Community Engagement has an important role in education. Students who participate in service-learning have higher grades, retention rates, and have the opportunity for critical self-awareness on different perspectives and cultures while confronting issues of systemic oppression and barriers to equal access. Service-learning builds a bridge between community-based needs and academic disciplines. It engages all learners (students, faculty, and community partners alike) in dialogue across differences, collaboration, and preparation to work and live in a dynamic and diverse world as socially responsible global citizens.
As you will read below, WSU students across the system engaged virtually with community partners and had transformative experiences in addressing issues of accessibility in both education and mobility, as well as raising awareness of the health impacts of climate issues on communities around the world. We look forward to learning more about community engagement throughout the WSU system at the Community Engagement Summit on Friday, May 14, and encourage you to join us!
Ben Calabretta and Jessica Perone, CCE Academic Programs
Cassandra Gulam, WSU Vancouver Clinical Associate Professor of Spanish Language & Culture, and students in Spanish for Health Professions (Spanish 362), partnered with the non-profit agency, South Sound Reading Foundation (SSRF) this semester. The SSRF in Lacy, Washington provides family education programming and reading engagement/incentive programs to ensure that every family has the tools they need to help their children learn to read. One area of concern for the SSRF was the families they are serving speak Spanish, but the books families are given are written in English. Typically, the Spanish for Health Professions course partners with the local free health and dental clinics to provide translation services. However, COVID-19 prevented that type of service-learning project opportunity. Cassandra quickly pivoted the scope of the service-learning project to accommodate the needs of SSRF.
The project consisted of WSU students creating videos of themselves reading selected children’s books intended for kindergarten through 2nd grade students in Spanish. The project allowed students to work on their recordings asynchronously while classes were held online. Nicole Nichols, SSRF AmeriCorps VISTA member stated, “The videos provide support for Spanish speaking parents to enjoy books with their children in a way that celebrates Spanish speakers, supports English learners and encourages literacy in general. We also love the opportunity to expand our availability of Spanish translations to expose all students to a variety of cultural influences. We firmly believe that more diversity and cultural sharing will only make us stronger and more connected in our community. We have had a very positive experience with WSU in all our student interactions. And the staff have been both helpful and encouraging in their support of our collaboration. We are truly grateful for the chance to work with them.”
The goal of the project was to provide Spanish speaking children and families access to literature in their native language to increase their motivation to read and engage with each other, support literacy skills, build vocabulary, and spark curiosity in literature. Alyn R., student in Spanish 326, told us the project made her more aware of the lack of availability of translated stories. Alyn said it was challenging to accurately translate some words or phrases because there is not a direct translation available that delivers the same meaning and evokes the same response.
This project provided the opportunity for the WSU students to develop their translating skills in a meaningful way and remove the language barrier in the literature resulting in families having the opportunity to share a reading experience. Gisela Medina-Tovar, Spanish 326 student, said, “The process of translating and reading stories made me realize how the pandemic has greatly affected children. My reading enthusiasm could help distract the child for a moment and get into a different and curious story world.” The library of recordings will be available for families on the South Sound Reading Foundation’s website and social media in the future. This service-learning project is an example of how students are interrupting the dynamics of access and equity of literature, addressing a community identified need, and simultaneously gaining a deeper understanding of course content through community engagement.
Saumya Amarasiri, WSU Pullman Clinical Associate Professor in Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, and a team of students in the Integrated Civil Engineering Design course (CE 465), partnered with College Hill Association and the City of Pullman throughout the spring semester to design a comprehensive revision of the intersection at Monroe and Garfield streets on College Hill. The design establishes a safer pedestrian crossing. The intersection currently has discontinuous sidewalks, steep grade changes, sight distance issues, and a newly relocated group mailbox to the west side of Monroe which requires more foot traffic to access. The design will take into consideration minor grading, impacts to existing trees and landscaping, sidewalk improvements, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) maps and compliance, drainage patterns before and after the project, signage and striping, and a traffic control plan.
This service-learning project provided the students the opportunity to learn more about the civic, safety, and community development needs of Pullman and to establish a personal and meaningful connection to the local community’s issues and culture as the foundation for the work. Students’ sense of self-efficacy grew as a result of participating in a service-learning project. They now have the confidence to apply their expertise to identify unique and innovative solutions to community-based problems.
Transformative Learning Experiences
Somava Pande, WSU Pullman Clinical Assistant Professor in the Murrow College of Communication, and students in Organizing for Social Change (COMSOC 326), partnered with TerraGraphics International Foundation (TIFO). The students developed five public relations awareness campaigns to promote the organization's mission to address the social, environmental, and economic disparities within the USA and globally. TIFO believes all people have the right to live and work in a healthy environment and collaborates with communities, governments, universities, and other stakeholders (such as Doctors Without Borders) to develop sustainable interventions to improve environmental and human health in the United States and internationally. TIFO focuses on mitigating the effects of high pollution in low-income countries with absent or poorly enforced environmental regulations, resulting in environmental and health disparities for some of the world’s most economically vulnerable people. Often, these environmental issues are inextricably related to severe poverty, endemic malnutrition and disease, violence, social injustices, and climate change (www.terragraphicsinternational.org/history).
This service-learning project provided students an avenue to increase their awareness of the social, environmental and economic oppression happening internationally. The students had the opportunity to meet virtually during class with Casey Bartrem, Executive Director of TIFO and learn more about the perspectives of the people they serve and the humanitarian crises currently taking place around the world. Casey described the inconceivable health disparities resulting in death in many cases, and how everyday choices can impact our planet and future generations.
Students said they appreciated the connection to the real-life situations rather than developing a mock-campaign, practice writing for a real audience, the ability to learn about and be a part of solutions for disparities currently taking place in third-world countries and within the USA. Students also stated the service-learning project and partnership with TIFO gave them a better understanding of their professional goals after graduation. Students applied a critical lens to analyze the facts and research topics surrounding environmental and health disparities throughout the semester resulting in five awareness campaigns and public relations materials to be used to promote TIFO’s mission and work in the future.
The students gained a deeper sense of cultural awareness, international and US health disparities, the community’s social, cultural, economic, and political context, and how these dynamic factors play a major role in risks to local communities in Nigeria, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, and Senegal. Over the semester, the students critically examined the social problems, root causes of the present issues, and engaged in direct action that will contribute to supporting TIFO’s long-term goals. The students were able to use their expertise in communications to support the organization to fill a gap that may have otherwise gone unfilled. New infographics, hashtags, print materials, and videos were created for future use.
The five Public Relations Awareness Campaigns included the topics below:
- Environmental health and remediation response as a result of the challenges related to mining and recycling to address the crises related to mining communities.
- The connections among mining, climate change, and environmental security in impoverished areas
- Child and maternal health vulnerabilities to exposure to environmental contaminants in third-world countries.
- Mining gold and lead, or the recycling of those products, often exposes artisanal and small-scale miners and informal recyclers to hazardous chemicals and contaminants.
- Green energy is not totally 'clean' energy.
CCE Community Engaged Scholar Highlights
The CCE’s Community Engaged Scholars (CES) faculty professional development program provides resources, tools, networking, and ongoing support for faculty to design a new course or modify an existing course to include a service-learning component and/or to support community-engaged initiatives. Topics covered throughout the four-session program included Principle of Good Practice, Community Partnerships, Scholarship of Engagement, and Assessment and Learning Outcomes. Some of the many strengths of the program are being members of a professional learning community, the opportunity to exchange ideas with like-minded colleagues, and the opportunity to engage in ongoing networking with local and global community partners.
This spring, the second of two College of Arts and Sciences CES cohorts completed the program, and seven more faculty joined the growing community of practice. The CES program is modeled after the 2017 Faculty Fellows cohort funded by the Provost’s Student Success Seed Grant. The 2021 Community Engaged Scholars are David Martin (English, Pullman), Linda Russo (English, Pullman), Anna Plemons (Digital Technologies and Culture, Tri Cities) Johanna Phelps (English, Vancouver), Shannon Tushingham (Anthropology, Pullman) Vanessa Cozza (English, Tri Cities), and Paul Kwon (Psychology, Pullman).
Campus Connection Spring Issue can be found here.
CCE’s Community Ground Graduate Students April Issue can be found here.
WSU Community Engagement Summit (CES): CES will feature presentations from individual WSU campuses about community partnerships, regional accomplishments, and ideas for navigating the upcoming issues and needs of our communities. WSU Provost, Elizabeth Chilton will provide opening remarks.
PICCE Community Engagement Institute (CEI): The institute brings together administrators, faculty, staff, and community representatives from the Inland Northwest to discuss Service-Learning and community engagement initiatives, share promising practices and examine how institutions may become better able to seek solutions to complex challenges. The conference seeks to share innovations in Service-Learning pedagogy and scholarship as well as to further discussions about the meaningful engagement of higher education and communities to respond collaboratively to issues of need.
Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE): The 2021 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement conference brings together faculty, student affairs professionals, students, senior campus administrators, and community partners. Together we will ensure that students graduate from our colleges and universities, both public and private, prepared to be the informed, engaged citizens our communities and our democracy need.
TRUCEN Member Meeting registration information can be found here. The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN), established in 2008, works to advance civic engagement and engaged scholarship among research universities.
Engagement Scholarship Consortium International Conference. The Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC), a 501 (c) (3) non-profit educational organization, is composed of higher education member institutions, a mix of state-public and private institutions. Our goal is to work collaboratively to build strong university-community partnerships anchored in the rigor of scholarship and designed to help build community capacity.
Campus Compact Webinars (free) can be found here.