October 9-11, 2014

Atlanta, Georgia

The 2014 Imagining America conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 9–11, was animated by three keywords: Organizing. Culture. Change. These keywords represent concentrations of energy and activity across higher education and within the IA consortium—contested terrains that demand critical discourse and analysis. We invited and challenged Imagining America consortium members, and their institutional and community partners, to sharpen our collective understanding of the nature and promise of organizing culture change; to provoke conversation and debate around the many meanings of these keywords; to explore the distinctive contributions that methodologies, concepts, theories, and knowledge from arts, humanities, and design fields make to the work of organizing culture change; and to illuminate how organizing culture change can transform higher education’s role in the work of democracy.



group of USC students, led by Professor Sanchez, attended the Imagining America Conference in October 2014. The group, which included four undergraduate students, one research assistant, a community partner, and an alumna from the USC Center for Diversity and Democracy, presented on their experiences regarding civic engagement via USC’s History in a Box Program. The presenters strongly emphasized the need for education to be a meaningful experience for the learner as well as for the educator. The Trojan contingent also extolled the need for local history and a culturally-relevant pedagogy as means of improving the quality of public education. USC’s group of students presented their stories at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

Culture change is already a reality, both within higher education and beyond. It is partly the result of powerful and complex global forces that are restructuring our institutions and reshaping how we live our lives, for better and for worse. the IA conference theme was an invitation to engage but also move beyond the work of analyzing and criticizing the kind of culture change that global forces are producing.

To this end, the Imagining America conference committee sought proposals that offered opportunities for conference attendees to take up one or more of the following key questions:

  • What forces for culture change are already underway in and beyond higher education? In what ways and to what extent are they products of intentional organizing?
  • What specific approaches to organizing are IA members using (such as action-research, cultural organizing, popular education, broad-based community organizing)?
  • Using the public narrative framework developed by Marshall Ganz, what is “story of us,” and “story of now” emerging within IA and among its members? How can these stories be used to ground, focus, and inspire effective organizing?
  • What practices, strategies, and tactics will inspire and support the work of organizing culture change in ways that help us close the gap between our own best judgments of “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be”?

Contact Us

George Sanchez

Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History


University of Southern California

3620 South Vermont Avenue

Kaprielian Hall 462

Los Angeles, California 90089-2534