Spearheaded by 1992 Wittenberg alumna Kristen Scott Collier, director of community service, and Rachel Tune, pastor to the university, the $50,000 Thrivent Financial for Lutherans-funded Wittenberg project “Sowing Seeds of Servant Leadership: A Campus-Wide Integration of Service-Learning, Social Justice and Spirituality” seeks to engage Wittenberg faculty and students with the Springfield community in deeper and more meaningful ways. It also aims to build upon the university’s long-standing tradition of community service, and empower faculty and students to plan and implement their own diverse service-learning experiences.
In January, the project awarded three Wittenberg professors course development stipends in the amount of $1,000 to assist them in developing service options in their classes. Wittenberg’s chapter of Beta Beta Beta (Tri-Beta), a national biology honor society, also received an award, making it the first student organization to do so.
Keith Doubt, professor of sociology and department chair, will use his stipend in his class on Identity, Self and Society. As part of the class, students will work with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) of Clark County, a group home for people suffering from serious and chronic mental illness.
Olga Medvedkov, professor of geography and department chair, will incorporate a service component into her Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course. Students will spend 30-40 hours throughout the semester working with the non-profit social service organization Marriage Savers of Clark County, which provides counseling and assistance to area families. During this time, the students will apply the GIS concepts and tools learned in class to help the organization identify local neighborhoods where the divorce rate is high.
“Marriage Savers may choose to get in touch with the neighborhood associations, with churches, and the city or county administration to provide more social services and marriage counseling,” Medvedkov said.
Joining Doubt and Medvedkov in receiving a Thrivent-funded award is Mary Jo Zembar, associate professor of psychology and department chair, who will use her $1,000 stipend in her Child Development class. As part of the course, students will be placed in various childcare centers where they will work in meaningful ways with infants and children up to ages 10 or 11.
“It is within these service-learning opportunities that the students can learn and understand firsthand how a child’s family, neighborhood, school and available community resources can influence development in either a positive or negative way,” Zembar said.
Tri-Beta will help educate area youth about the natural sciences and social obligation through a program with Roosevelt Middle School. Approximately 25 students from the middle school will be selected to participate in an overnight field trip to The Wilds, a 10,000-acre natural reserve where African, Asian and North American species are managed near Cumberland, Ohio. Tri-Beta members and Wittenberg biology faculty members will accompany the group, and selection will be based on teacher recommendations and short essays submitted by the students.
“ We are honored to fund these innovative projects that sow seeds for service-learning and servant leadership throughout campus and the community of Springfield,” Collier said. “We’re hopeful that such opportunities to participate in meaningful service-learning experiences will encourage a culture that understands and is committed to service-learning as a pedagogy and servant leadership as a way of life, which values the perspective of spirituality, faith and social justice in service-learning.”
Rosenberg, who received the first Thrivent stipend, led a group of 29 Wittenberg students to the South African Kingdom of Lesotho last May. As part of the service trip, students immersed themselves in volunteer work and study, which included spending several days working with Habitat for Humanity spackling houses, digging pit latrines, building playground equipment and planting trees. In addition, the Thrivent-funded project has also allowed for service-learning workshops and urban immersion experiences.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a not-for-profit Fortune 500 financial services organization helping nearly three million members achieve their financial goals. Thrivent Financial and its affiliates offer a broad range of financial products and services including life insurance, annuities, mutual funds, disability income insurance, bank products and more. Thrivent Financial and its affiliates have $65.9 billion (Sept. 30, 2004) in assets under management. As a not-for-profit organization, Thrivent Financial sponsors national outreach programs and activities that support congregations, schools, charitable organizations and needy individuals. For more information, visit www.thrivent.com.
- Karen Gerboth
• Wittenberg Community Services Home Page
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