For students looking for a class to fill their LAIS credits this next spring, “Community Engagement through Service Learning” (LAIS376/HNRS476) should be a consideration. This class, co-taught by Professor Ed Cecil from the physics department, and his wife, Meridee Cecil, aims to introduce students to their community through immersion.
“Community Engagement through Service Learning” is unlike any other class on campus. It asks students to devote time to helping the local community. Students participate in a volunteering opportunity in the surrounding region that they would like to be a part of every week for a semester. Students are directly engaging with the community their volunteering is impacting. The Cecil’s refer to this as “immersive service learning.” Past students have volunteered at places like the Mt. St. Vincent Home, Betty Marler Center for Girls, Joshua Station and The Crossing.
In addition to the volunteering component of this class, students are given weekly readings that deal with present day societal issues and discuss them during class time. These readings are intended to inform, and enhance, both their volunteering experiences and their general understanding of the world. For example, one of the exercises they ask students to do is to create a budget using the poverty line as their hypothetical income (roughly $21,000). This exercise is hard for students to complete and fosters discussion surrounding the appropriateness of the poverty line.
Additionally, this class requires student reflection on their experiences. This allows the students to engage with their feelings and to truly understand the “why” behind their volunteer project. Understanding “the why” is a major theme in this class. Why is this population in need of help? Why are you qualified to help? Are you qualified? What systemic issues exist surrounding this issue? These are all questions students will be challenged to answer throughout the semester.
Class sizes are small, around twenty, allowing for a lively and challenging discussion. Prior to registration, interested students must talk to either Ed (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Meridee Cecil (email@example.com), or Cortney Holles (firstname.lastname@example.org). This class can count as the practicum requirement for McBride students.