Presidential - Oral Presentation Session
Zoe Nyssa (Purdue University)
Communities of practice are a well-established model for bringing people together around exploration, skill-building, learning and shared goals (Eckert, Lave & Wenger). Widely used in education and business, such collective learning models offer opportunities for creating new and better interchanges between academic and practitioner communities in anthropology. Strengthening engagement and exchange involving students, faculty and practitioners is a longstanding topic within applied anthropology education (Briller & Goldmacher; Copeland & Dengagh; Ervin; Nolan; Schon). However, we can do more to spark the imagination regarding newer forms of creative and dynamic anthropological partnerships.
We discuss how the Space for Practice functions as a live and virtual community of practice in conjunction with Purdue’s “Anthropology of Tomorrow” Initiative. This Space was conceived as an innovative teaching and learning collaboration, a hub for engagement with practitioners who work in varied settings, and an exemplar of a different type of productive academic and practice interface. Several cases studies are presented showing how we blend self-directed learning, lifelong learning, collaboration with community partners, and creative strategies for applying anthropology in the world. An important goal is to strengthen the bonds between the academy and practice – and enhance anthropology’s contribution to the creation of a better and more socially just world. By doing so, we dedicate ourselves to our mission of “Building Anthropology Networks and Impact into the Future”. Lastly, we consider ways that other anthropologists might replicate this model or use it as a starting point for designing inventive synergies linking academic and practice realms.