College of the Arts' Students Engage with Community

Students in the College of the Arts, past and present, are lucky to be involved in projects and initiatives that not only take them out of the classroom, but also help serve a greater good by benefiting the community at large. Here are some examples of students -- across all arts-related disciplines -- in service to the community.


School of Communication and Media (SCM)

In 2013, Montclair State University launched a University-assisted community school initiative to help educate, engage, and empower members of the Rosa Parks and Oakwood Avenue School communities in Orange, New Jersey. The Orange Community School Initiative (OCSI), as it came to be known, grew from there.

Climbing on board, the SCM joined the OCSI collaboration this spring semester with projects from two of its courses – Transmedia Projects and Public Relations Management. Prof. Beverly Peterson and students in Transmedia Projects are involved in a mapping project that aims to address health and wellness issues in the Township of Orange. The goal of this project is to accurately represent the Orange physical and resource landscape and to launch an online “Health Literacy Hub” that can grow into a virtual town hall for the community. At the same time, students enrolled in Public Relations Management, under the tutelage of Prof. Larry Weiner, are developing a full-scale, strategic public relations plan for the Orange clinic.  The final product will be a public relations road map that the clinic can use to reach its goal of registering 50 families by the end of the school year.

In recognition of Montclair State University’s overall community-engagement initiatives in the area, including SCM's contribution, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching designated Montclair State University as a Community Engaged Campus in January 2015.  (Read more here.) The University also received a $2.5 million Full-Service Community School Grant. (Read more here.)

Other SCM community-engagement examples include its Inequality Project, which brings the School together in course work, volunteer activities and around economic, social and political issues, with a focus on working with important community institutions like the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.   

Students are also organizing fund-raising events. Under the direction of Prof. Larry Weiner, students affiliated with the University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter have hosted fund raisers to support Autism New Jersey, a nonprofit agency that provides information, support and advocacy for families and professionals to ensure that all people with Autism Spectrum Disorder receive appropriate, effective services to maximize their potential. This year's event will take place on May 4 in Memorial Auditorium from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (Read more here.)


Department of Art and Design

Community outreach is also a priority of the Department of Art and Design. Students enrolled in Prof. Sabine Eck's Modern Architecture course are working on a project related to the renovation/redevelopment of Lackawanna Plaza, based in Montclair Township. The former train terminal is on the national and state register of historic places and slated to be renovated in the near future.

Prof. Eck said that, in addition to teaching architectural history, she conducts the class as a mock architectural office in which students participate in most of the issues involved in developing a complex project.

Working in small groups, students on this project are required to perform various duties, including outreaching to identify historical sources, summarizing the proposals of the developer, and analyzing the recommendations of the consultant hired by the township.

At the end of the course, the results will be shared with principals involved with the project including Pinnacle Developers; Ira Smith, Montclair Township's architecture and design consultant overseeing the proposals; and Janice Talley, the town’s Director of Planning and Community Development.

"Some of us attended the town’s public workshop to discuss proposals and preliminary concepts for the Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment Plan," Prof. Eck said.


John J. Cali School of Music


For three seasons, Cali School of Music faculty, students and visiting artists have been performing a series of concerts at the historic Van Vleck House, in Montclair. The School has shared its music resources with a growing audience through this series, which offers the public a chance to hear a variety of classical music styles performed by accomplished artists and their students. All concerts are open to the public with no charge for admission.


Department of Theatre and Dance

In addition to staging its productions on campus, the Department of Theatre and Dance's Theatre on the Move (TOTM) project, a touring acting company launched in fall 2011, is still going strong. TOTM's mission is to extend the University’s community outreach, and as such, takes theatrical works, featuring contemporary social issues, to middle and high schools in the New Jersey/New York area.

The traveling troupe's inaugural work was the world premiere of a play that commemorated the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by exploring the teenage experience in the post-9/11 world. In spring 2012, TOTM toured Bullies 'R Us to high school and middle schools, an unique performance featuring short scenes and personal anecdotes regarding teenage bullying. After the performance, students voiced their own opinions and personal experiences in a talkback session with the actors. Blending humor with serious content, in spring 2013, TOTM created Breaking the Cycle and, most recently -- in 2014, Breaking the Cycle 2 -- each tackling current social issues students faced by students in their daily lives. TOTM shows change from year to year with a new faculty director who reworks the show with a new company of student actors. (Read more about TOTM here.)

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Each fall, as part of the Dance for Children course, BA Dance majors in both the Dance Education with P-12 certification and Studio Teaching concentrations, teach dance to first-, second-, and third-grade, and special-needs students at Bradford Elementary School, Montclair. Prof. Elizabeth McPherson said that, since there is currently no dance teacher at the school, University students offer their talents to teach, and receive three credits in turn. The elementary school students also attend dance and music programs held on campus. It's a win-win for both sides.

"It is a fabulous learning experience for all," says McPherson.


Whether it's helping in the renovation of an historic building, or bringing attention to teenage, social, economic, health and political issues, or simply giving of their musical, theatrical or artistic talents, students at the College of the Arts are continuing a long-standing tradition of paying it forward by not only engaging, but also enriching, their community.

Read more about recent examples of the College's service to the community here.