Maria Avila presents a personal account of her experience as a teenager working in a factory in Ciudad Juarez to how she got involved in community organizing. She has since applied the its distinctive practices of community organizing to civic engagement in higher education, demonstrating how this can help create a culture that values and rewards civically engaged scholarship and advance higher education's public, democratic mission.Adapting what she learned during her years as an organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation, she describes a practice that aims for full reciprocity between partners and is achieved through the careful nurturing of relationships, a mutual understanding of personal narratives, leadership building, power analysis, and critical reflection. She demonstrates how she implemented the process in various institutions and in various contexts and shares lessons learned. Community organizing recognizes the need to understand the world as it is in order to create spaces where stakeholders can dialogue and deliberate about strategies for creating the world as we would like it to be. Maria Avila offers a vision and process that can lead to creating institutional change in higher education, in communities surrounding colleges and universities, and in society at large.This book is a narrative of her personal and professional journey and of how she has gone about co-creating spaces where democracy can be enacted and individual, institutional, and community transformation can occur. In inviting us to experience the process of organizing, and in keeping with its values and spirit, she includes the voices of the participants in the initiatives in which she collaborated - stakeholders ranging from community partners to faculty, students, and administrators in higher education.
Maria Avila is a faculty member in the Master of Social Work program at the California State University, Dominguez Hills. She is a member of Imagining America National Advisory Board. Avila's research focuses on participatory action research with faculty and with community partners, aimed at creating democratic, civic engagement inside and outside of higher education institutions.
She was Director of the Center for Community Based Learning at Occidental College from 2001-2011, having earlier worked as a community organizer and a social worker in Mexico and in the US for over 20 years.
Prior to working in higher education, Avila was a community organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the international network founded by the late Saul Alinksy in the 1940s. She has performed volunteer and consulting work with a number of organizations, including Partnerships to Uplift Communities, the Northeast LA Education Strategy, the City of Los Angeles, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, and the Council for Social Work Education's Council on Global Issues.
Avila has given numerous talks and workshops in the topics of civic engagement and community organizing at national and international conferences and venues, and has published several book chapters and journal articles.
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