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Opening Speaker:


Dr. Kenneth Reardon, PhD
Professor and Chair of the 
Department of Urban Planning & Community Development




Session Title: 
Crossing MLK Boulevard to Build the Beloved Community: Experiential Education’s Central Challenge

Session Description:  NSEE was founded by visionary educators who were profoundly affected by the role popular education played in advancing the social justice goals of the American Civil Rights Movements and the human rights agenda of the National Liberation Movements of the Global South. Reflecting upon these experiences, NSEE leaders including John Duley, Dick Cuoto, Helen Lewis, Nadinne Cruz and others struggled to devise and advance principles of good practice in experiential education designed to produce to the kind of critical consciousness described by Ivan Illich, Paulo Friere, Ella Baker, Myles Horton and Jack Mezirow.   

Over the past five decades, NSEE has engaged in an impressive array of research, teaching, and outreach efforts aimed at connecting the teaching and learning activities of schools, universities, non-profits and corporations to resident-led revitalization initiatives being pursued in economically distressed neighborhood, cities, and regions at home and abroad. As a result of this work, millions of individuals have experienced transformative learning experiences that have strengthened their commitment to life-long learning, critical inquiry, social justice, and universal human rights.  

Gathering for our 50th Anniversary in the context of rising COVID transmission rates, growing income and wealth disparities, intensifying racial tensions, increasing gun violence, and historic levels of distrust in public institutions, NSEE’s mission, history, and shared values demand that we consider how our teaching and learning must change. This session will challenge participants to re-imagine our approach to experiential education to more effectively prepare the next generations of civic leaders for the ”good and necessary trouble” John Lewis said would be required to dismantle the structural causes of inequality, based on race and class, needed to heal our nation, strengthen our democracy, and save our planet.

Biography:  Ken Reardon is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Community Development at UMass Boston where he pursues research, teaching, and outreach in support of resident-led revitalization in distressed urban neighborhoods. Ken began his careers as a Lecturer in Cornell University’s Field and International Study Program where he was first introduced to the principles and practice of experiential education by Tim Stanton, Dwight Giles, Michelle Whitham, and Florence (Kiki) McCarthy. Social Policy Press published Ken’s latest book Building Bridges: Community and University Partnerships in East St. Louis in 2019. He is currently working on a biography of Paul Davidoff, a Civil Rights era planning scholar and practitioner, who challenged exclusionary zoning used to promote residential segregation in the suburbs and launched the advocacy planning movement within the city and regional planning profession (www.pauldavidoff).