Here and abroad PSU students are creating an impact in the community.
Service-learning (sometimes called community-based learning) is a unique pedagogical approach to teaching and learning based on early work by John Dewey, the “father of experiential education.” A new graduate certificate was recently approved and is well-situated within the GSE’s master’s degree in Postsecondary, Adult, and Continuing Education (PACE). PSU is a nationally recognized leader in service-learning and community engagement, so the idea of a graduate certificate in service-learning was a logical fit. Indeed, PSU is one of only a few higher education institutions noted by the Carnegie Foundation as an “engaged campus.”
Nationally renowned scholars in the field teach in the program, including Dr. Dilafruz Williams, winner of the prestigious Thomas Ehrlich Engaged Scholar Faculty Award; Dr. Christine Cress, who annually works with over 30 colleges nationwide on integrating the curriculum and assessing service-learning; and Dr. Candyce Reynolds, who is a Carnegie scholar. Other faculty working in the program include Dr. Stephanie Stockamer, and Professor Janelle Voegele from the Center for Academic Excellence.
The new 18-credit Service-Learning Graduate Certificate will provide an option for people who may already have a degree in another area. It can also serve as a specialty area for those working toward the master’s degree in Postesecondary Adult and Continuing Education (PACE), a program with over 150 currently enrolled students. To date, there are fewer than three programs nationally that offer graduate-level education in service-learning. Because of PSU’s expertise in this area, the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), the PACE graduate program, and the Oregon Campus Compact (OCC) receive inquiries each week regarding graduate-level training in service-learning and community engagement. It is anticipated that future course offerings will be hybrid or fully online to better facilitate regional, national, and potentially international student enrollment.
“Students are drawn to these courses because of their passion for service, their understanding of the growing momentum of community-based learning in education, and simply out of curiosity,” says Dr. Stephanie Stokamer. “Many have already done extensive service work during their undergraduate schooling or are already working in the field of service-learning but want to have an academic understanding of the challenges and opportunities of this approach.”
This program was developed by the Educational Leadership and Policy Department as a means to ensure that students are well prepared to serve the community here and abroad. It has been instrumental in forming valuable partnerships.
Service-Learning students gain experience in India
On a trip they’ll not soon forget, 10 GSE students traveled to India in February 2010 with Professor Dilafruz Williams to work on community projects. The 3-credit class, Service-Learning in India: Cultural Understanding and Engagement, convened in Madurai and included students representing multiple programs in the GSE: a doctoral student, a curriculum and instruction master’s student, nine students from the Educational Leadership and Policy program, four students from Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning, and four PACE students.
Offered in partnership with Lady Doak College, the students stayed on the campus and worked with several organizations, including the Love and Care orphanage, a special education school, and the Russ Foundation Village renewal program. A highlight of their trip was a visit to Mother Theresa’s residence and the home she set up for destitute women.
“We reflected daily on our experiences,” says Dr. Williams. “Students were enamored by India and her culture; at the same time they were shocked and stunned by the enormity of the social and environmental problems they witnessed. This has been a transformational experience for students, even for those who had previously been abroad.”
What students say
The students’ experience in India has had a profound impact on their view of the world. “I learned about patience, learned not be judgmental about what’s right and wrong,” says one student. As they complete work on the Service-Learning Graduate Certificate, students continue to reflect on their experience in India and how it relates to the local community. “I am facing a new reality here; I am looking at things differently now.”