Professor Mei Mei Evans and Assistant Professor Rosanne Pagano offered a workshop at an Anchorage conference on how the arts may contribute solutions to environmental problems.
Responding to a call for proposals for the Earth Matters on Stage symposium, Evans and Pagano developed a session that enhances people’s understanding of character strengths so they may be harnessed to advance causes that participants care most about.
“We wanted to send the message that two things contributing to environmental problems – human decision-making and our own behavior – are the sources of solutions as well,” Pagano said.
Evans and Pagano are veteran faculty members in APU’s writing program.
“When we heard about the EMOS conference, we knew we wanted to combine our interests,” said Evans. Her critically acclaimed novel, “Oil and Water,” draws on Evans’ knowledge of ways of that Alaskans responded to loss following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989. Evans is co-editor of the Environmental Justice Reader. Pagano, who reported on the Exxon Valdez spill as an Associated Press staff writer, is a journalist and published fiction writer who holds a degree in applied positive psychology.
More than 20 people attended their workshop held April 20 at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Participants included students, playwrights and environmental justice advocates. The session began with a research-based questionnaire that helps people identify their virtues, which involve the capacity for traits like gratitude, bravery, leadership, fairness and persistence. Workshop participants then focused on their top three strengths to write about how they might be used in everyday life for work on behalf of the environment.
Pagano and Evans said that hearing participants read their writing aloud was among the most gratifying outcomes.
“People said they really gained insight into the things they do well,” Pagano said. “They left with creative ideas for next steps in their activist work.”
Evans and Pagano plan to offer the workshop at other events in the coming school year.