Newsletter, September 2016


Arts and Humanities Civic Engagement


Cultural Agents is an interface between academic learning and civic engagement. The Initiative promotes arts and humanities as social resources.



  • Pre-Texts Workshop at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning 
  • WHEN: Wednesday – Friday, September, 21-23
  • WHERE: Science Center 318, The Bok Community Space, MA
  • WHAT: The Derek Bok Center and Professor Doris Sommer, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, invite faculty and Teaching Fellows to participate in a 3-session workshop to explore the possibilities of Pre-Text training for adaptation in the Harvard classroom. Graduate students who participate in the workshop will be able to count their participation toward one Seminar requirement for a Bok Center Teaching Certificate by doing a follow-up project in their classrooms and meeting with other participants to explore the results.

To register please visit:

  • Pre-Texts is a 2016 Finalist Project in NEACOL’s 2nd Annual Gala
  • WHEN: Friday, September 23 | 7:30pm
  • WHERE: Boston Marriott Burlington, MA
  • WHAT: Pre-Texts is one of the 2016 Finalist Projects of NEACOL’s 2nd Annual Gala “Keeping Dreams Alive.” The first grant provided by the New England Association for Colombian Children was in 2014, which supported an initiative focused on education and impacted the lives of 270 impoverished Colombian children. Early in 2015, it funded a second project in nutrition that benefited 156 Colombian children and their families. In 2016 NEACOL funded projects such as Social Football , helping more than 100 children, and Learning Under a Roof supporting 50 students directly, and 300 students total.Currently, there are four projects nominated for 2016. These include:

    “Deja tu Huella de Paz” based in Cali and Yumbo (Valle del Cauca), looks to give tools that permit students to strengthen their leadership capacities in order to design and execute projects of social impact in their own context.

    “Lactancia Amor Natural“, based in Medellín (Antioquia), looks to educate mothers in refugee populations about the health and nutritional advantages of breastfeeding, to decrease the levels of malnutrition in the community.

    “Alimentando la esperanza de los niños campesinos”, based in Albán (Cundinamarca), looks to improve nutritional safety and increase nutritional coverage in up to 84% of vulnerable children in the rural communities.

    “Pre-Textos” based in Quibdó (Chocó), looks to increase and develop critical reading and reasoning by educating teachers to stimulate reading and writing creativity. This project is under the umbrella of literacy, leadership and civic education.

For more information on previous projects, the event, or register to donate,
please visit: NEACOL

General News: Cultural Agents 

Doris Sommer is selected as a
Fulbright Specialist Roster candidate

We at Cultural Agents Initiative would like to congratulate Doris Sommer, Director of Cultural Agents Initiative, Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, on being recommended for the Fulbright Specialist Roster by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Institute of International Education’s Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES).

The Roster is a list of all candidates who are eligible to be matched with incoming project requests from overseas academic institutions for Fulbright Specialists. As a Roster candidate, she will be considered for project requests that require her expertise.


ECA and CIES congratulate you on being selected as a Fulbright Specialist Roster candidate. Whether or not you ultimately receive a Fulbright Specialist grant, we appreciate your interest in international scholarly exchanges and trust that you will continue to support this endeavor, which is so vital to academic and professional communities around the world.

– María de los Ángeles Crummett
Executive Director,
Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES)

New Internship Opportunities at
Cultural Agents Initiative

Three internships positions will be opening in Cultural Agents Initiative and Pre-Texts for undergraduate students. Further information will be available soon. If interested, please contact us at

General News: Pre-Texts


Pre-Texts at Harvard Ed Portal

I had the privilege of working with Trecia Reavis and others at the Harvard Ed Portal five mornings in July 2016.  We used the book “The Boy Who Loved Words” as inspiration for a wide variety of activities to help the learners unravel the meaning of the story.  In the end, the students had created their own works of visual, performance, and three-dimensional art and literature inspired by the story.

The kids were K-2nd grade so there was a range of learning from pre-readers through youngsters who were easily able to read and even read out loud to others.  It was a challenge to provide the right amount of attention to and boundaries for each of the kids.

It was very satisfying to see kids who at first weren’t interested in a project make it their own.  Some had a hard time getting started and needed to be told they didn’t have to be perfect, that anything they did would be great because they, the learner, did it.  Also, some of the learners were just beginning to recognize letters or make sentences and needed someone to help them get started and/or write a sentence down that they made up.  Once they created a sentence and were helped by the facilitator and/or a more advanced reader, they started creating more and more sentences and really got interested in writing!

–  Karen Woodward-Massey,
Pre-Texts Facilitator Assistant
For more photographs and videos, please visit:

Pre-Texts in Coyhaique, Chile

I want to comment that the Pre-Texts methodology has been a very enriching experience that [during August 2016] has allowed us to re-signify our processes of teaching-learning, not only of texts, as much outside the classroom as inside. It has convened us to look again at our ways of working and our way of being in the encounter with others, whether students, partners, or equals.  The follow-up meetings on Saturdays have given us feedback and allowed us to improve the process.

– Patricia Rivera,
Pre-Texts Weaver

Featured Story

Javier Aranzales on
“Following Your Heartbreak”

At the recent TEDx Youth Miami event, Harvard University student, Javier Aranzales, spoke about his experience with arts education. Through a beautifully concise recount about his journey and the encounters that have marked the direction of his life, Aranzales encourages us to “follow our heartbreak.” It was this personal philosophy that sparked his interest in the development and invigoration of communities around the world through education, social enterprise, and arts and culture initiatives.
Check out the full TEDx Talk at:

Neil Gaiman on Why We Read and What Books Do for the Human Experience


Brain Pickings founder, Maria Popova, recently gifted us a reminder of Neil Gaiman’s perspective on the importance of reading. In the article “Neil Gaiman on Why We Read and What Books Do for the Human Experience” she transcribes an excerpt of his incredible lecture, “How Stories Last.”

I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. We have an obligation to use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.

We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.


We all — adults and children, writers and readers — have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.


Just look around this room… Everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it might be easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on. This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, in this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things. They daydreamed, they pondered, they made things that didn’t quite work, they described things that didn’t yet exist to people who laughed at them. And then, in time, they succeeded. Political movements, personal movements, all begin with people imagining another way of existing.

For full the Brain Pickings article see:


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