Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dear Jen Anderson, I Appreciate The Email, But I Think You Sent It To The Wrong Person. Um? Really? Me? Whoa.

I was sitting at my desk on Monday trying to edit a pestering lil' book chapter when an email alert came across my screen. "You Won!"

At first I thought it was Publisher's Clearing House, but then I remembered I never enter the contest. I saw the name, 'Jen Anderson,' and it sounded familiar, but I didn't make the connection. I read the email and thought, "Wait. I won a Presidential Innovation Award at Fairfield University for Community Engagement and Service?" I immediately wrote back and said she must have made a mistake. 

Jen replied quickly to say, "No. A nomination written in support of your work with CWP-Fairfield was selected to be awarded by the President at this year's convocation." Jen Anderson is the Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Fairfield University. Whoa. Along with 7 other recipients nominated in other categories, I received an award that I can re-invest into the youth literacy labs, throw a party, redo my driveway or pay myself back "some" of the money I've invested into literacy initiatives in southern Connecticut.

I am amazed, but I'm a little overwhelmed. Pay It Forward. Pay It Forward. Pay It Forward. There is so much more to be done. 

From the Letter of Nomination:

Dr. Crandall integrated his teaching, research and personal passions and philosophies to develop several creative solutions for increasing youth and teacher participation in CWP programs, now up 175%, and to strengthen partnerships with local schools and community agencies. He embraced Ubuntu (a S. African worldview that translates, I am, because we are) and wrote numerous competitive grants -- including the LRNG Innovation Challenge funded by John Legend and MacArthur Foundation -- to build community-engaged opportunities for K-12 schools. He also restructured professional development workshops for teachers and designed more K-12 writing events on campus.

Um, really?

In summary, Dr. Crandall redesigned the summer programs to make the National Writing Project presence on Fairfield University’s campus more sustainable and spirited. Further, he increased diversity in CWP-Fairfield’s programs and targeted numerous scholarships for young people from low socio-economic backgrounds, including winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Poetry for Peace contests also hosted on Fairfield’s campus. Key to his community engagement and service, though, has been Dr. Crandall’s intentional redesign of numerous young adult literacy labs during the summer in partnership with an Invitational Leadership Institute for teachers hosted on Fairfield University’s campus. 

As one of 185 National Writing Project sites, CWP-Fairfield acts liaison between Universities, K-12 schools, and community agencies to support literacy initiatives. Under Crandall’s directorship, CWP now serves schools and engages communities in new and exciting ways, including summer programs (highlighted here), the implementation of service learning courses, contributions to JUHAN and the new Humanitarian Action minor, and proactive support of the Newtown Poetry Project, Poetry for Peace, Literacy4Life, and Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest. CWP-Fairfield has become an integral part of Fairfield University’s outreach because Dr. Crandall has been extremely action-oriented. Young people and teachers attending CWP-Fairfield’s summer programs now arrive from 16 school districts across southern Connecticut.

Wait, there's more. This is where I need to shout out to Dr. Kelly Chandler-Olcott and her willingness to take me under her wings at Syracuse University: Co-Planning and Co-Teaching in a Summer Institute: A Formative Experiment  was a result, and I rebuilt the program at Fairfield partially from my experience of working with her.

In 2014, despite reduced funding, Dr. Crandall redesigned CWP’s summer programs so more educational leaders in Connecticut could participate from the National Writing Project model. Specifically, Bryan wrote grants to pay for Connecticut teachers to participate in ED 561: Summer Institute for the Teaching of Writing and began thinking creatively about how CWP-Fairfield could also serve more young people during the summer months. Before 2014, only 40 youngsters took part in CWP’s summer programs. Crandall, however, cut participation costs to recruit representation from diverse populations and sought financial sources for scholarships so young people traditionally underserved in summer camp traditions, including refugee and immigrant youth, could benefit from reading, writing, and speaking opportunities on Fairfield University’s campus. Specifically, Crandall restructured what once was a two-week writing camp into several one-week “Young Adult Literacy Labs.”  He lowered fees for attendance and offered a match-program that now provides one scholarship for every paying customer. Working closely with Bridgeport and New Haven Public Schools, too, he holds spaces in the labs, including:
·      Little Lab For Big Imaginations (for 3rd-5th grade youth)
·      Character Matters – Novel Lab I (for budding novelists)
·      Plot Matters – Novel Lab II (for budding novelists)
·      A Performance of Words: Poetry and Playwriting (for spoken word artists)
·      Digital Communications (for Cyber writers)
·      Project Citizen (for the politically minded writer)
·      Sports Writing (for the athleticism of words)
·      Ubuntu Academy (for immigrant and refugee youth)
These Young Adult Literacy Labs have been extremely successful and this January the National Writing Project invited Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall to present his innovation and redesign to other directors and educational leaders from the Gates Foundation. Through the work, CWP-Fairfield has established a vibrant and replicable model for sustaining educational excellence in challenging economic times.

Scholarship in Action. This was the mantra of Nancy Cantor when I was at Syracuse University from 2007 - 2011. It became ingrained in how I knew scholarship should be. It's Dr. Marcelle Haddix, too. WRITING OUR LIVES! WRITING OUR LIVES! WRITING OUR LIVES!

The unique part of Crandall’s lab-innovation is the deliberate collaboration with educators, administrators, and writers who enroll in ED 561: Summer Institute for the Teaching of Writing. With service learning in mind, participants have opportunities to interact with young people attending the young adult writing labs. They read about effective writing instruction at the same time they work one-on-one with young writers, allowing for them to experience theory within practice.

The Young Adult Literacy Labs have proven to be lucrative both pedagogically and financially, too. In 2014, 90 young people attended CWP’s Labs; in 2015, that number increased to 152. This summer the number is projected to rise once again. The labs have also made additional revenue for CWP-Fairfield, making it easier to invest in teachers and student projects during the school year, as well.

I wanted to cap total participation at 150. We had over 200 students this summer!

Young Adult Literacy Labs has helped CWP-Fairfield advance the National Writing Project model and establish Fairfield University as a K-12 literacy leader for young writers and teachers. Crandall met his original objectives for the redesign since his hire: (1) to find alternative revenue streams to replace extreme cuts in federal and state support, (2) to align programs with best practices for teaching writing, (3) to increase diversity in CWP programs, and (4) to find wider audiences for the innovation occurring on Fairfield University’s campus.


Almost 48% of the young people attending Young Adult Literacy Labs are given full or partial scholarship. In Crandall’s redesign, local high-needs schools are targeted and deliberately served. Included in this are immigrant and refugee youth who attend Ubuntu Academy, a one-of-a-kind two-week literacy lab that was designed specifically to counter summer literacy loss for English language learners. The Academy has served over 40 young people to date with another 30 expected in 2016.

Further, Crandall uses revenue created from the Young Adult Literacy Labs to actively support CWP-Fairfield teachers for making presentations at national conferences – another way to raise Fairfield University’s national profile. Since the redesign in 2014, Crandall and his colleagues have presented work approximately 25 times and published six times in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters. Crandall and his team have also partnered with CT Mirror, a non-partisan political newspaper in Connecticut, to create (and write for) an interactive website: Education, Change, and Diversity in Fairfield County. This November, Dr. Crandall and his teachers will also present five papers at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

In a service capacity, Bryan has established professional relationships with Fairfield University Athletics, Upward Bound, Gear Up, Bridgeport Higher Education Alliance, Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Hoops4Hope, LEAP, IICONN, IRIS, Bridgeport Public Schools, the Archdiocese of Bridgeport, and Connecticut Post to support literacy achievement in the State. He is always willing to offer his services and expertise with an admirable drive for community outreach.

The Young Adult Literacy Labs redesign is extremely innovated and has provided new financial means for CWP-Fairfield to serve local schools and teachers. These labs are deserving of a Presidential Innovation Award. True to the Ubuntu philosophy, Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall has built a community of many here on Fairfield University’s campus.

Now I'm feeling guilty and like I have much more work to do. 

Seriously, I cannot believe this email came to me and yesterday I received the award at the convocation. I am still shaking my head. Did this really happen?

Jen Anderson, Are you sure? Um...there was a ceremony. I guess I have to believe it. Or did I dream that? Man, I think I need more sleep.

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