From Transportation to Service Learning


Starting next week, I am going to take a new position with the Morgridge Center for Public Service.  This is just another graduate assistanship position, nothing fancy.  But it helps me keep my student status and have my qualiying exam and prelim this semester.  I will be a Teaching Assistant (Engaged Scholarship Fellow) for their program to teach/train TAs and junior faculties at the UW-Madison about service learning.

Service learning is not an entirely new area for me.  First I have been exposed with it when I was a member of a community-based project team in 2006, conducted a community-based research, and collaboratively published a book Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service Learning.  I just completed a two full academic year with the Community Environmental Scholars Program at UW-Madison offering two service learning capstone courses.  Here is an article I wrote for the Nelson Institute news Collaboration with The Natural Step Monona has real-world impacts for students, community.

I am very excited with this new position since I will get to interact with TAs and junior faculties about service learning.  There are still lots of misunderstanding (and challenges) about how to build a meaningful partnership with community and integrating it in a learning setting.  Many of them do not realize that having community as a partner takes a lot of efforts.  Similarly, community are not just a passive partner as many have seen and they do compromise their regular activities in accomodating their academic partner interests.  We need to start planning a service learning program that can make some real impacts to our community partner.

In reflecting my past 5 years with the Wisconsin Tranportation Center, I now have a solid idea for my dissertation research and my future career in the area of transportation.  Combined with my other trainings, my years with Wistrans have allowed me to understand how my idea of interdisciplinarity can help offer an alternative perpective in transportion study.  I have been blessed with the work I involved, the people I got to interact, and the environment I had to spend.