ADA – Two East Central University professors – Dr. Christine Pappas and W.T. Skye Garcia – were recently recognized with DaVinci Fellow Awards, which honor higher education faculty whose accomplishments reflect creative and innovative approaches that have made a significant contribution to their academic discipline.
Pappas is professor and coordinator for the ECU Department of Political Science and Legal Studies, and Garcia is an instructor of music.
Pappas has a mission to rectify the problem of voter apathy by increasing civic engagement.
She has designed service-learning projects in several political science classes ranging from American Government to Research Methods. Her classes have engaged in “Week of Work” in Hammond Heights for many years, in which Pappas wrote about in the edited volume “Civic Service.” Other projects include creating a neighborhood association in the West Side Project and establishing a graffiti hotline for Ada.
“I have engaged in many service learning projects that seek to give students the tools to engage in their community,” said Pappas. “This starts in the classroom, just learning the basics of what it means to be a citizen and how our government works. Once armed with this simple knowledge, students are equipped to tackle some of the big issues that face us.”
An example of one of her service learning projects was to tackle a project on their own accord.
“One year we were graffiti ninjas. We went around town painted over graffiti. In that instance we just acted as private citizens and tried to solve a problem,” Pappas said. “On another occasion we worked with students to try and draw the government’s attention to certain problems and we’ve done voter registration drives.”
Her students have presented several times to the Ada City Council on topics such as at-large elections for city council and have written columns for the Ada News. Although many ECU students are not from Ada, Pappas’ goal is to teach students how to be engaged citizens in their home communities.
“I try to teach my students not how to be Democrat or Republican or how to be a conservative or a liberal, but how to be a good citizen,” said Pappas. “Whatever their view is as an American citizen, they need to be able to connect with their government and have their voices heard.”
Dr. Taryn Chubb, assistant professor of art at ECU and presenter at the DaVinci Awards Ceremony, believes Pappas certainly satisfies all the criteria of being a DaVinci Fellow.
“Through her civic engagement she has been able to exemplify the three pillars of a professor’s job - teaching, research and service,” said Chubb.
Garcia provided strategy to create a series of projects that would foster creative collaboration between art, communication and music, including the implementation of a new course and new concert series.
The opening of the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center at ECU in 2006 brought together the three disciplines of art, communication and music. Upon moving into the building, faculty members were given the challenge to find creative ways to integrate the faculty into a cooperative, interactive unit.
“This past fall, I collaborated with Professor Garcia and some of his music composition students on a composition inspired by a new collection of Southern Asian sculptures recently acquired by the university,” Chubb said.
Garcia described it as a prime example of the type of collaboration efforts between art and music.
“We were given a tour (of the Southeastern Asian Garden) by Dr. Taryn Chubb and this proved to be an inspiration to several students, to write original music depicting what they had viewed in the sculpture garden,” said Garcia. “It’s another example of how departments work together to inspire one another to facilitate objects of creativity that wouldn’t exist independently of one another.”
Another of Garcia’s many successful collaborations was working with local filmmakers, Will Boggs and Mark Bratcher, to contribute a ragtime composition to their documentary entitled “Death of the Old West”:100 Years after the Infamous Ada Lynching. OETA/PBS aired the documentary, which eventually won regional Emmy awards.
“This experience inspired Professor Garcia to teach film scoring as part of his composition course,” Chubb said.
Garcia recognized that his students would be interested in writing film scores and underscores to accompany visual films that were being produced by the Communications Department. Subsequently, many short films, produced by the communications and composition students have been shown in recitals and programs throughout the community.
“Some of my more aggressive students have chosen to make their own films. This has resulted in a total film project with music, the filming process, writing the dialogue and setting the scenes,” Garcia said. “It’s been a remarkable process for students in just a simple composition class. It’s amazing what students can do given a little guidance and a lot of opportunity.”
Pappas and Garcia each received a monetary prize and a medal, which depicts Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man.