desert kitchen

Desert Kitchen Collective

SEE 303 Constructions of Place (Art, Community and Sustainability) is a cross-disciplinary course currently open to all CAS majors without pre-requisite and has been day-lighted as CAP Integrative pending full CAP status. Assistant Professor Glenna Jennings (Art and Design, Photography) and Dr. Hsuan Tsen (Art and Design Lecturer, Art History) offered their second iteration of this co-taught investigation of the intersections among Eco-Art, Socially-Engaged Art, urban development and design and ethically-minded place-making with a focus on water and sustainability in Fall 2017. They used the history, culture, aesthetics and environmental issues of New Orleans as a critical point of comparison throughout the course, while also incorporating the Roesch Library exhibition (The Grand Canal Project: Multimedia Database of Living Cultural Heritage of the Grand canal of China, JIangsu Section – 10/23/17 – 12/1/17) as a site of experiential observation and learning from a more global perspective.

As in Tsen and Jennings’ previous SEE 303 course (Fall 2014), students synthesized information gleaned from lectures, films, case studies, discussions, art critiques, field research, exhibition visits and visiting lecturers to craft collaborative, group proposals for community-based and/or site-specific art works. Student groups presented these proposals to community partners in class and exhibited resulting art and design works at our cumulative, collaborative off-campus event: “Dinner in the Desert Kitchen II: Just Add Water, ” which constitutes the cumulative experiential learning activity. This interactive event included an art exhibition, dinner, auction and fundraiser is produced and curated by the SEE 303 students, while thematic art works for sale to benefit The Foodbank which were produced by students from Professor Julie Jones’ VAP 340 Digital Photography II Course. Last year’s “Dinner in the Desert Kitchen” was attended by a cross-section of Dayton community members who were hosted by both our students and volunteers from Michelle Hayford’s Theater classes, garnered media and press attention and welcomed over 200 visitors to the Department of Art and Design’s off-campus @Index Project Space located in East Dayton at Front Street Warehouses.

In early December, the program was hosted in the same location, taking advantage of downtown Dayton’s First Friday events. While students worked on their water-related group projects, they were also given specific roles integral to the Desert Kitchen event. These roles included detailed instruction with built-in problem-solving tasks that require initiative in critical and/or vocational thinking and public communication. For both group and individual work towards the experiential learning projects, students were assessed on activity-specific rubrics and, for the final project, were provided a guided self-assessment and written reflection. Students continue to benefit from learning that includes collaborative, creative problem-solving, project-management, hands-on design and art-making, real-world engagement with the Dayton community at large and critical reflection on the practical outcomes of their projects in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, this iteration of the Desert Kitchen event offered the opportunity for even greater trans-disciplinary collaboration, as students from a more diverse range of majors will participate. This furthered Jennings’s goal of creating practical opportunities for engineers and designers to collaborate for the benefit of their own vocational learning and the Marianist values of practical wisdom and ethical action.

The ELIFF mini-grant was used to cover printing and framing costs for the auction art work and exhibition pieces, food, condiments and tableware for the Auction’s dinner experience, which raises awareness of food insecurity. This class focued on water-related issues. Alternatively, 100% of the generated revenue plus University of Dayton Faculty-initiated “Desert Kitchen Collective” was donated directly to The Foodbank Dayton.

The initial lectures, assignments and discussions introduced students to needed vocabulary and techniques that was applied to both their Group Project (Water-related, site-specific local proposal and/or art work) and the Final Exhibition (Dinner in the Desert Kitchen). This included discussion of diversity, equity and inclusion that was integral to the students’ mentored work with project-management and communication with community partners. The Roesch Library Grand Canal exhibition served as an experiential site of learning towards a class learning outcome (CLO) that students will learn to analyze and create photographic documents and/or other ard and/or design works related to the chosen topic. Students were required to attend a set number of art, design and sustainability-related Outside Events and provide written reflections in their individual course journals, while also responding to various journal prompts and activities that prepare them for the Group Project and Exhibition. The primary CLO for the experiential learning component is for students to collaborate with a partner or group to design and propose an art-based public project in conjunction with community partners and/or institutions, including on and off-campus partnerships. The Group Exhibition in conjunction with VAP 340 photography class provided further opportunity for student-driven learning that requires creative problem-solving that is applied to a real-world, off-campus site. Former students (in SEE 303 and VAR 350) have had “transformative experiences” and student feedback has confirmed ways in which these events were later applied to personal, professional and/or academic growth.  



Name & Title

Glenna Jennings

Assistant Professor


Email: Glenna Jennings

Phone: 937-229-2230

Full-Time Faculty
College of Arts and Sciences: Art and Design

Contact Us

Office of Experiential Learning

Roesch Library 034 
300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469