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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Anthropology class reaches out to Waltham community

Published: October 5, 2007
Section: News

Last Sunday, Brandeis students enrolled in the Anthropology of Gender class spent 4 hours cleaning up at the Prospect Hill Terrace apartments in Waltham as part of an effort by the Community Engaged Learning Program at Brandeis University. Partners in the event included the not-for-profit organization the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing (WATCH), Waltham Public Housing, Community Service Department, and the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance. Participants in the effort painted a mural and several fences, planted flowers, and cleaned up the area around an apartment complex. The event also included a barbecue and was attended by the Mayor of Waltham, Jeannette A. McCarthy.

The course, which is taught by Prof. Ellen Schattschneider (ANTH), is part of an attempt to reach out to the surrounding community and combine academics with hands on learning. Students from other courses also participated in the event. The clean up effort was coordinated by Academic Director for Community-Engaged Learning and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Mark Auslander

As the university's Academic Director of Community-Engaged Learning, I'm really excited to see all the initiatives being taken in different courses across the campus, to build effective partnerships with varied community organizations in Waltham. The Anthropology of Gender class did a remarkable job in preparing for and implementing the workday, Auslander said in an email. He added, the garden is so beautiful, and the children's mural is full of life and dynamism.

Organizers of the event believed the most important area that needed improvement in the community was the large central fenced-in area. The Prospect Hill Terrace, built in 1948 for returning American GI's, has deteriorated over the last 60 years. Renovation included the restoration of a barren courtyard for community gatherings and a basketball court. Students were able to fund the event after they collected donations from various establishments around Waltham.

Schattschneider explained in an email, I am deeply proud of all the work the students in Anthropology of Gender did. They worked closely to convince local merchants, including Wagon Wheel Nursery, Hannaford Supermarket, Johnson Paints, Waltham Paint and Wallpaper, Shaws Supermarket, Nickerson Paints, and Lexington Gardens to donate supplies for the workday.

Auslander explained of Prospect Hill Terrace, It is just about the same age as the university, but while we are one of the wealthiest institutions in Waltham, Prospect Hill has long been a site of persistent poverty and injustice. Given the University's commitment to social justice, this is a natural place for us to partner with.

It was really a pleasure a couple of nights after the workday to be at Prospect Hill at a tenants' meeting and to see how energized the residents are in the wake of the workday, Auslander added. They are reviving their tenants association and making plans for a new community center. We are all looking forward to a long and productive partnership with Waltham Housing Authority, the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing, and the Prospect Hill and Chesterbrook tenants associations.

Schattschneider agreed, saying that the students worked tirelessly throughout the Prospect Hill complex, arranging and planting the garden, clearing the large unsightly fenced in central area, and cleaning up the basketball court area and painting an impressive mural on the wall at one end of the basketball court.