Cultural Lenses

There are those wonderful opportunities in an educator’s life that are worth sharing, and this is one of those times.

While teaching at Missouri State University, I have been on many diversity committees and have promoted diversity on campus. Last spring, while in a committee meeting I mentioned to Dr. Chantal Levesque-Bristol, Director of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) that it might be nice to have faculty experience diversity directly by capturing digital images in their community. I was secretly thinking about “Shooting Back” in Paley’s (1995) book, Finding Art’s Place: Experiments in Contemporary Education and Culture.  Dr. Levesque-Bristol agreed and the course description was advertised as:

Bring an open mind and a digital camera to the experiences of understanding otherness and diversity through digital images that will be shared with others. This is a new offering of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at MSU which is designed to bring people together to discuss issues of our community by sharing thoughts about digital images discovered throughout the region by each participant. The group will meet and share experiences throughout the Fall semester. No previous photographic experiences are necessary to fully participate in this exciting visual adventure.

 Only five participated, and initially, I was a little disappointed but the enthusiasm and engagement in capturing images, the bi-weekly critiques, the selection of images for the exhibition, and the reception was amazing and perfect. I could not imagine a better group or more profound and rewarding teaching experience where photographers of all levels of  experience shared their ideas and images. This experience would have been less successful without the tireless energy of Enid Harris, Administrative Assistant for the FTLC, who was the person who made sure everything was perfect from setting up the digital projector for the biweekly critiques to getting the frames for the exhibition.

Below are abbreviated artists’ statements and one image. A complete exhibition can be seen at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website at


 Jamaine Abidogun.  Watermelon Contest 2010
We are each a part of the other. Our differences and similarities provide a spectrum of form, style,  and possibility. These photos represent my family’s cross-cultural connections and are at once both personal and public.

Christi Christensen.  Small Town Football
There’s nothing like football season in a small town. Mighty-mite football players dream of playing varsity and the varsity player’s dream of playing in college. Mothers and fathers, cheerleaders and the marching band all rally behind the “boys of fall.” Excitement builds all day on Friday, and by Friday night dads are coaching from the stands, moms are ringing cowbells and the smell of popcorn fills the air. Win or lose we are proud of our boys!

Jodi Flynn.  Mutual Respect: Biking and the Law
Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed, and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that’s no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride.


Michelle Morgan.  Playing with History
As a historian, I believe that a community’s culture is intricately connected with its understanding and interpretation of the past. In the few short months I have lived in Springfield, the connections between contemporary identity and the region’s history have intrigued me. The recognition that white Springfieldians fought on both sides of the Civil War conflict means that many of the local interpretations of the Civil War try to transcend (or obscure) the roles of race and slavery in the conflict.


p class=”MsoNormal”>Katheryne Staeger-Wilson.  Disability Pride
For the most part, society knows very little about disability history, culture or the civil rights movement. Most people have not been exposed to the concept of disability as a social construct. Because our society has such a negative perception of disability, I wanted to reframe disability and showcase photographs of today along with powerful statements made by disability advocates/activists.

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