Service Learning: A Year of Great Courses and Student Projects
In its annual year-end reception last week, the Office of Service Learning (OSL) celebrated a year of great projects, recapped some of this year’s service learning courses, and introduced five new courses for next year.
The Kelley Center Presentation Room was filled with students, faculty and friends surveying the poster presentations of 20 projects, the fruit of many hours of labor and dedication from among the more than 700 students in Fairfield’s 40 service learning courses this past year.
The projects ranged from studying the living habits of prairie dogs at the Beardsley Zoo to facilitating poetry writing workshops in communities impacted by systemic violence. Projects were also developed across a variety of fields, from biology to accounting.
Melissa Quan, director of the OSL, said, “This end-of-year celebration always opens my eyes to the amazing work that our students and faculty do in partnership with the community. It is really fun to bring everyone together—students, faculty and community partners—to celebrate shared accomplishments and to inspire ongoing collaboration.”
Newman Civic Fellow
The formal event began with recognition of Solanlly (pronounced So-laun-gee) Canas ’17, a psychology major (pictured above), who was nominated as a 2015 Newman Civic Fellow for her work across campus in raising awareness of water access. She organized an event, recruited faculty to speak, and raised funds to buy water filters for families in the Dominican Republic.
University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., presented her with a plaque and a $1,000 grant sponsored by the Office of Service Learning to continue her community engagement work through the 2015-16 academic year. In the fall, she will work with Dr. Jo Yarrington, professor of studio art, and Dr. Patricia Poli, associate professor of accounting, to plan a water awareness event.
"I am very excited that I was nominated for the Newman Fellowship and also very happy that I am receiving a grant to continue my work in helping communities in need of potable water. Water is an essential element of our everyday lives. Everyone deserves to have potable water.”
The fellowship, one of 201 across the country, is part of Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,100 college and university presidents committed to improving community life and educating students for civic and social responsibility.
Canas is also a Service Learning Associate—a student leader who works alongside faculty members to facilitate service-learning courses and experiences.
2014 Service Learning Courses
Each year, the Office of Service Learning provides funds for course development. Jocelyn Boryczka, associate professor of politics and faculty chair of Service Learning, introduced the five recipients from 2014-15. Some courses are already active; others will begin over the next academic year. Their courses include:
EC225-U.S. Environmental Policy: Application of Tools and Techniques
Dr. Dina Franceschi, professor of economics, and her students worked with the City of Bridgeport to produce a valuation of the city’s parks system and its sustainability. With help from the city’s Sustainability Office, students met with city officials, toured key park locations, collected data and wrote reports over three semesters.
Spanish II SL
Noemi Esther Morriberon, instructor of modern languages, redesigned her Spanish course to include ongoing meetings between students and immigrants, each learning the other’s language and gaining an appreciation for another culture through conversation. Students also wrote reflections on the experience.
PO11-Democracy, Power, Justice and Freedom: Introduction to American Politics
In this course, Dr. Gwendoline Alphonso, assistant professor of politics, hopes to collaborate with Family ReEntry, a local nonprofit which provides mentoring to children of incarcerated parents. Fairfield students may engage in a range of service that includes tutoring children and generating related policy recommendations to support advocacy efforts.
ED369/459-Dev Reading Secondary School
Dr. Bryan Crandall, assistant professor of the practice of curriculum & instruction and director of Connecticut Writing Project, will engage his students with Bassick High School and Cesar Batalla Elementary School in Bridgeport, where they will work with relocated refugee communities and explore how a community can read a book together and break down barriers.
Teaching Philosophy to School Children
Recognizing that children’s books often raise deep philosophical issues, Dr. Kris Sealey, associate professor of philosophy, plans to partner with K-8 schools in the Bridgeport Public Schools to work with elementary students on the big issues of life using children’s books. Fairfield undergraduate students will come to understand philosophy as a vocational endeavor that lives far outside the classroom walls, and discover that it is only in teaching philosophy that one understands the stakes involved.
Service learning courses with OSL grant support for 2015-16 include: Introduction to Public History, Career-Oriented Spanish: Nursing/Health, Politics of Humanitarian Action, Municipal Finance, and Robots! (engineering).
Outstanding Community Partner
A new recognition, the Outstanding Community Partner Award was presented to Neighbors Link of Stamford, which works to integrate immigrants into the community through education, connection, and employment services. Catalina Horak, executive director of Neighbors Link/Stamford, and Christian Mendoza, program manager, were present to receive the award.
Service Learning Associates from the Class of 2015 were recognized by Program Coordinator Karen Parkinson. Pictured (l-r) are Parkinson, Ashley Paholski, Tim Manning, Sarah Markham, Charlotte Pecquex, Alan Pelaez Lopez, and Melissa Quan. (Not pictured: Eric Iannacccone, Xhensila Spahiu, Ryan Wessel, and Marie Matta.)
Quan said, “This was a really big year for service learning at Fairfield. The annual celebration really captured that—and inspires even more excitement for the coming year. I am so thankful to all the faculty, students and community partners who commit themselves to this work for the good of society.”