Students in professor Daniel Eisen’s Critical Race and Theory class write, illustrate, and edit children’s books “that can stimulate a conversation about race with children.” These books are more than just a class project, though: once the students have completed their work, the library steps in and publishes the books in their repository, CommonKnowledge.
“It’s valuable to connect the repository to the fundamental mission of the university, which is to educate and provide opportunities to students,” reports Johanna Meetz, Scholarly Communications and Publishing Services Librarian and Associate Director of Pacific University Press. In addition to providing templates and formatting, and print-on-demand services via Lulu, Johanna shepherds the students through the publication process, providing an in-class workshop on publishing and copyright. This underscores the importance of bringing the library, the experience of Pacific University Press, and CommonKnowledge in on this project.
Professor Eisen designed this project to fill a void that he’s observed throughout his research on race, ethnic identity, and racial and ethnic relations. Each group of students in the course starts by interviewing a local family that has the desire to discuss these topics with their children. The students then design their book to meet the specific needs and concerns expressed by the family they are matched with. By doing so the students are affecting change directly in their community; by also having the work publicly available in CommonKnowlege, the students are impacting the global conversation about race and ethnicity. Since this year’s books went live they have been downloaded in other parts of the United States and from as far away as New Zealand, Japan, and Russia. They’re also inspiring similar projects across campus, and will serve as a guideline for Professor Eisen’s future students.