St. Thomas students engage the diverse stories of Metro Transit riders
CommunityMetro Transit, St. Paul, MN
Community Size733,098 (2018 Census Estimation)
UniversityUniversity of St. Thomas
ProgramSustainable Communities Partnership
School SizeGreater than 5000
Focus AreasEconomic and Social Inclusion
DisciplineArt, Justice Studies, Peace Studies
RegionEPA Region 5, USA
Metro Transit views public transportation as a community asset with the power to reduce inequality and increase equity through enhanced mobility.
Seeking to learn more about the importance of transit in people’s lives, Metro Transit collaborated with students in Mike Klein’s Leadership for Social Justice course via the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP). This particular partnership was also affiliated with SCP Arts, an SCP program that collaborates with local artists to translate project findings into artwork, lending itself to both a written and visual exploration of the importance of transit in people’s lives.
Klein’s course “is grounded in the stories of people facing injustice and oppression,” and encourages students “to see empathetically (if imperfectly) from that perspective” (Transit Transformations). Participating students applied a social justice methodology as they documented the stories of transit riders and their relationships with public transit. Following the written portion of the course, SCP Artist-in-Residence Sarah Nelson collaborated with students to create a public art piece. “Students discovered that transformation was a common theme underlying transit riders’ stories,” (Rider’s Almanac), and together with Nelson decided the monarch butterfly’s life cycle represented this transformation.
Upon the project’s completion, Klein compiled student narratives alongside Nelson’s artwork in a book titled Transit Transformations (Leadership for Social Justice). The book “presents individual stories of people connected to transit in order to narrate a larger collective story about the role of transit in sustainable communities and social justice” (Transit Transformations). Sarah Nelson’s illustrations, depicting the stages of a monarch butterfly life cycle, were displayed on a Metro Transit light rail train car in an effort to engage the broader public with these real-life narratives.