After being involved in engaged scholarship in the field of environmental studies, I thought I would start thinking more seriously on what kind of environmental justice frame I am working on. Although I environmental justice may not necessarily my initial entry in my work, my environmental-related work has brought me to the issues of power across race, ethnicity, and class. So I have some knowledge and experience relevant to the conversations.
From my most recent conversation, I was asked what to do in encouraging engineering students to participate in a service learning (SL) program?
I have learned that in a research university institution, “recruiting” engineering students–who tend to have “busy” schedule and perceive less direct learning/practice in SL program–has been a challenge.
From the “busy” perspective, I could respond immediately that in my SL course, I always have one sentence in my course description that says “Flexible schedules are expected as likely we will have project tasks that require students to go to meetings outside of regular class times.” How one understands the word busy is relative to one’s socio cultural context. In my SL case, I always try to see it from a community’s perspective, that their schedule is not as straight-forward as us academics. And that we have more resources than community groups, we should be more flexible to meet their schedule.
SL is to serve the needs of the community. We are the ones who should fit our schedule to theirs.
As for the “recruiting,” it took me a while. But finally I remember that SL is about civic engagement. Also, thinking about my current TA assignment with the “Taking Initiative,” I offer the following thoughts.
This post builds on my previous post on PhD for what?
What can academics really do for/with community?
One of the students offered her thoughts during my teaching demo (I was invited for a campus visit) that academics (students included) use most of their skills to do research, while many organizations outside campus (including where they do internships, volunteering works, and others) do very little research. This is absolutely true.
It is about the split that in the field of philosophy often discussed: “the mind-body split.” In the ideal world, the two would need to be balance. The higher education institution serves more on the mind element of the split.
As someone who is preparing his finish line in the pursuit of PhD, I have been thinking about many different things about how to use all these experiences, skills, and networks, for my next career. During this moment of contemplation, I came across the following:
You find yourself better placed to help others do the research than doing the research yourself. – Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier.
I have enjoyed very much facilitating a service learning course, implementing its philosophy, and embracing its opportunities. I was first exposed to the practice service learning back in 2006 when I was a member of a community-based research team, and published a book documenting a total of 67 in-depth interviews with local community organizations; please read this interview about the book.
I do not plan to master a role as a graduating PhD. But it is true that as I have been working iteratively in job documents, engaging diverse people literally and figuratively, and navigating to be my own self, I can only get better. I am obviously still far from the ideal point. But my recent campus visit with a private college liberal arts was definitely a humbling experience.
I could be perceived as someone who is not as optimistic or determined when revealing how my popular education or civic engagement approach is unpopular among my environmental studies’ colleague. But considering how radical it is, I feel that the approach is an important element of my identity. I welcome anyone to work with me, and I would open myself as best I can so that anyone could have an informed decision to collaborate with me.
Despite potentially a questionable determination, it is also important to note that my past seven years of engaged scholarship initiatives demonstrates how I walk the talk. I certainly continue to improve my practice. The past initiatives were not perfect. But still some values can be learned along the way, some of them are amazing, some of them are less amazing.
Yesterday was a major event organized by the Morgridge Center for Public Service, UW-Madison. Also attended by the Morgridges who have been all along from the beginning strengthening UW-Madison’s public service initiatives.
I would like to address one of the questions asked by a faculty member during the students’ lightning presentations. The question was something like what a faculty member should do if a graduate student quits finishing up an action-research dissertation research.
A few months ago a potential student was suggested to talk to me. Most of our discussion was about how community-based research (CBR) efforts could fit in a relatively short graduate study program. Her last question was what would be my one suggestion to start/navigate a successful CBR, and I responded by saying “be a good friend, build a genuine friendship with your community partners.”
That was my first occasions suggesting that. Lately, I have reflected on that comment, and connecting with my current partnership.
Community -university partnership is ultimately a way to connect both parties in a meaningful collaborative initiative that would benefit them. Both partners need to come to an understanding about the goals of their initiative. The disconnect of their ideas could lead to partners who would see the partnership as a mere work together (note I don’t use the word collaborative) for the sake of partnership, something they could talk about to their peers but not care enough to deliver a successful project.