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Around the Pond

Read and Heard—In 12 Languages

I remember the pain in Peike’s voice. As we were catching up over dinner, she told me that she was stressed about her homework, since she had mountains of reading each week. Although she is fluent in English, it was her first year attending school in the United States, where she was expected to study, work, socialize, and advocate for herself in her nonnative tongue.

Seeing the exhaustion on her face, I realized the amount of energy students expend to not only exist, but also excel in spaces where their own language is not the language of power. Like many native-English speakers in the United States, I had taken for granted the privilege I have of being able to go almost anywhere I want and have other people accommodate to my language preference.

I realized the amount of energy students expend to not only exist, but also excel in spaces where their own language is not the language of power.

When in September 2017 the Massachusetts Daily Collegian cut down on print and turned our attention toward digital, I started thinking about new opportunities to serve the community. I thought of Peike. I asked my editor if the Collegian could have articles in Spanish and Chinese, since those languages have large speaking populations on campus. She green-lighted my idea, and I got to recruiting. By November, we were translating articles into Spanish and Chinese—and Vietnamese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese. This was the start of the Translations Department.

In two years, the department has swelled to over 20 translators and editors who translate articles into 12 languages—soon 13, we’re working on finding a Hindi translator. Not only are we of a variety of ages, races, genders, religions, ethnicities, and nationalities, but we also have a variety of language and translation experience. At our monthly staff meetings, I look around a table and see the future of U.S. community journalism.

Excerpted from “We Need Multilingual Student Journalism,” first published in The Nation.




Honeybee flying in grass
John Solem

Habitats for Happy Pollinators

Just about a third of the food we eat owes its existence to small pollinators—including bees, butterflies, birds, and bats—but their habitats are threatened on a global scale.

UMass Amherst recognized the need to create a pollinator-friendly campus that demonstrates ways to nurture pollinator ecosystems. So far the campus is home to two award-winning pollinator gardens—one of which is registered through the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. The campus has also applied to become an official Bee Campus—a program that recognizes institutions committed to creating sustainable habitats for pollinators.

Hummingbird drawing

The various native plants of the pollinator gardens were chosen by the students and faculty in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and by Landscape Services staff to allow continuous blooms throughout the growing season. “What we’re trying to demonstrate is that you can have overlapping flowering plants,” explains Stephen Herbert, professor of agronomy at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and manager of the pollinator gardens. “Those that started flowering in May are overlapping with June, overlapping with July, August, September, and into October. Then there is potential for pollinators to get nectar all summer long.” One of the gardens includes 36 different native perennials that provide food and shelter for pollinators and a shallow rock pool for safe access to water.

Individuals can also help support pollinators by creating small gardens of native plants in whatever spaces they have, with advice and research from UMass experts.



Sustainability: Part of Every Subject

Sustainability as a value shows itself at UMass Amherst not only in facilities design and composting, but across the curriculum, thanks in part to the Sustainability Curriculum Fellowship program. Established in 2013, the faculty fellowships cultivate teaching excellence in sustainability, often by integrating fresh perspectives into existing courses.

Research Services Librarian Madeleine Charney, a founder of the program, says thousands of students from a wide variety of disciplines—from English to engineering—have benefited by taking courses offered by sustainability fellows. Faculty from more than 33 departments across all disciplines have participated since the program’s inception.

Research Professor of Chemistry and Digital Media Lab Coordinator Steve Acquah is one of the 2019–2020 sustainability fellows. He is using his Makerspace and Leadership Outreach course to support student-directed projects including a low-cost lighting system with locally sourced materials and an affordable chlorine sensor for testing public water supplies.

“Our students have shown that there is really no limitation to achieving their goals if we help provide the tools for their success,” explains Acquah.

The curriculum fellowships support faculty in the humanities and social sciences as well. Rachel Green, assistant professor in the comparative literature program, is incorporating topics on the Anthropocene into her Good and Evil Literature class.

Students are not the only ones learning. Part of the program brings faculty together to consider new teaching methods and curriculum ideas. “The faculty teaching demonstrations are transforming the way I approach team-based learning activities,” says Acquah. “Through the network of fellows, both past and present, there is a wealth of knowledge and best practices to call upon.”