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Ceremony Honors Service-Learning Efforts at Fisher

April 25, 2016

Held on Friday, April 8, the annual Civic Engagement Awards Ceremony honored students, faculty, and community partners for their outstanding contributions to service-learning at St. John Fisher College.

Annual Civic Engagement Awards Ceremony

During the ceremony, Dr. Lynn Donahue, director of Fisher's Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, offered remarks to the audience about the importance of service-learning not only in student growth and development, but also in addressing the challenges facing the Rochester community.

"These experiences lead to impactful learning in the classroom and professional preparation. We are developing engaged citizens with skills to make a difference," she said of the many ways service-learning partnerships benefit both students and the community.

Dr. Marta Rodríguez-Galán, assistant professor of sociology and director of the gerontology program, was the recipient of the 2016 Civic Engagement Faculty Award, which recognizes a member of the faculty who has demonstrated outstanding teaching or collaboration in a service-learning context.

Rodríguez has incorporated service-learning in several courses for the past five years. Of particular interest is her work in the course on the sociology of aging. For this, she has partnered with seniors from St. John's Homes and, more recently, Episcopal Senior Living, to collaborate on an assignment entitled the "Elder Experience Project." During the course of the semester, students and elders meet at both the senior living facilities and the College to discuss various aging related topics covered in the course. On the basis of these conversations, the students produce a narrative which highlights the elder's views on aging.

Rodríguez-Galán's work has also informed her academic scholarship, leading to several presentations and publications.

"Marta has presented on her approach to service-learning in aging at a national gerontology conference, as well as at several workshops on campus," said Dr. Jenna Rossi in presenting Rodríguez-Galán with the award. "Several of her research publications also address the benefits of social and civic engagement among seniors."

In addition to serving on the Service-Learning Advisory Board, Rodríguez-Galán is a member of the Alzheimer’s Association Spanish Language Advisory Council for Rochester and the Finger Lakes area.

The Community Partner Award recognizes an organization or individual who has demonstrated leadership or collaboration in a service-learning context. This year's recipient was Lauren Spiker, founder and executive director of 13 Thirty Cancer Connect (formerly known as Teens Living with Cancer).

When Spiker founded the organization, scant attention was being paid to the concerns of adolescents and young adults living with cancer. Today, 13 Thirty Cancer Connect has expanded its services to include not only teens but also people in their 20s and 30s living with cancer or who are cancer survivors.

During fall 2015, Dr. Jim Bowman's editing and publishing class partnered with Spiker to help her with a website overhaul, including a primary homepage and the Rochester and Buffalo chapter's subdomains.

For three years, Spiker has also partnered with Wegmans School of Pharmacy professor, Dr. Amy Parkhill, in her service-learning course, introduction to cancer biology and treatment. She has also welcomed Parkhill's fourth-year students for six-week rotations. Students in this course have created and presented information sheets for parents on the long-term side effects of cancer treatment, held focus groups for teens and parents on their experiences with cancer diagnosis and treatment, and organized and held a Goin’ Bald for Bucks event.

"Lauren is extremely passionate about ensuring that teens, young adults, and their families are able to live their best life despite a cancer diagnosis," said Dr. Deborah Vanderbilt, in recognizing Spiker at the ceremony. "She is a wonderful partner who has provided invaluable guidance and feedback to students throughout all of these projects."

The Student Civic Award, which recognizes individual students or groups of students who have demonstrated outstanding work in service-learning, was given this year to Sara Sanders for her work in Dr. Ryan Thibodeau’s society and mental illness course.

During the semester, Sanders worked with Bob Riley, the volunteer coordinator for the Rochester Psychiatric Center (RPC) for an optional service-learning assignment that explored the definition, classification, and treatment of mental illness. Through the project, students established relationships with RPC patients, participated in the planning of their treatment, and contributed to the delivery of group therapy and other key services.

Going above and beyond the assignment, Sanders volunteered to prepare a spaghetti dinner with one of the patients with whom she had forged a close relationship. Her work at the hospital persists to the present, well over two months after the close of the class project.

"Sara stood out among her peers for her enthusiasm, thoughtful reflection, and skill," said Tyler Wheelock in reading Sanders' nomination. "What was most striking was the degree to which she sought meaningful connection with each patient she worked with. Sara's work facilitated healing through human connection and the patients with whom she worked benefited enormously."

James Flagler, a student in Dr. Linda Schlosser’s adolescent development course, received an honorable mention for his engaging work with a student in the Post-Secondary Transition Program, which is housed at Fisher. Nominated by both his course instructor and community partner, Deb Botsford, director of transition program, Flagler was praised for initiating activities with his PSTP student that were socially empowering, engaging, and fun. Flagler not only mastered all the project objectives, he became a leader for other Fisher students paired with a transition student.

Members of the Service-Learning Advisory Board include Lynn Donahue, Matt Cardin, Monica Hodis, Marta Rodriguez-Galan, Melanie Phillips, Jenna Rossi, Deb Vanderbilt, Sally Vaughan, and Tyler Wheelock.