"Service-learning, when well structured, is invaluable for both the students involved and the organization receiving the project,” said Dr. Adele Santana when reflecting on her experience teaching service learning courses.
Throughout her career in academia, Dr. Santana has connected her students to community partners as part of their coursework. “I started including pro bono consulting projects for community organizations as assignments in courses around 12 years ago. I wanted to share my professional consulting experience with students, train them to act as consultants, and at the same time support community organizations and small local businesses,” said Dr. Santana. She further specified that her goals with service-learning courses “include creating opportunities for the engagement of academia and community.” She also stated that, “When it happens, every social actor learns to appreciate each other, to exchange information and knowledge, and to share cultural backgrounds. In this process, academia gives back to the community, and the community informs academic decisions. It is a direct application of knowledge to address social and economic issues in our local environment.”
Dr. Santana’s students greatly appreciated participating in a service-learning project. One student reflected on what the course taught them about business saying, “In this class I learned the importance of how a business works. When I say that I’m not talking about all the details such as the main courses we have to take for business but much more than that. The importance of how each department even up to the CEO can make a huge difference. All the small details matter.”
Another student expressed how service-learning has influenced their goals for the future saying, “As a professional, I want to create shared value and sustainable competitive advantages in the organizations I will work for. I want to be a resource that creates value for the company, and not just another worker. I hope that I can help influence any company I work for to create shared value for the community and environment.” This student also added, “I want to create an environment where everyone’s opinion/input is valued. Regardless of race, I want to change the social structure that is embedded in organizations. I want to add more color to firms that are mostly white especially in higher positions. As a well-informed and well-educated person, I have a duty to protect and encourage every person’s rights and voices in an organization.”
"Our sustainable linkages to SSU build PHC’s capacity to manage and support volunteerism to further our mission and in high-need neighborhoods in Rohnert Park and Petaluma," explains Eliot Rodriquez from Petaluma Health Center.
Dr. Adele Santana is an Associate Professor in the School of Business and Economics here at SSU. She earned her B.S. in engineering then went on to earn both a Masters and a PhD. in business administration. From 2012 and on, Dr. Santana has had work published in The Journal of Business and Ethics, Business and Society Review, Ending the Fossil Fuel Era, and Business Expert Express. Dr. Santana has been a faculty member at Sonoma State University since 2015, teaching several courses for the Business department. Before she began a career in teaching, she worked as an independent consultant in organizational behavior and development.
Dr. Santana emphasizes that service-learning is a mutually beneficial experience for both students and campus partners. “Students have an opportunity to step into an organization as external actors and to learn to navigate the organizational culture and structure in a professional and neutral manner. It is an opportunity to be in positions that it would normally take them a long time to get to in a normal entry-level job situation. At the same time, the beneficiary organizations received help and support from highly prepared students to plan and conduct change, restructuring, and strategic development, among other services, at zero cost.”
Students in Dr. Santana’s Business 491 class, Joseph Mogannam, Giovanni Del Valle, Nicholas Kefurry, Isabella DeLeon, Paul Pizano and Tove Danielle Robinson shared, “our responsibility was to find a way that the Petaluma Health Center could help lower childhood obesity within Rohnert Park. We learned that accomplishing such a complex task requires research and understanding of the topic. We used what we learned to develop a process to get the exercise room in Rohnert Park Health Center to its full potential by accomplishing three major things, which are finding activity leadership, attracting the target market, and marketing the program.”
It’s evident that Dr. Santana’s students addressed the issue and understood the challenges the Health Center faces. Projects such as this are beneficial to both our students, our partners and most importantly to the community. We really appreciate the work that Dr. Santana is doing with our students and our community partners.