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Five professors are participating in a campus workshop series designed to increase service-learning opportunities in the curriculum. In service-learning, students in a course conduct specific service projects for community organizations, then explore how their experiences connect with the academic content.

The faculty members, who are creating or redesigning courses to incorporate service-learning, are Rob Root, associate professor of mathematics; Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures; David Schulman, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology; Elaine Reynolds, assistant professor of biology; and Bianca Falbo, assistant professor of English.

“Service-learning is such a prime opportunity for students to have hands-on learning,” says Char Gray, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center. “It’s something that not only provides education here at Lafayette, but a lifelong learning opportunity — getting involved as citizens in the creation of community and learning what it means to be part of a community.”

Funded by a grant from the Office of the Provost, the sessions began with four days of presentations, discussions, and a local tour, totaling 24 hours over four days in early June. Speakers included Jaimie Birge of Pennsylvania Campus Compact, a consortium of more than 740 colleges and universities, including Lafayette, that are part of the service-learning movement; Bob Bringle, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Public Service and Leadership at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Rachel Hogan of Communities that Care, a member of the Landis Community Outreach Center’s board of directors; College Chaplain Gary Miller; and Gray, who led the workshops..

Birge talked about the philosophy or pedagogy of service-learning, while Hogan spoke on her partnership with the college and how the institutional and community partners in service-learning can each meet their goals. Bringle, a leader in the field, talked about strengthening community partnerships and institutionalizing service-learning at Lafayette. In addition to describing how he incorporates service-learning into his First-Year Seminar, Miller led the group on a tour of the Safe Harbor homeless shelter, Boys and Girls Club of Easton, and Third Street Alliance.

The workshop series will continue Aug. 19, when the participants will share and discuss their syllabi. The faculty will meet again at least once each semester.

“There’s very intentional reflection on the service experience involved,” says Gray. “The reflection connects the theoretical with practical, hands-on learning. I am proud of Lafayette for being willing to take the step to do it. The service-learning movement really fits where Lafayette is going in terms of active learning. You see it in Technology Clinic, VAST, and many First Year Seminar classes, which are giving students a chance to help shape their learning experiences and be active participants in it, and ultimately become life-long citizens.”

Geoffrion-Vinci will incorporate service-learning in a First-Year Seminar that will debut this fall, “Cooking, Culture, and Cinema.” The curriculum will include cooking expertise, which students will use to serve meals to the Safe Harbor homeless shelter and the Boys and Girls Club. They also will offer cooking classes to Third Street Alliance, a shelter for women and their children.

Schulman also will incorporate service-learning in the fall, while Reynolds and Falbo are in the planning stages.

Students in both Geoffrion-Vinci’s and Falbo’s classes have worked with the English as a Second Language program at ProJeCt of Easton.

Gray taught a First Year Seminar course last fall, “The Power of Culture: Understanding Diversity in the U.S.,” in which students served in one of the following community programs: Kids in the Community, Boys and Girls Club, America Reads, Safe Harbor, Meals for the Homeless, Third Street Alliance, and local child care.

Students in “Challenging Differences, Discovering the Possibilities of Community, a First Year Seminar taught by Miller, also volunteer with local community organizations.

Root is participating in the workshops to fine-tune his use of service-learning, the topic of a paper he coauthored in The American Statistician, which he is presenting this summer at the Sixth Annual International Conference on the Teaching of Statistics in Capetown, South Africa.

For the past three years, students in Root’s Applied Statistics class have had the opportunity to complete their semester project by working with community organizations and Lafayette service initiatives. Students design their own study or have one assigned by groups that need volunteers to gather and analyze specific data. Gray identifies suitable issues at local organizations that can be addressed by students and puts them in contact with key people in those groups.

“I encourage students to do their statistical studies for community organizations,” says Root. “The students are able to give back to the community while at the same time developing their statistical skills. The quality of the work is better because the questions and the data are real and the conclusions drawn make a difference. The students learn the concepts better when their application of them has consequences beyond a course grade.”

Twenty-three of 29 students in last semester’s class offered their services to the community and Lafayette service initiatives. In the fall, 29 of 42 students did so.

“Students from previous semesters who have worked with community organizations said that they found the work surprisingly rewarding,” says Root. “They have told me at the end of the semester that they originally dreaded all the work, but when they got involved, it was actually worth the effort.”

Chrissy Morgan ’05 (Flemington, N.J.) compiled statistical data for the YMCA in Easton along with Rachel Harris ’04 (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.). She was excited about the challenge.

“If I’m going to do a statistics project, I’d much rather do it to help people in the community, not just to get a grade,” says Morgan.

“The idea of using service-learning in statistics classes is beginning to catch on across the nation and the world,” says Root. “This is evidence that Lafayette is at the forefront of an innovative wave in pedagogy. This is the kind of teaching that students aren’t going to get at schools without Lafayette’s resources.”

Other students in the class and the organizations supported by their projects included: Matt Harakal ’05, Pete Jeffe ’05, Samantha Lucas ’05, Rick El-Darwish ’03 — Adopt-a-Class program at ProJeCt of Easton; Jess Goman ’05, Ashley Maida ’05, Rob LaTerra ’02 — Cindy Adams, health promotions coordinator at Lafayette; Scott Shields ’02, Angie Kulbick ’02, Lakishia Stembridge ’02 — Kids in the Community program of the Landis Community Outreach Center and Adopt-a-Class program at ProJeCt of Easton; Gina Lamendella ’04, Colleen Fitzpatrick ’04, Erin Tamarin ’05, Amie Aguiar ’04, Lara Hershock ’02, Russ Schwaber ’05 — Safe Harbor homeless shelter; Alexis Gale ’04, Lori DeVito ’05 — eating disorder awareness/prevalence survey for Lafayette’s Counseling Center; Greg Gibbs ’05, Adam Allen ’04, Anthony Jones ’05 – Lafayette varsity football team.

Organizations that benefited from Applied Statistics student work in the fall semester included Communities That Care, Safe Harbor, a community center, a children’s summer camp, a local church, the Lafayette Chaplain’s Office, Lafayette’s alcohol awareness campaign, the Landis Community Outreach Center, and the Maroon Club (Lafayette athletic boosters).

Other faculty who are not able to participate in the workshop are doing variations of service-learning as well, notes Gray.

Chip Nataro, assistant professor of chemistry, teaches Environmental Chemistry, a fall semester course that covers the chemical processes underlying the environment and the way human activity affects those processes, including a wide range of pollution and energy sources. Instead of a conventional laboratory component, students participate in the Bushkill Creek monitoring project.

“I want the students to get practical experience in some of the material we covering in class,” says Nataro. “In terms of the big picture, I want them to see how the material they’ve learned in all of their chemistry courses affects the outside world, even if it’s just cleaning up at the canal and seeing how some garbage doesn’t decompose and what threat it poses, or monitoring streams for any possible contamination from people or corporations.”

As their senior design project this spring, three teams of five civil engineering students helped the borough of Alpha, N.J., decide what to do with its aging John Dolak Memorial Pool.

The service-learning concept is receiving significant support from the Office of the Provost, says Gray, noting that faculty receive a stipend for syllabus development and the time they spend incorporating service-learning into classes.

Lafayette’s engagement in the service-learning movement is extending beyond the local community. In addition to Root’s service-learning paper presentation in South Africa, Vivienne Felix ’03, a double major in International Affairs and English from Hollis, N.Y., will be one of just two students selected from Pennsylvania to attend a Campus Compact national summit Nov. 7-9 in Providence, R.I., titled “Realizing the Civic Mission of Higher Education: How Far Have We Come? What Does the Future Hold?”

The meeting will involve representative faculty members, community service directors, institutional leaders, and students. The student track of the summit will attempt to translate what has been learned about student engagement through recent studies and student forums into “action steps” that will serve to educate and mobilize educators and students. Summit sessions will engage student participants in dialogue and action planning rather than rely on outside speakers.

Felix is a coordinator of the Kids in the Community program conducted through the Landis Community Outreach Center, in which students assist elementary and middle school children in four Easton public housing neighborhoods with homework and organize arts and crafts. She began her involvement in KIC by volunteering at its annual summer camp in the summer before her first year at Lafayette.

“I participated in volunteer activities in high school, so it seemed natural to continue to do so in the Easton community,” she says.

As a participant in the Campus Compact summit, Felix will help formulate the next five to seven years of work for the organization. Sessions will explore accomplishments of the past four years, as well as focusing on the work ahead of promoting civic engagement among higher education’s institutions and students.

“This summit is the capstone event for four years of work supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts,” according to Campus Compact. “The Trusts enabled Campus Compact to conduct a range of programs addressing how the institutional resources of campuses can be brought to bear on educating the next generation of civic leaders. We have worked with hundreds of faculty, chief academic officers, and campus community service/service learning professionals to move their institutions to higher levels on the vertical continuum we call the ‘Pyramid of Service Learning.’ This capstone event addresses the pinnacle of that pyramid, gathering those whose work represents the cutting edge of the service and civic education movement in higher education.”

To support its civic mission, Campus Compact promotes community service that develops students’ citizenship skills and values, encourages partnerships between campuses and communities, and assists faculty who seek to integrate public and community engagement into their teaching and research.

Categorized in: Academic News