Building a Relationship

Julie Knapp

It’s a short drive down 17th street, but it has a big impact on Washburn University.

The partnership between the Brown v. Board national historic site and the university has been thriving since it opened in May of 2004.

Bruce Mactavish, associate dean of The College of Arts and Sciences, coordinates a lot of the efforts for the two organizations. He said like any partnership, the key was to combine their resources and bring better programming and speakers.

So far, they have joined efforts to work on the Oliver Brown lecture series, that brings a speaker to the park and the university every fall. Students have also been working at the site as interns, working on interpretation and education.

Many classes have been taught in the educational atmosphere the site provides. They have a classroom, and adjacent to it is a computer lab. Mactavish called it a wonderful resource for technology and displays.

“It was great,” said Mactavish of his teaching experience there. “I think they have world-class facilities, and all the technology [faculty] want.”

Projects and classes have included a class taught by two faculty members on civil rights, and for an oral history class the site offered recording devices and technical assistance. There has also been a marketing project done on the site by one of the business classes.

Dennis Vasquez, superintendent of Brown v. Board of Education national historic site, said he is proud of the partnership with Washburn.

“I think what we both have in common is education,” said Vasquez. “We see ourself as educators. Not in the formal K-12 sense, but more of a lifetime learning experience.”

Mactavish and Vasquez said the main purpose of the relationship was to provide education about the civil rights movement.

“We are both in the business of inspiration and motivation,” said Vasquez. “We want them to gain it and drive them to do something about it. Stand up for rights, and the rights of others.”

Vasquez pointed out that not many sites have a unique relationship with a university like the Brown and Washburn connection.

“The fact that we are in town gives us the opportunity to coordinate projects, and gives us access to the university community,” said Vasquez.

Both organizations want to broaden the partnership in the coming years, and activities are in the planning stages. Mactavish said he is interested in bringing a visiting artist that could work at the site and visit the art department at Washburn. He’d also like to continue having classes there, and send more interns to work at the site.

He said any faculty member who is interested in teaching there should contact the site. There phone number is (785) 354-4273.