Service-Learning Gets Permanent Home at Fisher
Six years ago, two service scholars saw a gap in course offerings and approached faculty about the notion of implementing service-learning (SL) into the curriculum. Faculty agreed, and quickly went to work, securing a three-year Learn and Serve Grant to support a new Community-Based Service-Learning Program (CBSL). Last year, a total of 37 course sections with 30 faculty integrated SL in the Schools of Arts and Science, Education, and Business with 617 students and 50 community partners. The issues on which students focused their work and projects included economic development, education and youth, housing and senior care, and environment and health.
Due to the program’s success and increasing popularity among students, the College approved a fully funded Center for SL and Experiential Learning Support and named Dr. Lynn Donahue the full-time program director in May 2012.
Over the past few years, Fisher’s CBSL program has successfully provided new SL opportunities across the College in core and major requirements, supported applied learning opportunities for students, and met the needs in the Rochester community.
“By extending the classroom into the community, service-learning reaffirms and broadly institutionalizes service as an essential component of Fisher’s mission, values, and goals,” said Donahue.
During the fall semester, there are a total of 25 SL courses, with 400 students enrolled. The students have been hard at work with a variety of community partners since September.
An International Experience, Locally
Dr. Francisco Plata, Assistant Professor of Spanish, is teaching Conversational Spanish and Stylistics and Translation. Both courses are designed to incorporate SL by helping Fisher students enhance their Spanish skills in both communication and collaboration, and increase their understanding of diverse cultures and communities through engagement with students from the Rochester Early College International High School (RECIHS).
A total of 10 students in Plata’s classes have been engaging in Spanish conversation with RECIHS students including discussions about Spanish culture, college readiness, and the differences between high school and college. On October 18, students Sarah Machin and Chelsea Spain led 18 RECIHS students on a campus tour and Spanish translational activity.
RECIHS students on a campus tour.
On November 8, Plata’s students facilitated conversations on college readiness with the high school students here at Fisher. They also participated in visits and conversations with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs, the Writing Center, and Lavery Library.
RECIHS students works with a Fisher student on a Spanish translational activity.
Turning Caffeine into Profit
Marketing students have been working all semester acting as consultants to a variety of small businesses in the Rochester area whose budgets limit their marketing capabilities. Martin Key, Assistant Professor of Marketing, has been teaching 18 students in Internet Marketing, a SL course teaching students how to consult clients by enhancing their company’s social media and web presence, as well as incorporating search engine strategies.
In the course, students learned to assess website and social media design, content, and structure so they could make recommendations to clients that would optimize their digital presence and marketing efforts. This semester, one of the business partners was Joe Bean Coffee Roaster in Rochester.
The owners of Joe Bean are working with students to identify ways for them to promote their website, use social media more effectively and efficiently, and use other online tools to build brand awareness and loyalty. Students started by researching retail coffee roasting and ways they could target a younger demographic with their product.
Matt Ulakovic ’14, a communication/journalism major, who is also minoring in digital cultures and technologies and marketing, refers to the class as “interesting and hands-on.”
“I like that we've been able to pair up with such a trendy and hip coffee bar, and I've really enjoyed being able to apply the lessons from class to the actual business world,” he said.
Kathy Turiano, owner of Joe Bean, said she thinks the efforts the students have made will help with her business.
“It is good to have a team of young people give their impression of our website, Facebook page, and other marketing efforts. Often times, small businesses do not have the opportunity to hear feedback on their marketing efforts, which is essential to help us improve,” she said. “The meetings have been amazing, and the students have done significant research on our behalf. I am looking forward to their conclusions and presentations."
Social Change Through Service with Sojourner House
Lee Chase, Adjunct Faculty, teaches Social Change Through Service – a stand alone course centered on SL itself. In this course, students reflect on local, national, and international social issues that directly impact the clients they serve. This semester, students worked with women helped by the Sojourner House in Rochester. Through reflection journals, papers, and class discussions, students in this course learn about the connections between the service and the course content.
Throughout the semester, they have run a series of Friday afternoon life skills workshops for women who are in transition at the house. The workshops included sessions on stress management, yoga, computer literacy, and moral reasoning. After each session was complete, students served and shared a meal with the women in the program to reflect on what they all learned.
Kaylee Hamlin ’13, a history major who is minoring in peace and social justice, said she had a lot of misconceptions about the women at the Sojourner House and that the women, in turn, had misconceptions about the students. Once the two groups got to know each other better, Hamlin said the experience has gone very smoothly and the groups have learned from each other.
“I love to teach, so I have really enjoyed planning the workshops and getting the women's input on what they want us to teach them,” said Hamlin. “Working with these women has taught me so much, and inspired me to be a better person. I have always loved to volunteer and help others, but the course has really helped me figure out how I want to leave my mark on this world.”
Students at a life skills workshop at Sojourner House.