In 1999, Brooke Hessler co-founded the non-profit corporation Write to Succeed to develop community literacy partnerships between universities, K-12 schools, museums, and social service agencies in North Texas. Their intergenerational Writing Partners curriculum was adopted by teachers and learners in California, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Virginia. Brooke has incorporated various forms of experiential learning, service learning, and action research into the majority of her undergraduate and graduate courses ever since.
Over the years, Brooke’s community partners have included The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Ronald McDonald House, The Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center, National Archives of Singapore, The Ralph Ellison Foundation, Uptown 23rd District, Freedom to Marry, Curbside Chronicle, The ArtScience Prize, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center and Museum.
Co-founded in 2002 with the curators of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum Archive and sustained for 14 years, the Virtual Archives Project partnership engaged college students in the development of interactive digital exhibits and educational materials viewed by thousands of museum visitors and school children each year.
Service-learning students worked alongside survivors, first-responders, and family members of people killed in the April 19, 1995 bombing widely considered the U.S. Heartland’s most infamous incident of domestic terrorism to date.
Students catalogued artifacts, conducted oral history interviews, and shared their research and service-learning experiences in over a dozen national presentations. More than 300 undergraduate researchers participated in this partnership. Brooke’s service-learning syllabus for a visual rhetoric/first-year writing section of this project was published in the Campus Compact Syllabus Archives as a resource for service-learning faculty nationwide. Additional teaching materials published online include research-based critical reflection resources, as part of the Engaged Faculty Institute Curriculum by the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), California Campus Compact, and Campus Compact of the Mountain West.
In 2014 and 2015 Brooke’s student-researchers supported the verbatim theatre production developed by U.K. playwright Steve Gilroy, The Oklahoma Bombing Project. Brooke served as dramaturg for this production, which was revised as In the Middle of the West (Oberon 2018). The work premiered in the US on April 19, 2015 and in the UK in the Fall of 2015. A new tour and associated educational programming are currently under development.
Brooke explored the rhetorical dimensions of this long-term civic partnership and pedagogy in the Community Literacy Journal article Identification as Civic Literacy in Digital Museum Projects: A Case Study of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
In 2016 Brooke and her students launched a Place As Text-inspired multi-year study of the landmarks and lore of the century-old Oakland, CA campus of California College of the Arts and the insights it can yield into cultural preservation, gentrification, public art, and learning-space design as the institution prepared for its permanent relocation to San Francisco.