Sociologist wins award to create first course combining service and learning
Deborah Bhattacharyya, professor of sociology, was awarded a $2,000 Scholarship of Engagement Mini-Grant from the Ohio Campus Compact, a coalition of Ohio colleges and universities established to increase campus-wide participation in community and public service.
The Scholarship of Engagement Mini-Grants provide participating institutions with funding for the development and implementation of academic courses, research projects or professional service activities that engage faculty in the community.
Bhattacharyya used the grant to establish a partnership between Wittenberg and 15 local service agencies, including St. John Center, Parent Infant Center, Family Service Neighborhood Resource Center, juvenile court and Catholic Social Services.
“We’ve reached out to some agencies that haven’t been particularly involved with Wittenberg,” Bhattacharyya said. Shelley Nelson, ’99, helped coordinate the partnership.
“We wanted agencies that represented a variety of services to fit with the students’ interests,” Nelson said. Agencies that provide services to children, the elderly, women and the homeless were among those asked to participate.
“We’re hoping that the students will be able to contribute something to the agency, and the service agency will contribute to our students’ learning,” Bhattacharyya said.
The 30 students in Bhattacharyya’s “Welfare and Human Services” sociology class are now working with these agencies for two hours each week.
As part of the class, the students must keep a journal documenting their experiences and then write a research paper at the conclusion of the class.
Bhattacharayya will examine the journals and research papers to determine if students form different relationships with the agencies’ clients than the agencies’ employees.
She will then conduct a focus group with various agency representatives and present her findings.
Both Bhattacharyya and Nelson hope that this kind of partnership will serve as a model for other professors interested in integrating service learning into their classes.