Founded in 1999, the Playwright Mentorship Program (PMP), run through the Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshire County, MA, aims to bring together youth aged 13-19 who are survivors of trauma. It utilizes dramatic and comedic improvisation as a form of community building. It lasts 6 months, typically from late October to late April, and culminates in the participants performing a play where scenes are traumatic moments from the children’s lives at most local middle and high schools to spread awareness of the issues involved and of the program. The study reveals the numerous physical and mental health benefits of the program and aims to warrant a broader implementation of drama therapy as an effective tool of medical rehabilitation for trauma.
As a peer mentor who led one group of children during 2016-2017, I observed first-hand the positive changes in the behavior and mental health of participants throughout the duration of the program. As a researcher with two current publications in the British Medical Journal that evaluate the health benefits of clinical intervention in neonates, 1,2 I desired to quantitatively and analytically evaluate the behavioral, mental, and physical health benefits in all adolescent participants of PMP (if they existed). Program director Jane O’Leary had been implementing pre-PMP and post-PMP surveys since the program’s conception, which made for easy access to comprehensive data that at least in some ways tracked changes before and after the intervention. Therefore, this project aims to elucidate the potential health benefits of the integrative drama therapy program, the Playwright Mentorship Program, as well as to provide recommendations for the director to bolster its data collection.
- Equal Housing for All: A Report on Race Based Housing Discrimination in the United States (PDF of Complete Paper)
This report shares findings from a research project focused on improving Barrington Stage Company (BSC) patrons’ experiences travelling to and from shows at the Main Stage and Blatt Center. The research consisted of multiple site visits to the areas adjacent to the BSC buildings, careful study of Google satellite images of the streets in question, and benchmarking research on wayfinding techniques. I looked for conditions which potentially deter patrons from walking and driving in the area, including but not limited to poor lighting, landscape blight, and inadequate wayfinding. I followed up this research with an exploration of potential low-cost improvements that could be undertaken by BSC in partnership with other community stakeholders.
I recommend targeted landscaping, lighting and access improvements to the Polish Community Club, creative wayfinding techniques, a collaborative neighborhood beautification initiative, and the exploration of a pilot theatre-arts parking pass. Advanced together, these efforts could improve the look and tone of the neighborhood for non-locals as well as bolster the sense of pride among residents.
- BSC Parking and Pathways Improvement Project: Findings and Recommendations (PDF of Complete Paper)
Excerpted from "Intro" by Anna Pomper '18 and Keiana West '18
Print has always been a key tool in the creation of positive change. From Fire!!, the revolutionary literary magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, to The Black Panther paper, which served as a megaphone projecting Panther ideas across the country and the world, to Triple Jeopardy, the journal by the Third World Women’s Alliance which preserved their innovative coalition strategies for posterity. Newspapers have played crucial roles as both the voice of the movement, and the voice of the movement’s constituency. Print is where the conversation begins.
Unfortunately, the tradition of change-making newspapers has all but died out. In particular, there is no magazine of the kind we are particularly interested in, which is a strategy building magazine where readers and writers can share concrete ideas for implementing community programming and community organizing.
This absence is particularly felt on college campuses, where theoretical debates can sometimes distract from action. There’s a missing link, a need for a forum where theory can become practice. This is what we hope SUMMIT! can become.
Our focus on community programming reflects our belief that community programming and organizing represents the most viable site for positive change. We believe this for several reasons. In an unequal wo ld, providing people with equal access to fundamental needs inherently challenges those structures of inequality. Secondly, providing these community programs proves to people that your money is where your mouth is. It gives you credibility. People are a hundred times more willing to hear the theory if they’ve seen it in practice. Thirdly, community programming is excellent ground for coalition building. Allies are likely to be sympathetic to an organization that is providing free clothing or free housing to people in need.
As part of the Berkshire County Superintendents' Roundtable Countywide Professional Development Day in November 2017, this 6-hour professional development workshop provided middle and high school level faculty with history and up-to-date information about the current refugee crisis, local refugee resettlement, and immigration and migration as a vehicle for exploring American identity. The sessions included hands-on training and resources to prepare faculty to create their own oral history and/or service learning curriculum modules focused on building common ground through hearing and sharing stories of struggle. The workshop featured information on stereotyping and bias, oral history techniques, cultural competency, trauma and PTSD, and social & emotional learning.
The multi-session workshop was offered at Williams College with participation from faculty, staff and students, and leaders from other Berkshire County institutions, including the new Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at Berkshire Commyunity College, the Pittsfield Public Schools, the Berkshire Immigrant Center and the Education Department and Playwright Mentoring Program of Barrington Stage Company.
- Complete Resource Materials (Google Drive Folder)
Lack of accessibility—the ability to make a trip for a given purpose—has long been recognized as an urgent problem in Berkshire County. In a geographical area where it is difficult for conventional public transit to provide extensive service, those who lack access to a personal automobile often lack independent mobility. This is especially true of the senior population, who are less likely to be able to drive, walk, or use public transportation. This report analyzes the state of transportation in the Berkshires, and argues that as the Berkshire population continues to age a growing cohort of seniors will face severely limited mobility. This will likely result in increased social isolation, reduced access to health services, and added financial strain on this group, especially among the "old old" (those 80 years or older). This report argues that volunteer driver programs present the best solution to this growing problem. These programs are inexpensive, scalable, and simple to operate, and can supplement existing public transport services by filling in gaps and providing service to Berkshire County's most underserved groups. Specifically, this report recommends the TRIP program, a low-cost, voucher-based model. With minimal startup costs, the flexibility to serve a broad service area, and an approach based on empowering elderly clients, the TRIP model can reach a large number of underserved residents at very low cost.
In the past century, the livestock and dairy industry in the United States have undergone a major transformation. Currently, they are heavily reliant on intensive animal farming practices. This trend of consolidation and concentration has allowed for an increase in productivity and efficiency but has brought environmental issues, such as air pollution, soil depletion, and waste management, to the forefront of public policy regarding the U.S. livestock industry. There are also public health concerns such as spread of disease and an increasing use of antibiotics and animal welfare concerns as the number of animals per unit of land area increases.
In this report, I discuss this transformation and several of the concerns. I provide several federal policies related to livestock and dairy production, such as the 28 Hour Law, Federal Meat Inspection Act, and Whole Meat Act, and specific policies that attempt to address several of the concerns. I then address legislative state trends and highlight policies pending, passed, or failed to pass in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, State of New York, and State of Vermont.
Moreover, I explore the idea of transparency in farms and slaughterhouses and the history and status of ag-gag laws. I then give a brief overview of the rise of alternative food systems and local foods in response to a discontent with industrial agriculture. In addition, I discuss how there are far too few slaughterhouses to meet the growing demand for locally raised meat, creating bottlenecks of small producers, particularly in the Northeast states and how the number of dairy farms and cooperatives have also declined. Finally, I examine current policies, rulings, and regulations and suggest changes in public policy to address the rise of CAFOs; concerns of the environment, public health, and animal welfare; ag-gag laws and bottlenecks. My research required reading state bills, federal laws, books, newspaper articles, USDA/NASS statistical findings, as well as interviewing with local farmers and a former state legislator/agricultural commissioner.
In 2016, students in HIST 371, Oral History: Theory, Methods and Practice, produced North Adams Memories. Using interviews conducted in the class, the project tells some of the history of North Adams through the experiences and memories of people who lived and worked there. Please read and listen to their stories or download a PDF version of the site.