Grassroots Community Organizing
Anthropology 380 + 397S University of Massachusetts Amherst
Application for Spring 2020 - DUE NOVEMBER 15TH, 2019
Here is a lot of info about GCO! It's also all on the application form.
This is long - If you're interested in taking GCO, please read it!
Welcome to Grassroots Community Organizing! GCO is a five-credit Anthropology course held each the spring semester that includes an Alternative Spring Break trip to learn from and work with experienced community organizers. The course focuses on how people in marginalized communities build power to change the policies and structures that affect them, and how people build community and organize across lines of difference. During our spring break, we learn from and work alongside grassroots organizers working toward social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. In the past eight years the class has worked with the Alliance to Develop Power in Springfield, MA; Virginia Organizing in Danville, North Hampton Road, and Fredericksburg, Virginia; City Life Vida Urbana in Boston, MA; Solidarity and Green Economy Alliance in Worcester, MA; Alternatives for Community and Environment in Roxbury, MA; Maine People’s Alliance in Portland, ME; the Pioneer Valley Project in Springfield, MA; Ex-Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement in Worcester, MA; and the Granite State Organizing Project in Manchester, NH.
Each section of this course is facilitated by a small team of undergraduate students. GCO Facilitators have engaged in an intensive year- long training process, and are coached and overseen by a team of trainers, including the Director of UACT (UMass Anthropology professor Jen Sandler) and the Lead Trainer (UMass Anthropology graduate student Justin Helepololei). Peer facilitation makes the class community a uniquely challenging and empowering space where students are able to build collective knowledge and community in a rigorous but not faculty-led space. We learn from one another, from a diverse range of authors, and from our community and campus partners who are experienced community organizers. This learning is collective, unusually challenging, and -- dare we say -- transformative. The power of this experience of learning and using knowledge differently is why so many diverse student leaders dedicate themselves to making GCO happen for a new group of students each year!
GCO is open to students from all five colleges, at all levels, from first year undergraduate students through graduate students*. Admission to GCO requires that you complete this application. We will use this application to get a sense of why you are interested in taking this course and what experiences you have had that bears on the course content and methodology. We aim to use the application process to create classes of diverse students who are open to the particular kind of experience this class offers, and who are ready to engage ethically and respectfully with the community and campus organizations from which we learn and with which we work.
We want to be clear that developing knowledge in a different way than is usual in the university is quite challenging. The course readings and the weekly written reflections require a large time commitment, and there are several requirements throughout the course that, whoever you are and wherever you’re coming from, will push you beyond your comfort zone.
GCO is a particular type of “engaged anthropology.” There is no class like GCO on this campus, nor is there one quite like it anywhere else in the country that we know of. We hope this sounds like the class for you, and we look forward to reading your application!
There are usually more applicants than spots in this class. We are not just looking for the people who know the most, or who write the most eloquently. We’re looking for the people who are ready and open to learning, contributing, and engaging fully in this process of building community and skills with others across challenging and complicated lines of difference. A committee comprised of ten UACT student leaders and the faculty Director will review all applications. Decisions will be made before December 5th. Admitted students will secure their spot by putting in a deposit (for the spring break trip) and picking up a packet of winter break reading materials.
UACT, the UMass Alliance for Community Transformation, is the organization that runs GCO. We develop advanced, powerful social justice skills among people who navigate worlds of difference, always aiming to support more relational organizing, organizations, and movements that are designed and led by marginalized folks. Students who have taken GCO are encouraged to continue with UACT as part of the leadership of this academic-political-participatory organization that operates within (and works in communities beyond) the UMass Amherst Department of Anthropology. About fifteen student leaders, a dozen or so alumni, organizers from about six community partner groups, and several faculty members currently lead and/or advise the direction of UACT.
* Graduate students who are admitted participate on an equal basis in all aspects of GCO, plus four separate grad meetings and an extended final paper. Grad students register for GCO as ANTHRO 696 (4 credit independent study) with Prof. Jen Sandler.
· The class will meet once a week on Thursdays, 4-7 PM.
· All participants in GCO must attend a mandatory retreat February 14-
15th. There are no exceptions to this commitment. If you cannot attend
the retreat, you cannot take GCO.
· All participants in GCO must attend the entirety of the Alternative Spring
Break trip, which begins on Saturday morning, March 9th, and ends
Saturday night, March 16th.
· The course fee is $275. This fee helps pay for travel, food,
accommodations, and training in the communities where we work, as
well as food and accommodations for the retreat. This fee covers over
half the actual cost of participation, and UACT funds the remainder.
Books and printing for the course will run between about $25 and $75.
· Thanks to an independent GCO alumni fundraising initiative, there are a
number of scholarships available to increase the diversity and
accessibility of GCO.
Please email the alumni scholarship fund to receive a brief application form:
Scholarship applications are also due November 15th!
Interested? Check out the Narrative Questions so that you know what's on the application.
Already read all the things? Great!