I, a 3rd-year student in Communication Studies, attended a workshop for faculty members who are interested in deepening their service-learning courses. Going into the workshop, I had no idea what to expect, given that I didn’t know the first thing about service-learning. Listening to a (virtual) room full of service-learning scholars discuss their experiences was eye-opening for me as a student. It's amazing how much work our faculty do to help students build their experience and connections with local organizations and how much it benefits the community. Being in that workshop from the perspective of a student and learning what it takes to connect with a community partner was truly unique – I hope to learn more about service-learning in the next workshop.
“It was great to connect with colleagues and discuss our perspectives and shared challenges,” says Robert Pierce, Assistant Director for Service Learning at the CSU Fullerton Center for Internships and Community Engagement who attended the “Deepening Service-Learning” workshop.
Dr. Melissa Garvin, the SSU Lead Faculty Fellow, prepared a presentation to give to other faculty who teach service-learning courses at this workshop designed to help deepen their understanding of the connection with their community partners. We were pleasantly surprised when community engagement professionals from CSU Fullerton joined the workshop. When the meeting started, we all exchanged greetings and Missy began her presentation. She explained a complex taxonomy of the aspects of service-learning and the participants discussed ways to deepen their service-learning practices.
The room full of service-learning experts quickly drew away from the presentation and engaged in a deep discussion. The participants were most interested in the aspect of community partnership development and most of the discussion was focused on that. Dr. Emily Acosta-Lewis, another faculty fellow who runs the student P.R. agency Primitivo, explained that she has a deep connection with her community partners, “I know the community impact is better because they tell us that,” says Dr. Acosta-Lewis.
“I know that we were not the target audience and [I] appreciated Missy (Dr. Garvin) adapting,” said Robert. Dr. Garvin told the meeting that the key is to trust and integrate with the partner. She explained how involved she is with her own community partner, the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County. “It's mutually beneficial,” Garvin says, “I truly believe in this as a valued community resource that other communities might not have access to.”
The workshop was also an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts about different CSU campuses and how service-learning was affected by the pandemic. “I know our new staff member benefitted from the insights of experiences of our fellow CCE staff at SSU… I liked the approach to picking one element of the [Community Partnerships] taxonomy to focus on with a faculty member to deepen student engagement. We’ll consider that for future efforts at Fullerton when we reach that point.” Robert says. I would say that the workshop was a great success for everyone involved, and it makes me proud to be a part of a campus that other schools learn from.