Six other professors had previously participated in the grant project titled “Sowing Seeds of Servant Leadership: A Campus-Wide Integration of Service-Learning, Social Justice and Spirituality.”
David Wishart, Wittenberg professor of economics, incorporated a service component into his WittSem course, an integrated learning course taken by freshman that explores a special interest. His course, African American Economic History, gave students the choice to work with the Clark County Heritage Center or African American Cross Cultural Works (AACW).
As part of the AACW project, students conducted surveys during a Blues and Jazz festival in Yellow Springs, Ohio, “to gather how much business increases during the weekend of the festival,” according to Wishart’s project summary. Students followed up the on-site surveys with phone surveys to area businesses, and the research data aided the students’ understanding of class material. Their findings will also now help government leaders in Yellow Springs plan for the community’s future.
Students who chose the Clark County Heritage Center worked with four distinct projects spanning the time period from the early 19th century, before the Civil War, to the present. Research focused on economic development and education for African Americans in the area, with one student expanded the search by looking at the Underground Railroad’s role in Springfield. Students’ research was compiled into papers, which will be donated to the Heritage Center as learning tools once the editing process is completed.
Robert Davis, professor of English, also incorporated service into his WittSem course titled The American Gothic. The course explored sources of mania and mental health issues, which inspired him to create a service opportunity at Bridge House, a halfway house for those suffering from mental illnesses. Each student served 10 hours to bridge community experiences with their classroom studies.
One of the larger grant-sponsored projects was conducted by Katherine Rowell, visiting instructor of sociology, through her Women and Poverty course. This service project consisted of several components that educated students and Springfield residents about ongoing poverty issues – both in the local community and throughout the world. Students worked with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, an organization that works with churches to house the homeless at night, as well as Ark West, a branch of the Children’s Rescue Center, an after-school programming center.
Rowell established a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with assistance from Molly Ritchie, AmeriCorps VISTA assigned to Wittenberg’s Office of Community Service. Activities included a hunger banquet that provided various types of food, symbolizing the current inequality of hunger, as well as “Imagine a Night without a Home,” in which Wittenberg students slept outside for a night to gain a sobering perspective on homelessness.
“The course taught me that poverty isn't a gendered or racially specific problem,” said Lora Younger, class of 2008 from Cincinnati, Ohio. “It is an inhumane epidemic that can only begin to be controlled by the active compassion and services of others.”
Lori Askeland, director of women’s studies and associate professor of English, had students in her honors course titled Orphans! Displaced Children in U.S. History, Literature, Law and Public Policy take a social justice approach as well. Students were required to serve 12 hours at On-the-Rise or Oesterlen Services for Youth.
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Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Amanda Karel, also worked with Oesterlen as one of three site choices for her Interpersonal Conflict course. Students could also opt to work with Families And Schools Together (FAST), a weekly program that spans the course of several months to create more stable and healthy relationships between children and their families, or working with kids at Sherman Court Youth Center, an after-school program for at-risk youth.
Karel had students serve 15 hours at one of these sites. Their assignment was to observe conflict’s different roles, and what caused rifts between the children and sometimes the children and staff. Through observation, students formed teams and created projects for each site that would serve as a long-term resource.
“It was nice to learn how to deal with different individuals and different situations,” Rebecca Horn, class of 2008 from Columbus, Ohio, said of her service experience at Oesterlen. “Everyone’s story isn’t the same so you have to learn how to adjust to that.”
Written By: Erica Strauss ‘08
Photo By: Robbie Gantt
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