These latest films are part of a cross–disciplinary collaboration between American University’s School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Anthropology to document the voices and empower the people and communities of Greater Washington. Working in partnership with community organizations, the Community Voice Project produces short documentary films, digital stories, and reported stories to capture the voices of community residents too often unseen and unheard.
In six years, teams of film and anthropology students in Nina Shapiro-Perl’s courses: “Documentary Storytelling for Social Change,” and “Community Documentary: Stories of Transformation,” have produced 31 short films and 27 digital stories that tell nuanced narratives of people’s lived experience in their communities. Journalism students in Angie Chuang’s course, “Race, Ethnic and Community Reporting,” have produced more than 75 stories rooted in a dozen DC metro area communities reporting on demographic change, gentrification and more. Together these stories bring voice and visibility of underserved groups to the public while proving students and community members with transformative and practical experiences.
The Project was a natural addition for the School of Communication at American University, applying the school’s value of human rights to its mission is to provide an unsurpassed education to its students.
“Through the Community Voice Project, these dedicated faculty bring together students and community members whose paths might otherwise never cross. Students learn to produce documentary films, digital stories, and reported stories using the latest technologies, and with these new skills they capture and share the voices and of people and communities too often left out of the public discourse,” says School of Communication Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck.
Launched with an initial two-year, $150,000 grant from the Surdna Foundation and the Project is working to grow its financial support. A digital library of the students’ work can be found at , to serve as a model for other university and non-profit collaborations throughout the country.
Community Voice Project Faculty