Sunday, November 7, 2010

Serendipity 7. Part II Writing a book with 28 student/alum co-authors

I spent my Sunday afternoon in a basement yesterday, and so did fifteen of the students and alumni who are part of the book project I wrote about as "Serendipity 7" back in September. We're writing a book on the Millennium Development Goals, a textbook by (current and former) students for students. The basement in question is called Turtle Underground and is located on Saint Michael's North Campus. It was generously offered by Connor, who manages the space for all manner of music performances, and once we had all assembled, we did our usual circling up to tackle the afternoon to-do list.

As I mentioned in a previous email, this is a project without a manual. There may be other student-alumni teams working as volunteers with their professor to write a text on an understudied-but-important topic, but if there are, I'm not aware of it. We're building the ship as we sail it, and so far the journey's been great. Today's meeting had two main objectives. The first was to assemble the student teams that would be working on each chapter that form the core of the book (each chapter is devoted to one of the eight Millennium Development Goals and there are three to four individuals assigned to each chapter) so they could each go over the chapter outline and begin to create a work plan. The second was to make some critical decisions on the four countries we will use as case studies and examples throughout the book.

After much discussion about first, criteria for our decision-making and second, individual country cases that had been nominated in the previous two months, we settled on two of the cases: Ecuador and the Palestinian Territories. We will still need to pick two additional cases, one from sub-Saharan Africa and one from South Asia, and should have the decision finalized in less than a week.

Of course, one of the coolest things about this project is the chance to see great alumni, and the fact that the project gives them an additional reason to be back at SMC on a regular basis. One of the photos above is from a pre-meeting brunch with the ones who stayed at my house over the weekend, Drisk, Siham, and Julia, who are all working on the book, and JD who is busy with his grad program at Northeastern, but was a wonderful sport in driving some of the others from Massachusetts. In the spirit of new things (and of not feeling like waiting an hour for brunch at the SMC standbys of Penny Cluse or Sneakers), we ventured into the Old North End to try out Nunyuns, and will definitely be back -- great space, great food and NO LINES.

The photos from the meeting at Turtle Underground feature Julia getting ready to take notes while the rest of "circled up" for the meeting, and Drisk and I going over a document he wrote. Finally, there are some team shots. One is of Kate B., Claire and Connor who are writing the chapter on MDG 2 (Universal Primary Education), and the second is of Julia, Cailie and Lucia, who are doing MDG 3 (Gender Equity). More than half of the total group was able to make this meeting, which wasn't bad considering we've got co-authors contributing from as far away as Oxford, England (Jamila), and all over the East Coast. Here's the group that was there yesterday: (back row) Connor, Drisk, Josh H., Ben, me, Alexsis, Lauren, Matt and Cailie; (front row)Annie, Julia, Josh B. Siham, Claire, Kate B., and Lucia. There are graduates from as far back as '06, current sophomores and everything in between.

The meeting lasted for three hours, and as we were clearing out I was once again struck with the thought that Saint Mike's draws a lot of truly fabulous students to its campus, and it's an incredibly lucky thing to be able to work with them there, and even after their time on campus is done. Just as with this book project, we're all in it for the long haul, and in a world that's all about instant gratification and immediate results, that's an especially good thing, I think.


  1. I feel gutted that I can't be there at the in-person meetings. Emails are great but I'm sure that they are not have as inspiring and energizing. As I was reading the notes from the meeting, I was thinking about how exciting this project is. It's exciting because it tackles salient issues on the global agenda. And it's relevant because the targeted deadline for achieving the MDGs is fast approaching. But I think the most significant thing about this is that it is truly a collaborative effort between a professor, current students and alumni.

    Trish, I feel like this 7th serendipitous thing on your list really highlights one of the coolest things about your list of 52 Things. This year has been so much about other people as well (not just about you and not just about doing something new!). You've met cool new people, formed new bonds/relationships with people you've already new, and brought new groups of people together in the most interesting ways!

    PS:- How bout we have our next meeting in Oxford? I think we could all fit in my living room if we packed in tightly!

  2. Sorry I couldn't make it to this meeting! However, I must say that you're doing an excellent job with the agendas/minutes/follow-ups.

  3. Also, I second Jamila's suggestion to have the next one in Oxford. Also, I was looking at photos from last year's Halloween, when the list was semi-conceived, and I can't believe it was a year ago already!