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Week of October 15, 2012

Writing lecturer combines social justice with class

Christine Modey has always loved cookbooks, but it wasn’t until she taught a special section of English 125 last fall that she was able to collaborate on the creation of one.

As a lecturer with the Sweetland Center for Writing, Modey teaches several classes and seminars, including a section of the first-year writing requirement English 125, meant specifically for students involved in the Michigan Community Scholars Program. Last fall, her class created the book “The Brightmoor Farmway: A Collection of Stories & Recipes from Neighbors Building Brightmoor.”

Christine Modey’s class created stories and recipes celebrating a Detroit neighborhood. Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

The book contains recipes, but “it’s more about the people then the recipes. It’s these individual stories of Brightmoor and what food and gardening and Neighbors Building Brightmoor has really meant to the people there,” Modey says.

U-M student Amy Roggenburg originally conceived the book, and Modey’s former student, Dan Morse, approached her for help getting it off the ground. Neighbors Building Brightmoor works to improve the community of Brightmoor in Detroit, and while it is independent from U-M, MCSP often works with the organization. Modey and her class traveled to Brightmoor and interviewed members of the community, collecting their recipes and stories, and then worked on their material in class. Soon enough, they had a manuscript.

Modey explains that it was possible because “each student has individual responsibility for some part of it, yet it’s a community effort for the class … and helps them achieve a group goal.” But even after the students finished their part, the book had a long way to go.

“Handing this off to the designers and printers was tricky and more complicated than we thought it would be,” Modey says, “but in the end, it was an amazing collaboration.”

Modey reached out to friend and Stamps School of Art & Design Associate Professor Hannah Smotrich, who worked with her graphic design class to create the design for the book.

“She took our rough materials and, along with the students in her class, turned it into its present form,” Modey says.

One of Modey’s favorite stories is of Bill and Billie Hickey, a couple who had moved to Brightmoor when they were close to retirement and became an integral part of the community. “They didn’t really need to come to Brightmoor, but they made the choice to commit themselves to that neighborhood. They have became central and are really living out their values there,” Modey says.

Her English 125 class this year won’t be creating a book, but they will work with the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and its oral history project. Students will work on story development and creating an interwoven, engaging website.

After attending Hope College, Modey had a great appreciation for her liberal arts education. She came to Michigan while she was completing her dissertation at the University of Delaware, and cites the primary material available at the Clements Library and the microfilm and electronic resources at the Hatcher Library as key to her work on early 19th-century British and American magazines, libraries and booksellers.

After completing her degree, Modey looked for and found a teaching job at the university, a post she has now had for 10 years and has greatly enjoyed. “I get to work with incredibly bright, motivated students, who are invested in their community and making a difference in the world,” she says.


The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Christine Modey, lecturer with the Sweetland Center for Writing, on a memorable time in the classroom: "Any moment when I see an idea 'click' for a student."

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