An essay by Dr. Jennifer Sasser, gerontology program director, was published in the International Journal of Reminiscence and Lifelong Learning in January 2015.
Shelly Parini-Runge was looking for a graduate program that would start paying benefits long before she actually earned her degree. She found what she was looking for in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program, where she chose to take on a real-world challenge in writing her thesis: developing a more positive, community-centered model of creating social change.
Shelly's project was inspired by her career as a public servant. As the current dean of college advancement at Clackamas Community College, she has seen the intended and unintended outcomes when community members are not involved deeply in making important decisions that affect them.
Shelly developed a new model of community outreach called "appreciative organizing" while undertaking a significant friendraising and fundraising campaign at Clackamas. The college was using a model called "appreciative inquiry" to reach out to its stakeholders, which focused on finding out what's good, right and valued by the community. The appreciative organizing model developed by Shelly takes appreciative inquiry a step further by incorporating other practices that are affirmative and citizen centered. Through her model, she's created a highly structured roadmap to action that incorporates the community's shared vision and shows progress toward results.
Shelly's thesis is just one of many diverse research projects presented by 2012 Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies graduates. Topics of other theses included:
- The impact of childhood trauma on brain development
- A review of the impact of Jane Addams, founder of Hull House and ahead of her time in understanding the causes of poverty
- How to unleash the professional value of senior citizens
- A proposal to create a "black American homeland" to be funded by federal reparations
- How combat can shape soldiers' lives in a positive way
See the complete listing of Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies thesis presentations from 2012 and previous years in our library archive.