguistics, with Brad Wilcox in the BYU McKay School of Education and Russell Warne, assistant professor of psychology at Utah Valley University. The survey includes questions about the ability to read prose, numbers, documents, and information on computers. The main goals of the project are 1. To determine the number of illiterate adults in Utah County 2. To better understand who in Utah County is illiterate 3. To determine what factors contribute to their not seeking help 4. To determine what health effects may be related to illiteracy Smemoe has served for a decade as a volunteer and board member of Project Read, a non-profit organization that helps with adult literacy. The survey organizers hope their research will help Project Read and other non-profits reach out to adults who can benefit from literacy programs and help adults with literacy needs to seek out the several free programs in Utah County. For the students who have conducted over 100 surveys in Orem and Provo neighborhoods, it’s been a great opportunity to interact with community members and to learn about what literacy is and how to set up and carry out a study.  Judy Ma, a graduate student, observes that “the most surprising thing for me is that some people didn’t want to take the survey because they thought their literacy was pretty high.” Another student, Bradley Elders, who has conducted many interviews explains that people “gladly participate when they learn that they will help those who need extra assistance.” He is “eager to see the results, knowing how much potential this project...

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