The class, taught by Katherine Rowell, visiting instructor of sociology, was partially funded by a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans that Wittenberg received in 2005 specifically to engage faculty and students with the Springfield community. True to the intent of the grant project titled “Sowing Seeds of Servant Leadership: A Campus-Wide Integration of Service-Learning, Social Justice and Spirituality,” the course curriculum educated students on poverty through both classroom learning and hands-on experience as volunteers in the community.
“I have always worked with and done research on the poor,” Rowell said. “I think college students need to understand the issue of poverty.”
Rowell said the class addressed issues such as common stereotypes of the poor, the causes and consequences of poverty, and how to spread awareness about the issue, especially in Springfield. In addition, students were required to contribute a minimum of 20 hours at Springfield service organizations, including the Interfaith Hospitality Network and the Ark.
“Wittenberg University students are geographically surrounded by people who are struggling with poverty issues,” Rowell said.
The 40 students who took the course also collaborated with the Molly Ritchie, Americorps VISTA in Wittenberg’s Office of Community Service, Habitat for Humanity, and other Springfield community and campus groups to organize Homeless Awareness Week on campus in November. During the week, events included “Imagine-a-Night-Without-a-Home,” an Oxfam Hunger Banquet and an open forum to discuss hunger as more than just as a third-world problem.
Rowell hoped that the course would give students a better sociological understanding of poverty. The issue of social justice was another main theme of the course, mirroring one of the grant’s primary objectives.
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Students were asked to fill out assessments at the beginning and conclusion of the course in order to evaluate how the interaction of service and class material affected them, and the results were very positive, according to Rowell.
“[After the course], students had a much greater appreciation for what it means to be poor,” Rowell said. “They now have a desire to help.”
Written By: Rachel Morgan ‘08
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