The silver team shows off its winning certificate for its project pitch, “Beyond Fear: Tucson Refugees Tell Their Stories.” (Photo: Kathleen Dreier Photography)
The silver team shows off its winning certificate for its project pitch, “Beyond Fear: Tucson Refugees Tell Their Stories.” (Photo: Kathleen Dreier Photography)

Academic Game Show Funds Collaborative Project

"Playground Games" enabled strangers to quickly become colleagues and collaborators in a competition to win funds to implement an idea that incorporated arts, humanities and social sciences that would hold sway with judges and an audience.
Jan. 26, 2016
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The Playground Games audience provided input via cheers and applause while the judges made the final decision on which UA team was funded. The judges included: UA researcher Maribel Alvarez, director of the Southwest Folklife Alliance; Dr. David Armstrong, director of the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance; Vincent Del Casino, the UA's vice provost for digital learning and student engagement; and Ken McAllister, associate dean of research for the College of Humanities.

With only 45 minutes to do so, a University of Arizona team came up with a grand-prize-winning idea to document the experiences of refugees who have resettled in Tucson.

The team of four was competing in the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry's "Playground Games," a live game show competition and speed networking event in downtown Tucson. All told, 16 UA faculty members participated, having met for the first time to conceive and pitch a project on the theme of "Sense of Place: Creatively Shaping Our Community." 

Tying into the Confluencenter's mission of collaborative endeavors, "Playground Games" brought together faculty of various disciplines from the colleges of fine arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences and also the College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture and UA Libraries. The contestants were randomly placed on interdisciplinary teams of four, on the spot, and each team was assigned a color: silver, gold, blue and red.

Players had less than an hour to meet, plan and present an interdisciplinary project to win the $3,000 prize for funding.

In the end, the judges and audience chose the silver team's project, "Beyond Fear: Tucson Refugees Tell Their Stories," as the winner based on its interdisciplinary orientation, local resonance and feasibility.

"The project's aim to counter the current negative public discourses about refugees by showcasing stories of shared humanity amongst refugee communities and the wider Tucson populace is a perfect example of the type of collaborative, creative inquiry Confluencenter is proud to invest in," said Javier Durán, director of the Confluencenter.

The winning team's members are: Orhon Myadar, assistant professor in the School of Geography and Development; Lisa Hochtritt, assistant professor in the School of Art; Stephanie Troutman, assistant professor in the Department of English and director of the Southern Arizona Writing Project; and Maliaca Oxnam, associate librarian in the Office of Digital Innovation and Stewardship.

Reflecting on the event, Hochtritt said she enjoyed the "festive, fun, fast-paced and supportive atmosphere," along with meeting people from across campus.

Myadar, who said signing up was an impulsive decision, is the project's primary investigator. 

"The project's main goal is to raise awareness of the plight of refugees who have resettled in the city of Tucson and provide a public platform for their voices," Myadar said.

The team aims to digitally record and archive the stories of individuals who are part of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, creating an opportunity for families to tell their stories through various mediums. The team then will make these stories available to the public.

In the project description, Myadar further explains that the idea was inspired by a UA student who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing civil war in Somalia when he was a little boy. 

"He fled his home country for survival, yet he spent long years in what he called an 'open prison.' According to him, he was one of the fortunate ones to have fled the refugee camp and was given a chance to resettle in Tucson," Myadar explained, also noting that he has since graduated from the UA with honors.

"His story, among hundreds of refugees' stories, is a unique story of struggle, endurance and ultimately survival. Yet, hostile political discourses continue to belie refugees' fight for survival and their struggles to build a sense of home in our city."