Summer Bridge Participants ‘Disrupt Boundaries’ of Classroom, Community

Five Humanities Students Selected to Assist CU Organizations

Samuel Froiland headshot
Samuel Froiland

“While I find joy in researching, writing, and teaching history, I have also found… that I receive tremendous satisfaction from work that helps people and society more broadly,” said Samuel Froiland, PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “As a student and practitioner, I find myself drawn to work where I get to be an agent of history and not just its student.”

Alana Ackerman headshot
           Alana Ackerman

Froiland is one of the five participants selected for the Humanities Without Walls Summer Bridge program in 2023. Now in its third year, Summer Bridge is an eight-week, immersive experience that enables humanities graduate students to work alongside community partners in the Champaign-Urbana area. Each PhD student is paired with a local organization that has a specific area of need, and the students are able to utilize their humanities training to make an impact in the community. This program, supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, is a partnership between HWW, We CU, and the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Alana Ackerman (Anthropology) is also clear about her “why.” Summer Bridge is a chance for Ackerman “to learn more about the local context of social organizing, rights, and needs, whether these are related to migration, refuge, or asylum.” In her placement with the Immigrant Services of Champaign-Urbana, Ackerman will identify how local organizations are attending to the needs of migrants— and equally important, what care and community can look like from cross-border and transnational perspectives.

Omar Augustin Hernandez headshot
Omar Agustin Hernandez

For Omar Agustin Hernandez (Anthropology), the Summer Bridge program provides an opportunity to connect with folks outside of his department— and redistribute resources to co-build collaborative community-based projects. He noted that doctoral students do not often get these opportunities, yet being part of the Summer Bridge experience is “essential to developing a deeper understanding of the anthropological theories and methods” he hopes to teach in the future.

Priyanka Zylstra headshot
Priyanka Zylstra

Likewise, Priyanka Zylstra (History) also plans to join the professoriate, where she will utilize her involvement in the Summer Bridge program to highlight the relationship between history and community engagement. In fact, Zylstra wants to develop courses that “disrupt the artificial boundaries of classroom and community,” and in turn, reinforce the deep connections between community organizations and the academy.

Victor Ruiz-Divas headshot
Victor A. Ruiz-Divas 

“I know firsthand the positive impact an effective community organization can have on a disadvantaged community,” said Victor A. Ruiz-Divas (Education Policy, Organization, & Leadership) who will be placed with the Krannert Art Museum during his Summer Bridge experience. “I would like to help contribute to that positive influence."






Summer Bridge 2023 Participants

Alana Ackerman (Anthropology), community partner: Immigrant Services of Champaign-Urbana.

Victor A. Ruiz-Divas (Education Policy, Organization, & Leadership), community partner: Krannert Art Museum.

Samuel Froiland (History), community partner: The Land Connection.

Priyanka Zylstra (History), community partner: Education Justice Project.

Omar Agustin Hernandez (Anthropology), community partner: Strides Shelter: City of Champaign Township

About Summer Bridge