Illumination Program Description and Mission

Two Students PhotoThe Illumination Project’s mission is to create an inclusive, socially just academic and general community through student leadership development and social change theater. The main purpose of the Illumination Project is to create a campus climate that is inclusive and promotes equal access to education. The Illumination Project’s interactive community performances are designed so that large factions of the campus participate in problem-solving around issues that traditionally have made education more difficult for students of color, women students, poor/working class students, immigrant and sexual minority students.

In a realistic yet safe atmosphere actors and audience members have the opportunity to rehearse situations in order to build their communication skills and understand possible alternative behaviors. The Illumination Project also enables audience members to take on different characters in order to build empathy with the experience of others – a key element in living respectfully within a pluralistic society.

Illumination Project curriculum

The Illumination Project curriculum covers current research and theory on institutional oppressions. The curriculum addresses the affects of oppression on individuals and society and the best practices to challenge oppressive behavior. The curriculum draws on multiple traditions - crafting links between feminist, critical, multicultural, queer, postcolonial, and other movements toward social justice.

Two StudentsIssues addressed include community building, consciousness-raising (around issues of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and ability), skill building, and taking action. Anti-oppression work is deep and complex. All activities are contextualized and are only used as the group is ready, working from lower risk to higher risk so that learning may take place in a safe and conducive environment.

Concurrently, students learn social justice theater and popular education techniques. Much of the work the Illumination Project does is based on "Theater of the Oppressed", a form of social justice theater developed by Augusto Boal, a Brazilian theater activist. In "Theater of the Oppressed" plays are performed once without interruption and then again, allowing audience members to enter the scene, take on a character and positively alter the outcome of the scene.

The Illumination Project is Service-Learning

The Illumination Project is one of PCC’s many excellent Service-Learning activities. Service-Learning helps promote both intellectual and civic engagement by linking the work students do in the classroom to real-world problems and real-world needs; without compromising academic rigor or discipline-specific objectives, service-learning gives students concrete reasons for doing their personal best. Learn more about Service-Learning in the Illumination project »

The Illumination Project is Civic Engagement

Illumination Project’s strong focus on developing students' civic capacities, their sense of social responsibility, and their commitment to public action makes it Portland Community College’s premier civic engagement project. According to Michael Delli Carpini, Director, Public Policy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, "Civic engagement is individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern." Learn more about civic engagement »


  • To encourage critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and active learning opportunities which empower students as leaders during and beyond their college tenure.
  • To foster deeper understanding of oppression in all its forms.
  • To increase awareness of the lived experiences of oppressed peoples.
  • To facilitate students developing skills in problem solving, communication, and assertiveness.
  • To strengthen the capacities of students to work for social justice.
  • To enable all workshop participants to become more effective grassroots anti-oppression activists through a collective learning process.
  • To support and advocate for people experiencing oppression.

Each Year the Illumination Project

  • Writes six distinct plays
  • Produces at least 25 performances
  • Reaches over 1200 audience members

Why IP?

  • Because oppression exists.
  • Because everyone has the right to live, study and work in an environment free of demeaning comments and actions based on racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, or ageism.
  • Because oppression is an attack on our individual and collective humanity.
  • Because power and privilege can play out in destructive ways. We must challenge supremacist practices which marginalize, exclude or de-humanize others. Privilege, like power can be used for positive purposes but should be used with awareness and care.
  • Because dialogue and discussion are necessary and we need to learn how to listen non-defensively and communicate respectfully if we are going to have effective anti-oppression practice.

Who Sponsors the Illumination Project?

The Illumination Project is a program of the Sylvania Women’s Resource Center and finds additional support from the Sylvania Campus President’s Office, Multicultural Center, Sociology and Theater Departments. IP persists through financial assistance from grants from the Ford Foundation, Spirit Mountain Community Foundation, Equity Foundation, and Hoover Family Foundation as well as the proceeds from PCC’s annual production of The Vagina Monologues. Learn more about our grants and sponsors.