California State University, Long Beach: Lessons Learned
The name, The B-Word Project, worked. It begged the follow-up question, “What is that?” and later, became easy shorthand for those events. Students on campus have been overheard saying, “That’s a B-Word thing.” The name sounded edgy and seemed to resonate with CSULB students.
As a mechanism to make the campus aware of the Carpenter Center, the B-Word Project’s colorful, provocative banners placed throughout campus worked. On such a large campus, to be able to mention the B-Word Project anywhere and have everyone nod their heads in recognition is an almost un-heard-of feat. Of course, every sword has two edges. Some of our Steering Committee faculty members heard complaints from their department colleagues about “your” banners being inappropriate or too provocative. This was one of the first signs that we were doing something right with our censorship initiative!
Student and faculty engagement, interaction, and collaboration
1. Young people are eager to learn, respectful of prominent artists/authors, and grateful to be given the opportunity to interact with artists, but these interactions must happen at times and costs that don’t interfere with other events (work, social calendar, etc.).
2. Between campus disciplines, the B-Word Project provided a place for faculty from different departments to meet. At a Steering Committee meeting with about 25 faculty in attendance, as each person introduced themselves, we heard several “I’ve always wanted to work with you” comments. Some of these meetings produced collaborations for the B-Word Project: we hope that all of them will continue to generate collaborations. We also learned that sometimes we have to figure out the best fit on campus and approach the faculty, instead of waiting for them to come to us.
The lure of grant money was certainly responsible for attracting some of these faculty members, and taught us another lesson (outlined in What Didn’t Work below) that we will use going forward. However, the idea of using artists and the performing arts to enhance classroom curricula attracted a strong core of faculty members to the B-Word Project: most of them have committed to the Creative Campus Advisory Committee to act as ambassadors to their departments and colleagues for the Carpenter Center in the future. This committee has already helped the Carpenter Center establish an official program for providing interactions between CSULB students/classes and performing artists called Campus Connections (detailed in the Sustainability section below).
What Didn’t Work
Several campus partners committed to participating in B-Word and offered to create events that, despite nudging from the Carpenter Center, never happened. We learned here was that individual faculty members will embrace opportunities to have artists in their classrooms and/or to work with other faculty on campus in their own individual ways, to an extent they see as fulsome, even though we may see as substandard. Staff members may commit to doing things they cannot actually accomplish. As faculty moves on, we cannot assume their replacements will share their interests in our project. As administrators of the project, we need to acknowledge these realities, allocate future resources accordingly, and manage expectations.
Underuse of Social Media
Many of the evaluations mentioned disappointment in the attendance of students at B-Word events, suggesting that we didn’t make enough use of social media. We relied on campus banners to direct students to the B-Word website, but should have used Twitter and Facebook more effectively to inform students of events.