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AUM’s Civil Rights and Civic Virtue Society announces inaugural class of faculty fellows

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Seven faculty members have been named to the inaugural class of Auburn University at Montgomery’s Civil Rights and Civic Virtue Society Faculty Fellows program.

The newly created Faculty Fellows program is an initiative of the society’s “From Civil Rights to Civic Virtue: Forming Character through Community” grant project, which launched in early Fall 2022. The project, funded by a three-year, $333,845 grant from the John Templeton Foundation, supports AUM’s development of community partnerships and academic coursework to help students cultivate a sense of civic identity, or citizenship, to prepare them to be global citizens.

Over the three-year grant period, the society will name three cohorts of faculty fellows — one for each year of the grant — with the inaugural class of faculty fellows beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. Faculty members selected as fellows will receive a stipend to spend one academic year pursuing their curriculum development projects. Fellows will present their findings at the Civil Rights and Civic Virtue Society’s annual conference in May 2023.

Faculty members named to the inaugural class are:

  • Associate Professor Breuna Baine, Department of Fine Arts
  • Distinguished Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Burrows, Department of English and Philosophy
  • Associate Professor Clarissa Arms-Chavez, Department of Psychology
  • Assistant Professor Dana Comi, Department of English and Philosophy
  • Assistant Professor Casey Giordano, Department of Psychology
  • Assistant Professor Catherine Gooch, Department of English and Philosophy
  • Librarian/Head of Public Services Jessica Hayes, Library


“We established the Faculty Fellows program to promote community of practice among faculty who in turn work to develop community-engaged learning opportunities that foster civic engagement, civic-mindedness, and civic virtue,” said Aaron Cobb, professor of philosophy and the project’s leader. “The program also provides space for faculty to develop curriculum and experiential learning initiatives to deepen student learning and prepare students to serve within their communities.

“We’re excited for our new class of faculty fellows to begin working closely over the next year to develop their respective projects by fostering community and learning about civil rights, civic virtues, and character education,” Cobb said.

2022-23 CRCV Society Faculty Fellow Projects

Breuna Baine will engage students in an interactive exhibition design project for the future Mt. Zion AME Zion Church Memorial Annex, which will commemorate the creation of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the election of Martin Luther King, Jr. as its first chairman.

Elizabeth Burrows will be developing new assignments to embed within two courses. In her English Composition II course, she will use a field trip to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to help students identify a topic to ground their research throughout the semester. They will choose an exemplar and argue for the inclusion of this individual within a museum exhibit. In her Honors program course with a similar inquiry-based research focus and study of exemplars, students will work in groups to develop manifestos of change, some of which may be multimodal presentations such as mini-documentaries.

Clarissa Arms-Chavez regularly teaches a course on the Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination. This course challenges all students to reflect deeply on the sources of hate and bias. A field trip to the Legacy Museum or the Civil Rights Memorial provides opportunities for students to reflect on parallels students see between this history and contemporary instances of mistreatment and injustice. Her work as a faculty fellow will enable her to extend this final reflection by helping students to develop a plan of action or service learning that can translate their ideas into positive change.

Dana Comi regularly teaches courses in the Department of English and Philosophy’s Professional and Technical Writing Certificate. Each of these courses involves engage with industry and community partners in the local area. Her central goal in this project is to work toward the development of sustainable partnerships with organizations in Montgomery that can promote “students’ identities as justice and equity-minded professional and technical communicators.”

Casey Giordano will focuses his research on applying psychological concepts to the workplace. Ultimately, this knowledge can help to make improvements in these spaces. His goal through this project is to develop a group project that enables students to identify a current or historical issue in their community and develop a plan of action to help bring about positive change.

Catherine Gooch will develop a pedagogical project in which students create a research-based group documentary about a local Civil Rights site or activist group in Montgomery. One of the goals of this project is to expose students to the city’s rich cultural history. Another goal is to encourage students to actively engage in community-based work in the process. The culminating event for this project will be a “movie night” in which students show their documentaries, describe their creative process, and explain what they hope our campus community can learn from this work.

Jessica Hayes will collaborate with the Department of History and World Cultures and the AUM Library Archives & Special Collections to develop an oral history project. Students will identify Montgomery residents who were active in the Civil Rights Movement and, with their permission, organize interviews that will be processed and digitally preserved. This result will be a public service repository of perspectives and stories that deserve to be preserved.

The 2022-23 Class of Faculty Fellows will present their research findings at the society’s Spring 2023 conference, which is set for May 5, 2023.

“We are excited to see how these unique and powerful projects impact our students,” Cobb said. “These are the types of authentic learning experiences that can lead to deep and lasting change for students and their communities.”

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