Teaching & Community


I believe in teaching, engaging in, and presenting my scholarship in creative ways, as much as possible through collaborative partnerships with individuals and community groups. I strive to do long-term fieldwork that builds on relationships with communities and to make my writing, oral history, photography, and filmmaking connected to real people and their concerns. I seek to promote progressive change by amplifying voices and illuminating social injustices. I believe that education and the practice of change are inseparable. I strive to combine learning with ethics and responsibility to others.

There is no one-way communication, and I believe it’s impossible to understand social issues without engagement with communities outside the academy. My goal as an educator is to encourage others to do community-based work. To teach is to believe that each student has the potential to change the world.

For examples of various projects and courses, see below.

Students tending and documenting the garden in its beginning stages.

Mosaic Community Garden

The Mosaic Community Garden is a collaboration between the Center For Documentary Studies at Duke University and Charlie Thompson’s Politics of Food course. The purpose is to design, construct and maintain a large garden just outside the Center For Documentary Studies building on Pettigrew Street in Durham. Come visit us!

Mosaic Community Garden website >>


Activism and Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Students documented the groups working in and near New Orleans using photography, audio recordings, and writing to tell the stories of the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. From the materials handed in at the end of the class combined with Rob Amberg‘s photographs from the trip, Charles Duncan and Tennessee Watson produced the multimedia documentaries presented here on this site.

Katrina Class website >>


Capstone Course for the Documentary Studies Certificate, 2011

The Certificate in Documentary Studies at Duke University is a program of study involving undergraduate students in community-based research using photography, filmmaking, oral history, and other documentary fieldwork methods. To receive the certificate, students must compete a minimum of six courses and a documentary project that they exhibit, present, publish, or otherwise disseminate to the public.

Class Website with excerpts from student work >>


Student Action with Farmworkers

Student Action with Farmworkers is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to bring students and farmworkers together to learn about each other’s lives, share resources and skills, improve conditions for farmworkers, and build diverse coalitions working for social change.

SAF works with farmworkers, students, and advocates in the Southeast and nationwide to create a more just agricultural system. Since 1992, we have engaged thousands of students, farmworker youth, and community members in the farmworker movement.

Visit the SAF website >>
Feature on Duke Libraries website >>


DukeEngage on the Border in Tucson, AZ.

DukeEngage on the Border – Tucson, AZ

Led this summer by BorderLinks, a well-respected bi-national organization with a 20+ year history of educating around global political economics, this program has grown from an active collaboration between BorderLinks and the following Duke-affiliated units: the Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South, the Center for Documentary Studies, and Student Action with Farmworkers.  Students accepted into the program will spend the summer learning about the US/Mexico border, with a focus on national security, human rights, and comprehensive immigration reform.

Read more about the program on the DukeEngage website >>
Feature on Duke Libraries website >>


Triangle University Food Studies

Triangle University Food Studies is a working group of faculty and students from NC State University, UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University who all share in interest and passion in food. Our group hopes to demonstrate the excitement about these issues on Triangle campuses and provide students, faculty and community members with a way to network and become involved.

Visit the TUFS website >>

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