A Step Richer, Scholarly and Administratively


December 20th was when all of the senior capstone courses for Environmental Studies major at the Nelson Institute gathered.  It is the final day of the semester for our collaborative project with the South Madison Farmers’  Market.  In every course that I was part of, I have always learned new things, and I could only be grateful for the opportunity.

I am not going to share how important it is the South Madison Farmers’ Market for this project.  The importance of community partner is absolutely clear, and their contribution to students’ learning is undebatable.  I will talk more about this (community’s role in a partnership) at another time.  I am sorry that I am going to be selfish for now, reflecting on my own learning as a facilitator of this course.

Two important points I would like share.  First, facilitating a course as part of a community-university partnership is rare.  From what I have learned so far, professors usually have more commitment on this kind of work when they are already “safe” from tenure review.  Their pressure in getting tenured is high enough that the highly dynamic and unpredictable process of community-university partnership is just too much for them to handle.  Certainly, it is just one side of the story, there are more other dimensions of it.  The bottom line, me having a chance to facilitate a partnership early on my career (as a graduate student) and just completed my fourth service-learning course that was developed collaboratively with a community partner, I could not thank enough.  It is wonderful opportunities and I am fully blessed.

Second, scholarly, facilitating a community-based research (CBR) course helps me to become a better interdisciplinary research.  I do not plan on going in too much details about interdisciplinarity and CBR.  But developing and executing a project that is driven by community has exposed me with multiple research areas that I otherwise will not engage.   My original interests in CBR in transportation.  But after completing my fourth CBR course, I have been part of the works that engage area of research such as water sustainability, community impact assessment, food systems, and farmers’ market.  In addition, as I have more courses to facilitate, it allows me to work with more students from a variety of disciplines within campus.  One way to be a better interdisciplinary research is just simply being open with the opportunities and seriously committed in engaging the processes that are presented to us.


After participating in the Capstone Showcase organized by the Nelson Institute, our class gathered and had dinner at the Steenbock on Orchard to celebrate our success.  Robert Pierce was also present.  Students shared their findings with Robert and discussed some possible follow ups with him.

It was a great class with a group of highly dedicated students.  I am very lucky to be part of this project.