Student Life Editor
In spring 2011, two students from Keene State College’s American Studies Department will begin internships at the Hannah Grimes Center in downtown Keene through the Community Partnership Grant of $2,000 awarded to KSC by the American Studies Association (ASA).
The Community Partnership Grant began two years ago and is given to four colleges across the country “to support collaborative interdisciplinary community projects utilizing American Studies pedagogy, curriculum, research, and other resources,” according to the ASA’s website. The other 2011 recipients were Vanderbilt University, University of California, Davis, and the University of Southern California.
The two interns, to be selected this fall through an application process still being developed, will work closely with the Hannah Grimes Center for class credit. They will be working on a local anthropological research study to find out what Keene-area citizens think a “living local economy” is.
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The Hannah Grimes Center is a non-profit committed to helping small businesses succeed in a local economy.
“We’re really about connecting community with businesses and vice-versa,” Jennifer Risley, education program coordinator at the center, said.
American Studies Professor Michael Antonucci facilitated the application for the grant from the ASA, in addition to fostering the relationship with the Hannah Grimes Center long before the grant that made these internships possible for the coming spring.
Antonucci explained that the internships were not created as a result of receiving the grant, but that the college had worked with the Hannah Grimes Center in the past. Last year, KSC sent three interns to the Hannah Grimes Center.
“As far as grants go, this was easy. It was natural. We had a relationship, we’ve been moving in this direction,” Antonucci said. “We sort of were doing the kind of work that the ASA imagined, before it imagined it.
According to Antonucci, the project really began in 2008 when Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” was used as the Keene Is Reading book. Risley, along with local entrepreneurs, farmers, and members of the KSC community participated in roundtable discussions to answer the question “What is a living local economy?”
“This goes beyond the negativity of ‘I don’t shop at Wal-Mart,’” Antonucci said. “It’s all about this grassroots, local action having a bigger impact. It’s a little touchy-feely, a little kumbaya.”
Participants in the roundtable discussions looked at how businesses can be successful while remaining local. They focused on not just buying locally and from small business owners, but how those businesses can be as local as possible in the products and services they offer, all while turning profit and creating a good working environment for employees. The “living local” theme is one that has been spreading nationally for about ten years.
Professor Antonucci said that Keene is a special example of this, between an active community and the college.
“We’ve got this amazing kind of experiment going on right now,” Antonucci said. “We have this kind of unique environment that we’re working in.”
Jenaya Paradis, of the class of 2012, interned with the Hannah Grimes Center last year through Antonucci. Her experience will be the basis for grant intern recipients. Paradis was one of the first KSC interns to the Hannah Grimes Center and didn’t begin until February of spring semestur during her senior year.
She recieved a project from Risley as part of the Hannah Grimes Center’s efforts to analyze the Monadnock Local Living Economy.
“I was given a month to go through the companies, businesses, and organizations that were represented on the flyer [from the promortion of the Monadnock Local Living Economy],” Paradis said, “to look them up online or call them and find out what their motto was.”
After compiling the mottos and missions of the businesses, Paradis worked with Wordle, a program that allows users to input words and identify common words and themes by visually separating those used most and least often.
Paradis planned to do a second project for the Hannah Grimes Center, but was unable to through miscommunication and little time left in the semester.
“It’s unfortunate that my experience was limited because I really wanted to learn more about that sector,” Paradis said. “I would gladlty work with the Hannah Grimes Center again. I think they do really important stuff.”
The internships will strengthen the working relationship between the Hannah Grimes Center and the college, as well as create a learning environment for the student interns.
“It will be a good experience for the student interns and the relationship that the American Studies program has with the Hannah Grimes Center,” Sally Southwick, of the grants office, said. “I worked closely with Professor Antonucci as he developed his grant application in February.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Emile Netzhammar is the chair of the board for the Hannah Grimes Center. He said these types of partnerships between the college and local communities are what create a well-rounded education that moves outside of the classroom.
“The grant will give the students an opportunity to engage witht eh community, which is an important goal at Keene State,” Netzhammer said. “It will also give them an opprotunity to bring their classroom knowledge to help address community needs. These parnerships are a fundamental component of a Keene State College education, and will help advance the work of the Hannah Grimes Center, too.”
While the specifics of the internships are still in the working stage, Antonucci said they will be available around course selection in late October and students will receive class credit. He believes at this time that students will come from his AMST495 Seminar and preference will be given to American studies majors, though the application will be open to other majors who are interested in bringing their majors to this field of study. Students interested in the internships will apply and have to be selected.
“What’s interesting about this for me is that you have a program at a liberal arts school moving to this realm of business and numbers,” Antonucci said.
This living local movement that Keene has included itself in not only provides local business and job opportunities, but valuable, real-world experience for students involved. As the movement continues to evolve, Keene remains a community fully-aware of this type of local living economy.
“There are all of these models out there. But somehow, Keene is kind of under the radar doing it its own way,” Antonucci said.
Allie Bedell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org