From the Editor: These Are Exciting Times as JCES Keeps Pace With Rapid Changes

 

Cassandra E. Simon, Ph.D.

With each issue of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship (JCES), it seems there is something new and exciting to share. The current issue is no different. Yet this time the excitement comes not directly from JCES but from the advancements in the field of engaged scholarship since the inception of JCES. As editor of the journal, I have been fortunate enough to see the wide range of scholarly works done in the name of engaged scholarship. And although these manuscripts reflect work conducted in an array of disciplines, using a variety of approaches, they represent an exciting movement in the field of engaged scholarship and, consequently, JCES. The field is moving forward, and therefore so is its state of knowledge and the quality of associated works. Combined with its ongoing commitment to contributing to the common good, engaged scholarship is well poised to make significant contributions to how we teach, learn, live, and serve.

Quality research is always at a premium, and I am pleased to say that not only do I see an improvement in the overall quality of the manuscripts we are receiving, but I also see improved quality in the methodology associated with them. Although differences in how rigor is defined may fluctuate based on discipline, what is evident is that engaged scholarship is gaining prominence across and within disciplines throughout the academy. As such, there is also a depth in the type of knowledge building taking place, even when compared to three short years ago. For an area to grow and develop knowledge, it must test the known and the unknown, the abstract and the concrete, and the theoretical and practical. Engaged scholarship continues to demonstrate its ability to build its own knowledge base, and we at JCES are proud of our continued role in helping that base develop. At the risk of letting my personal bias show, I am especially excited about a stronger emphasis on the social justice, action-oriented aspect of engaged scholarship. Words like action, partnership, mutual benefit, justice, and service remain prominently connected to the purpose, interpretation, and application of community-engaged research. More so, the importance of the “meaning of the research” is increasingly seen as a critical and necessary consideration in assessing the value of this research. Contemporary engaged scholarship extends beyond the traditional “So what?” to “Who does this help?” and “How does this help?”

This issue of JCES is reflective of so much of what is going on in engaged scholarship that is exciting. It is filled with examples of innovative, forward-thinking approaches to addressing complex issues through connecting communities, students, and faculty. The action orientation roots of engaged scholarship are reflected in many of the manuscripts in this issue. Addressing issues like the health risks posed by STDs and AIDS in the college community and the implementation of a wellness policy for a rural public school system demonstrates a social justice aspect of this scholarship. Another manuscript is a reminder of the struggle within the academy regarding the role of engaged scholarship in the retention, promotion, and tenure of faculty, encouraging that a stand be taken—and not only that, pointing the way to how it can be done. Yet another demonstrates effective use of community-based participatory research, representing the action orientation of community engagement work.

Additional manuscripts address the influence of service-learning on career choice and how engaged scholarship has built on strengths of the Hispanic/Latino culture to raise ACT scores and helped to develop a mutually beneficial, culturally sensitive language instruction program, along with a mentoring and tutoring program. Commentaries by both a student and community partner remind us of the relevance of this work in the lives of everyone around us. So, I invite you to read this issue of JCES and provide us your feedback at jces@ua.edu. As always, an extraordinary thank you to the JCES editorial board and staff whose hard work makes each issue of JCES a reality.

Reaching for a Radical Community-Based Research Model

Barri Tinkler

“Two community-based research experiences lead to a conceptual model that puts control in the hands of the community.”

Abstract

This qualitative study contrasts two community-based research (CBR) projects. While the first project fell short of CBR goals, it influenced how the author carried out the second project, which did meet those goals. The two experiences enabled the author to create a conceptual model that can be used to structure and evaluate CBR projects for those who aspire to a more radical form of community-based research.

Introduction

Across the country, institutions of higher education are becoming more involved with their communities (Checkoway, 2001; Maurrasse, 2001; Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003; Ward, 2003). This movement is reflected in an increase of community service (Farrell, 2006), service-learning programs (Stanton, Giles, & Cruz, 1999), and other programs that link the expertise of the university with community organizations (Boyte, 2004; Harkavy, 2005; Peterson, 2009). Another important component of this movement is community-based research in which students and professors work closely with community partners to conduct research that addresses a community-identified need (Chopyak & Levesque, 2002). CBR is a form of service-learning (Strand, 2000) that draws upon principles of action research and participatory research (Fals-Borda, 2001; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; Stringer, 1999; Whyte, 1991) and utilizes the theory of change that drives the social justice service-learning movement (Marullo & Edwards, 2000; Mitchell, 2008). Social justice service-learning is linked closely to the popular education model of Freire (1970), and the goal is to use education as resistance against power structures that maintain domination by the elite. Academics in health fields utilize community-based participatory research to improve community health and knowledge through collaborative research processes that empower community members to take control of health issues (Israel, Eng, Schulz, & Parker, 2005; Minkler & Wallerstein, 2003).

In this article, two contrasting case studies describe the process of conducting community-based research. One case study explicates my partnership with a non-profit organization I have titled the Coalition for Schools (Participants in both projects signed a consent form that promised anonymity. Therefore, I have not named the communities in which the research took place or used the real names of the participants and the organizations with which they were affiliated). The Coalition is an organization focused on improving academic achievement in an urban school district in a western city. The Coalition concentrates on a feeder pattern of schools in a quadrant of the city with a high percentage of English language learners. This feeder pattern includes five elementary schools, two middle schools, and three small high schools.

The Coalition is an alliance of non-profit organizations, foundations, parent organizations, universities, and the local school district working together to support achievement in these low performing schools. I worked with the coalition for a period of nine months as a data collection specialist.

The other case study describes my work as a volunteer research assistant with two non-profit organizations that provide services to the expanding immigrant population in a western mountain town. I have titled this case Communities in Transition. The town is a small rural community with a rapidly growing immigrant population from Mexico, about half of whom are indigenous peoples from a remote area of the country. I collaborated with two members of the community who work closely with the immigrant population providing English as a Second Language (ESL) courses and immigrant services. Working closely with my community partners for a ten-month period, we collected and analyzed data to improve the services offered through their programs.

While there is considerable CBR activity being undertaken at a number of institutions of higher education (Benson, Harkavy, & Puckett, 1996; Reardon, 1995), there is a paucity of research describing the process of collaborating with community partners on community-based research projects (Wallerstein, 1999). In addition, there are very few studies that depict the challenges of using participatory research methods during the dissertation process (Kneifel, 2000; Maguire, 1993). Numerous issues arise that can facilitate or hinder the collaborative process, and case studies of actual CBR projects have the potential to provide rich lessons of value to both neophyte and experienced community-based researchers alike. Thus, I offer comparisons between two CBR projects, one that met CBR goals and one that did not. The knowledge gained through the first project allowed me to strategically engage my partners in the second project. I then evaluated each of these experiences using an analytic framework constructed from the goals of CBR. Through the application of this analytic framework, I developed a conceptual model that can be used to evaluate CBR projects for those who seek to pursue a more radical model of CBR, a model that advocates social change. The analytic framework is described in greater detail in the following section, and the CBR model is introduced at the end of the article.

Defining Community-Based Research

“Community-based research is research that is conducted by, with, or for communities” (Sclove et al., 1998, p. ii). It is a collaborative form of inquiry in which academic institutions and community members seek to offset the prevalence of traditional academic research by acknowledging the expertise of community members (Hills & Mullett, 2000). Community members help determine the direction of the research, providing community knowledge and participating in the research process with the intent to solve problems and create change that leads to social justice by “empowering and helping to build capacity among community members” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 14). Community-based research is “a partnership of students, faculty, and community members who collaboratively engage in research with the purpose of solving a pressing community problem or effecting social change” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 3). Strand et al. (2003) outlined three guiding principles: 1) collaboration, 2) validation of the knowledge of community members and the multiple ways of collecting and distributing information, and 3) “social action and social change for the purpose of achieving social justice” (p. 8).

The third principle “has its roots in Freire’s popular education model, where the process of coming together to educate, learn, and talk about social change serves as a means of consciousness raising and organization among community members, who are then empowered to work for change themselves” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 14). Through this liberatory process community members themselves become agents of change and social justice by “challenging existing social relations and structures of privilege” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 132). The principles of CBR align with many of the principles of social justice education articulated by Bigelow, Christensen, Karp, Miner, & Peterson (Rethinking Schools, 1994) in that CBR is based on using a critical lens and promoting a perspective that is anti-racist, pro-justice, visionary, and activist oriented.

After conducting the two CBR projects described in this study, I evaluated each project utilizing an analytic framework. This framework is derived from the principles of community-based research introduced by Strand et al. (2003) and is also strongly influenced by the work of Stoecker (2003), who has delineated two strands of community-based research, radical CBR and mainstream CBR. Mainstream CBR combines the philosophy of Dewey, the traditional charity service-learning approach, traditional (versus emancipatory) action research methodology, and functionalist sociological theory. Stoecker (2003) states:

[Mainstream CBR] sees reform as a gradual, peaceful, linear process…[and] attempts to mediate divisions across social structural boundaries, implicitly reflecting that common interests between the rich and the poor, for example, are more powerful than their differences. All follow an expert model, either through choosing agencies rather than grassroots groups as partners, or through professional control over both the research and teaching processes (p. 39).

Alternately, radical CBR combines the popular education model of Freire (1970) and the social justice service-learning model, participatory research methodology, and conflict sociological theory (Stoecker, 2002a, 2003).

According to Stoecker (2002a), “popular education and participatory research, because of their mutual emphasis on structural change, collective action, and a conflict worldview, are beginning to form a radical version of CBR” (p. 9). Within this radical model of CBR, research partnerships develop with grassroots organizations rather than social service agencies. Stoecker (2002a) expresses the concern that it is more likely that proponents of CBR will adopt the mainstream approach versus the radical approach. If so, “The question arises whether our distaste for conflict situations and conflict groups and our gravitation toward safe ‘middle’ service organizations may be making it difficult to achieve the third principle of CBR, which is social change for social justice” (p. 9).

In my analytic framework, (Figure 1) I position radical CBR at one end of the continuum and the traditional expert research model at the other. In the middle is mainstream CBR. Each of these forms of research is defined by its position in relation to the four goals of CBR: community, collaboration, knowledge creation, and change. Each of the four goals also has its own continuum, which aligns with the three categories of research on the CBR continuum (see Figure 1). The closer on the continuum the researcher moves toward radical CBR, the greater the potential for change that is specific to the collaborating community.

Since the ultimate goal of CBR is “social change for social justice” (Stoecker, 2002a, p. 9), the more closely the researcher works with members of the community who are dealing with the problem (Stoecker, 2003), the greater the potential to empower. The community continuum includes grassroots organizations on one end and organizations that do not represent the community or use practices that “disempower the community” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 73) on the other (see Figure 1). In between are “midlevel organizations” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 74) that are a level removed from grassroots organizations but still seek to represent the community democratically. Conducting CBR projects with midlevel organizations is what Strand et al. (2003) label “doing CBR in the middle” (p. 73).

The meaning of collaboration undergirding this framework is shared decision making. The community should have equal power with the researcher and decision making should be a shared process throughout (Sclove et al., 1998). On the collaboration continuum, decision making as a shared process is at one end of the continuum and at the other end decisions are made primarily by the researcher (see Figure 1). A companion to collaboration is the goal of participation in knowledge creation. Community involvement in the creation of knowledge leads to community empowerment. The fundamental assumption of this framework is that the knowledge of community members is valid (Stoecker, 2003) and integral to creating strong results. At the positive end of the continuum, the community is involved in all aspects of knowledge creation; at the other, the researcher controls the creation of knowledge (see Figure 1).

The determining factor of the analytic framework is change (see Figure 1). If one considers CBR within the radical framework described by Stoecker (2003), the goal for change is “massive structural changes in the distribution of power and resources through far-reaching changes in governmental policy, economic practices, or cultural norms” (p. 36). This goal, however, can be difficult to achieve because community-based research tends toward programmatic changes within an organization or other more limited change. Needless to say, community-based research that does not involve the community in close collaboration and knowledge creation is less likely to create change that will benefit that community.

Methods

In order to examine each CBR experience in an in-depth and holistic way, I utilized a qualitative case study approach. Data collection for case studies usually focuses on three sources of data: observations, interviews, and documents (Merriam, 1998); I collected all three types for each case. Since I was observing myself as I collaborated with my community partner, all of the observations that I conducted were participant observations (Creswell, 2002). I also collected both formal and informal interview data (Patton, 1990). Informal interview questions were woven into meetings that I had with my community partners in relation to the ongoing CBR projects (Merriam, 1998), and I conducted formal interviews with my community partners in both case studies. Finally, I collected or created a variety of documents including: email communications, a reflective journal, a phone call log, and other items that were provided by my community partners, such as newsletters and meeting minutes.

Though I came into contact with a variety of people in each case study, my primary research collaborators were the main participants of my study. In the first case study, my collaboration with the Coalition for Schools, there were two primary collaborators, “Marge Bowline”, a co-chair of the Coalition, and “Lisa Brown,” the director of the Coalition. (Reminder: all names and affiliations have been changed in keeping with the consent agreement signed by the participants.) After completing my work with the Coalition, I questioned whether the experience was truly community-based research. I felt I needed an additional experience to solidify my ideas about how to assess and evaluate CBR projects. Instead of focusing on one experience, I decided to pursue another research option, Communities in Transition, in order to have another experience with which I could make comparisons.

In the second case study, Communities in Transition, I worked with the director of the literacy program, “John Brewer,” and an immigrant from South America, “Maria Swenson,” who works with a local agency that provides services to the immigrant population. The second CBR project was closer to the goals of mainstream CBR as described in my analytic framework. The two case studies allow me to present contrasting cases that delineate factors that can impede researchers and community members from reaching the goals of radical CBR.

Validity

In order to lend credibility to the findings of my study, I incorporated a variety of validity procedures. The first validity procedure I employed was prolonged engagement in the field (Creswell & Miller, 2000). I worked with the Coalition for nine months and with Communities in Transition for ten months. During each of these collaborations, I had consistent contact with my community partners. Collaborating with my community partners for this length of time allowed me to develop tentative findings and then follow up on these preliminary findings through observations and interviews (Creswell & Miller, 2000).

I also employed triangulation as another important validity procedure (Creswell, 1998; Stake, 2000). Merriam (1998) defines triangulation as “using multiple investigators, multiple sources of data, or multiple methods to confirm the emerging findings” (p. 204). I utilized methodological triangulation (Creswell & Miller, 2000) since I collected three forms of data: observations, interviews, and documents. I also used multiple sources of data since interviews were conducted with several participants (Creswell & Miller, 2000). Through triangulation, I was able to identify points of convergence in the data and to confirm or disconfirm emerging categories and themes (Creswell & Miller, 2000).

Since this case study focused on a study of process, my perceptions were an integral component of the research. However, since I did write interpretations of what I considered to be the perceptions of others, I used member checking to ensure accuracy (Creswell & Miller, 2000). I conducted member checking toward the end of each study so that it would not potentially disrupt the collaborative process. I shared an outline of findings with Lisa Brown with the Coalition and with John Brewer and Maria Swenson with Communities in Transition and allowed them the opportunity to provide feedback. Lisa Brown responded to the findings through email and said, “Thanks for sharing [these findings]. I feel it is accurate, and that it was a learning experience for all of us.” Maria Swenson also responded to the findings that I shared. She said, “I looked at [the findings] and it sounds good. I agree with all said.” John also said that he thought that the findings “looked good.”

Subjectivity

Researcher reflexivity provided another method of creditability, which I used continuously throughout the research process (Creswell & Miller, 2000). I incorporated researcher reflexivity by constantly questioning my assumptions about what I thought was happening. I sought to maintain a heightened sense of awareness of the biases that I brought to the study and maintained this awareness when adding contextual data to field notes, observations transcriptions, and interview transcriptions and when writing journal entries.

Since my perceptions of the research process played a major part in the findings of the study, I carefully attended to the idea of subjectivity. Peshkin (1988) defines subjectivity as “the quality of the investigator that affects the results of observational investigation” (p. 17). Peshkin (1988) points out that an individual’s subjectivity is not something that can be removed, and it is therefore something researchers need to be aware of throughout the research process. Though Peshkin does not view subjectivity as necessarily negative, he does feel it is something that researchers need to realize and acknowledge. It was important to examine my own subjectivities throughout the research process so that I was aware of how these subjectivities could influence my interpretations and portrayal of events. As Strand (2000) points out, “The researcher’s values, experiences, and personal points of view are as much a part of the research process as those of the people studied, and they should be discussed and acknowledged” (p. 91).

Case Descriptions

The following case descriptions provide an overview of each CBR experience and, more specifically, elucidate the collaborative process. Following this, I compare the two cases to provide a context for the evaluative model that emerged from the application of the analytic framework introduced in Figure 1.

Coalition for Schools

The library at East Middle School became crowded as more and more parents packed into the room. There must have been at least 70 to 90 parents, most of them Latino and some African-American. There was palpable energy and excitement as the meeting began. At the front of the room was a table with people who worked in various social service and governmental agencies in the city, including the principal of East Middle School, the city council woman for the district, a representative from the police department, and the director of security for the school district. A parent came up to the microphone and began speaking in Spanish; a translator interpreted her comments. The parent stated that the parents of East students were concerned about safety at the school. She asked, “When can we receive a copy of the safety plan for East?” The principal responded that the school had created a discipline committee to address staff and student expectations and school rules, and they would work to develop a plan. Another parent, an African-American woman, came to the microphone. She stated that parents would like to have a monthly incident report that measures school safety and that parents would like to meet with the principal each month to discuss safety and discipline. The principal agreed. Another Spanish speaking parent then came forward and addressed various people at the table. Each person was asked what he or she would do to help the situation. When the head of security for the school district responded that he would try to have more security coverage at East in the mornings and in the afternoon, the woman responded, “Is that a yes or no to our question?” As each member at the table agreed to various support endeavors, the parent at the microphone replied, “We will hold you accountable for your promises.”

At the time I attended this meeting, I had been working with the Coalition for two weeks, and the organization that set up this meeting at East, Parents Supporting Education (PSE), was one of the member organizations of the Coalition. These member organizations included non-profits, foundations, parent groups, and the schools themselves working to improve academic achievement in the northeast quadrant of the city. I was energized about working with an organization that had grassroots connections like PSE. This was the beginning of a collaboration that I hoped would provide meaningful change for the community.

The collaboration with Coalition was initiated through one of my professors who conducts community-based research. We met with Marge and Lisa to discuss the principles of CBR. They were open to collaborating with me in conducting community-based research; however, they wanted to pay me for my work feeling they would get better quality work if I were paid. Marge said, “We need data on what is happening in the schools in [this part of the city] to provide a current picture so that we know what is getting better and what is not.” She also discussed the idea of what she called community indicators. She wanted to select a group of school related indicators and provide regular reports to the community so the community would begin to push for change. During a subsequent meeting with Lisa, she asked me, “Will it be possible to measure the impact the [Coalition] is having?” realizing that the work of member organizations may not be attributable to the work of the Coalition. She steered me toward several products as examples of what they were hoping I could help them to accomplish. These included reports produced by organizations such as the Rand Corporation and the Education Trust.

In the initial stages of CBR work, the researcher works closely with the community partner to determine the research questions and goals. In my previous experience conducting CBR through a graduate course, these initial questions and goals had already been developed by the professor and community partners. As I began my work with the Coalition, I did not collaborate with Marge and Lisa to clearly delineate research questions and goals. The only direction for my work was provided by the statement made by Marge in our first meeting. Instead of pushing for discourse around the data, I began collecting data that I felt would provide a picture of what was happening in Coalition schools. For example, I began collecting and organizing data on test scores, graduation rates, and teacher qualifications, along with other statistical data.

During these early stages of my work with the Coalition, I attended a multitude of meetings, including meetings with a steering committee of representatives from of all the member organizations of the Coalition. In one of the initial steering committee meetings I attended, Lisa shared some of the statistical data I had collected. I attempted to gain input from the steering committee as to what they hoped to gain from this research that would further the work of the organization. Lisa quickly shut down the conversation and turned the meeting in another direction. I later received a similar response when I tried to engage Lisa and Marge in a dialogue about the data. I shared a list of possible data that we might collect in addition to the data I had already collected. My intent was to find out what they hoped to achieve with the data and then select specific data points that would best achieve these goals. My attempt was again disregarded, and the end result was that they added additional items to the list and directed me to collect all of them without regard to delineated goals. I tried belatedly to establish the goals of CBR, but I had no power in the relationship. My status as a graduate student and as an employee limited my ability to push for dialogue.

My supervising professors felt that I should continue my work with the Coalition even though the research fell short of the goals of CBR. They suggested I try to reposition my role.

My professors expressed to Marge and Lisa that they felt that the work I was doing was not utilizing my research skills; instead, they recommended that I develop a research proposal and work with the Coalition on a project basis toward specific goals. We wrote up a research proposal, which the Coalition accepted. The proposal included several components: a commitment to continue working on two projects I had already begun, a literature review of best practices in urban schools and the statistical data on each school, an evaluation of what was currently happening with the Coalition based on interviews with various stakeholders, and an evaluation plan to measure the work of the Coalition in the long term. Marge’s response was that this sounded like “a gift versus an imposition” though Lisa was mostly silent during the meeting.

One of the intents behind the research proposal was to move my research closer to the member organizations that make up the Coalition. Through having access to parents, teachers, and students who were directly impacted by what was happening in the schools, I hoped to gain insight into what research would benefit the community. In particular, I was interested in working more closely with the grassroots parent organization that represented the predominantly Latino and African-American parents in this region of the city. When interacting with Marge and Lisa, I received mixed messages about whose input they most valued in the Coalition. For example, when we received input from parents and teachers about which data they would like the Coalition to pursue for the monthly indicators, it conflicted with the input we received from the various non-profit organizations that belong to the Coalition. Marge and Lisa made the decision that we would pursue the data that the non-profits were interested in pursuing.

My goal was to try to provide the community greater voice in the work of the Coalition. I interviewed parents, teachers, principals, and various leaders of the member organizations. What I found in my interviews with parents and teachers was that they were not aware of the work of the Coalition, and that they wanted to have greater involvement in the work of the Coalition. One high school teacher said, “I certainly know the [Coalition for Schools] exists and I have never been real clear on what all the relationships are.” Principals, in particular, expressed concerns about the monthly indicators the Coalition planned to collect and how these data would be used. One principal stated:

I have a huge problem with [the community indicators] and I’m going to tell you why. First of all, the [Coalition] is not doing anything that directly impacts that information. They’re not doing anything that impacts our discipline, they’re not doing anything that impacts our attendance right now, or our achievement.… So when I saw the mockup…all I saw was another way to hammer our schools…I just thought, why do we need again to highlight the things that we’re working so hard to improve? And all you would do when you looked at that data would either pit school against school or, ‘Well, you see we told you these schools were bad schools.’ And honestly, we’re killing ourselves to do all the things we need to do.

It was a consistent comment from principals that they did not want these data used to point out the shortcomings of the schools.

The interviews I conducted for the evaluation report included interviews with Marge and Lisa. These interviews provided insight into how Marge and Lisa’s views differed on the use of data. In my interview with Marge, for instance, I found that she viewed data as primarily a means to provoke people out of complacency, versus a means to inform the work of the Coalition. When I asked her about the role of data in the work of the Coalition, she said, “I think there’s nothing as provocative or engaging as having a really good data set presented in a way that tells the kind of story that encourages people to action.” When I interviewed Lisa, she expressed concern that data could be “dangerous” and potentially alienating. This statement stemmed from the fact that the Coalition had decided not to pursue the monthly indicators after protests from school administrators. After completing the interviews, I wrote an up an extensive evaluation report.

Though the goal of the research proposal was to try to position my research closer to the community, it had the effect of moving my research even farther away from the goals of CBR. I gained more power in making decisions about data, but the Coalition did not collaborate in this process. In the end, I became more of a traditional consultant who collected data for evaluation purposes without any meaningful collaboration with the organization with which I was working.

When I contacted Lisa for a follow-up interview a year later, she said, “[you] did a fine job for us. We have a very broad project and [you] could have delved into any one of a multitude of statistical arenas regarding high needs, urban, minority, etc. Instead, [you] stuck with the ‘Bigger Picture’ and brought us some reliable information about all of our subject areas.” However, Lisa did not provide any feedback on the last two pieces of work that I did for the Coalition, the evaluation and the evaluation plan, though I specifically asked about these two reports in the follow-up interview.

Communities in Transition

The hot afternoon sun slanted in through the window of the coffee shop causing “Manuel Alvarez” to sweat. “You have to learn to plug yourself into the social system,” Manuel said as he wiped the perspiration off his upper lip with a handkerchief. Manuel was providing ideas as to how to begin the process of organizing the immigrant population in this small, rural, western mountain town. He was describing the networks that exist in any immigrant population. “You have to identify the gatekeepers and informal leaders who control access to the network.”

Maria asked, “What if the leaders are not good people?” I perked up. “In the [Indian population from Mexico] the leaders are witches,” Maria shared confidentially.

“Leonora Garcia,” a native of Mexico who serves on the ESL advisory board, glanced across to me and we both smiled in surprise. “Ah, they are brujas [witches],” Manuel exclaimed. “Yes,” Maria said, “The people are afraid of them, and they have all the power in the community because they cast spells.” Smiling, Maria added, “But they are my friends, so I am safe.” “Are they good or bad?” Leonora asked. “I don’t know, but I don’t want them to be the leaders,” Maria said. Manuel interrupted, “It’s not up to you. If they are the leaders, you have to go through them.”

I was starting to realize that I should begin to expect surprises in my work with John Brewer, who was also at the table, and Maria Swenson. Though I had done research with immigrant populations before, this population is unique in that it includes an indigenous population from a remote area of Mexico of which I know very little about. Manuel, a community organizer who is himself an immigrant from El Salvador, came to meet with the community members with whom I was collaborating to give us some ideas about how to begin the process of organizing the immigrant community. The meeting was an important step in my collaboration with John and Maria.

After completing my work with the Coalition of Schools, I was very aware of the challenges that can impact the collaborative process. I brought this knowledge to the Communities in Transition project and used this knowledge to create a successful collaboration. When I first started working with John, we had an extensive discussion about what we hoped to accomplish with our collaboration. I wrote a memorandum of understanding that detailed the principles of community-based research and our decision to pursue a research agenda that would benefit the community’s immigrant population. We decided helping them learn English through the ESL program would come first, and we also began to explore ideas for ways in which they could have greater voice in city affairs. During one of our initial meetings, John said, “I want to have this group become less invisible and recognize they can have a voice and need to have a voice.”

As we continued our collaboration, more often our conversations included Maria. Through our discussions about the research, I came to understand John and Maria’s views about research, and we found that we had very similar ideas about what kinds of data we might collect and how we could use these data.

In order to determine how the ESL program could improve services to the community, we decided to develop two questionnaires. One of the questionnaires was administered to the clients that utilize Maria’s office; this questionnaire sought information on the factors that limit participation in the ESL program. The second questionnaire was designed to gauge whether the students currently attending ESL courses were getting what they needed from these courses. We developed these questionnaires through a collaborative process with input from John, Maria, a focus group of ESL students, and two community members who utilize the services of the Maria’s office. These two community members also helped to administer the questionnaire to Maria’s clients.

This collaborative process continued through data collection, data analysis, and even in writing the final report presented to the ESL program’s advisory board. Through the questionnaire, we found that there were several factors that limited participation in the ESL courses, including limited access to transportation and concerns that the beginner level ESL course was too difficult. We also found that the issues limiting participation were intensified for the indigenous population from Mexico. These data were used by the ESL program in several ways. First, the advisory board used the information in program planning. One board member stated during the meeting, “This will be very helpful in program planning.” The board began to consider how to reallocate funding to support the creation of a very basic introductory course for the indigenous population. John also used these data as a basis for requesting additional contributions and donations from other community organizations in order to offer transportation services. Finally, these data were used in a grant proposal that was written by the health department to acquire a substantial grant for immigrant integration.

In seeking to provide the immigrant population with greater voice in the community, we began to explore the process of community organizing. Since community organizing is a long-term process, during the ten months of our collaboration I focused on helping John and Maria obtain information about how to begin the process. This included meeting with Manuel, who offered to continue working with John and Maria as they pursued a dialogue with community members. Manuel suggested that we start with one-on-one conversations with individuals to figure out the networks of communication and that through our conversations with people we pay attention to the primary issues with which they are concerned. He said, “Look for themes that emerge and that are actionable. If you change something that is an issue for them, then they will be interested…. It becomes a victory that everybody talks about and it starts the momentum…. It may not be your interest, but it is theirs.” My collaboration with John and Maria ended with the knowledge that they planned to initiate these conversations and to continue to create opportunities to promote greater equity in the community.

Comparison Between Cases

The analytic framework in Figure 1 delineates the differences between these two CBR experiences. The collaboration with the Coalition for Schools did not meet the goals of CBR. As Maguire (1993) would describe it, it was an attempt at community-based research. Based on the four goals of CBR included in Figure 1, my work with the Coalition could be characterized initially as mainstream CBR, but when my role was repositioned to allow me to have greater input in decisions about data, the process moved toward traditional research. On the other hand, the collaboration with Communities in Transition was a successful collaborative process, and I believe this process did meet the goals of CBR. My work with Communities in Transition would be characterized as mainstream CBR; however, we moved slightly toward radical CBR through initiating the community organizing process.

In comparing and contrasting these two cases, I return to the four goals of the analytic framework: community, collaboration, knowledge creation, and change. Considering these four goals based on the continuums presented in Figure 1, one can compare the facets of these two case studies. Table 1 provides this comparison (see Table 1).

 

Community

 

Stoecker (2002a) defines community as the people who are dealing directly with the issue. Based on this definition, I did not work directly with the community during either CBR project. However, the two cases present differences in how closely my collaborators worked with the community and how committed they were to seeking community input. My work with the Coalition for Schools was what Strand, et al. (2003) would describe as “doing CBR in the middle” (p. 73). The Coalition was a midlevel organization that did have some community grounding, but the organization presented conflicting messages about how much it sought and valued community input.

 

In working with Communities in Transition, I felt a direct connection to the immigrant community. Both John and Maria work closely with the community, and they are intimately aware of the issues challenging the immigrant population. John and Maria are what Stoecker (2002a) describes as bridge people in that they provide a link between the immigrant population and the broader community. Since I was not working directly with the community when I was collaborating with John and Maria, I did make an effort to bring the community into the research process as often as possible.

 

The issue of proximity to the community is something that comes up consistently in CBR work. Given that the goal of CBR is social change that leads to social justice, it is imperative to work as closely with the community as possible. This can be difficult to achieve at times since it may be challenging to find a grassroots organization with which to partner. Not to mention that midlevel organizations are often better equipped to partner with university researchers (Strand et al., 2003).

 

Collaboration

 

Collaboration is quite simply shared decision making. Collaboration relies on developing relationships, and relationships can be impacted by communication and issues of power. In my work with the Coalition, our initial relationship did encompass some shared decision making. However, this initial collaboration did not last. My collaboration with John and Maria was successful because decision making was shared throughout our work together. There were no detrimental power dynamics because we agreed to work together based on a shared understanding of the research we would pursue as explained in the memorandum of understanding.

 

Regardless of whether the researcher partners with a midlevel organization or with a grassroots organization, in every CBR process the researcher needs to be cognizant of the issue of power. In my work with the Coalition, my lack of power interfered with my ability to develop a collaborative relationship. When working with John and Maria, as is typically the case with community-based research, I had to be more aware of the power I held as a researcher, and I made sure that our work together was based on shared decision making. Communication can be significant in ensuring that all participants in the CBR process are being heard. During both CBR projects, communication was the primary issue in determining whether I was able to develop a successful relationship.

Knowledge Creation

One of the goals of community-based research is that the community should participate in all stages of the research process. There is a reciprocal process of knowledge sharing between the researcher and the community. In my work with the Coalition, the creation of knowledge was not a shared process and the community never realized a substantive increase in knowledge. With Communities in Transition, the community did participate in knowledge creation. Determining the goals of the research at the beginning of the collaboration is one important factor that facilitates this process of knowledge creation. If the researcher and the community are not able to come to a consensus, they will not be able to move into the beginning stages of the research process. This factor was a significant hindrance in my work with the Coalition. A memorandum of understanding that defines these goals can be useful. This type of document requires that the participants put their shared goals in writing. Using this type of document in my work with John and Maria helped create a successful collaboration.

Through the process of developing a memorandum of understanding, it becomes obvious how all of the participants view the use of data. Views about the uses of data can be a significant factor that can either facilitate or hinder collaboration. The researcher and community partner need to have extensive dialogue as they clarify goals in order to make sure that there is agreement about the purposes for which the data are being collected. The community partner’s previous experiences with research can, of course, influence how she views the use of data. Though data can be used for many purposes, all parties need to agree on how data will be used in a given project.

Change

Social change that leads to social justice is the ultimate goal of community-based research (Marullo & Edwards, 2000). At this point it is difficult to know whether either CBR project will lead to change. While both projects have the potential for change, it seems likely that my work with the Coalition will lead to only minor programmatic change. However, my work with Communities in Transition was much more successful and has the potential to create greater change. With Communities in Transition, programmatic change will potentially make the English program more accessible for all immigrants as well as prompt revisions to classes so that the classes better meet the needs of the students currently attending the program. In addition to programmatic change, the groundwork we laid in initiating the process of community organizing has the potential to even lead to structural change, which could allow the immigrant population to have more power in the community.

When working toward change within a CBR project, the researcher can control only certain aspects of the context that may limit or support change, particularly when power structures within the community desire to maintain the status quo. Even if power structures allow for change, communities dealing with complex and unwieldy issues may confront limits put in place by government bureaucracy and competing communities. The researcher cannot control these contextual factors. However, the researcher can focus on empowering community participants through the research process by encouraging community members to become co-participants in the research process. An individual project may not lead to structural change, but the research process may change the life of an individual co-participant. Individuals who are empowered will be more likely to push against existing power structures.

A Radical Model of CBR

After completing these two CBR projects, I had a stronger understanding of what I sought to achieve with my CBR work, and I began to conceptualize a structure to aid my thinking. The conceptual model of CBR that I designed (Figure 2) is based on the analytic framework that I used to assess each case, and it incorporates the continuums included in Figure 1.

As one moves out toward the positive on each point of the continuum, the work has greater value. Value is defined as the potential to empower community members who are participating in the research process as well as the potential to bring about beneficial change for the community. I position Stoecker’s (2003) construct of radical CBR as the form of CBR that has the most value in that it has the greatest potential to empower community members and the greatest potential to create substantial change. Mainstream CBR does have value but it has less potential for significant change. As one moves toward the center of the model, the value of the work decreases.

Though Stoecker (2003) points out that the underlying theoretical foundations of mainstream CBR and radical CBR are in some ways contradictory, in my conceptual model, mainstream CBR is embedded within radical CBR. I see CBR as a continuum of practices with radical CBR as the goal. This model provides a way to conceptualize the elements that need to be in place to support greater value in CBR work. For each continuum within the model, the researcher must make a decision about how to create the most value for the work being conducted. In order to understand the model more fully, it is important to consider the four continuums incorporated in the model.

In relation to community, the goal is to work with those who are marginalized or disenfranchised. This typically means collaborating with a grassroots organization. If the researcher is unable to locate a grassroots organization, the options are to assist in the process of creating a grassroots organization or to partner with a midlevel organization. Working with a midlevel organization means that one moves inward on the continuum toward mainstream CBR, and the work has less value; however, this can be counteracted somewhat by using the midlevel organization as a means to facilitate community involvement in decision making during the research process (Strand et al., 2003).

Shared decision making throughout the CBR process which leads to the development of lasting and positive relationships between university partners and the community is the primary goal of effective collaboration. These relationships are developed through communication and can be hindered by issues around power and trust. However, one of the most challenging goals to achieve in pursuing the radical model of CBR relates to the creation of knowledge. The goal is full participation of the community in all aspects of knowledge creation. As Stoecker (2002a) points out, “The highest form of participatory research is seen as research completely controlled and conducted by the community” (p. 9). This can lead to empowerment for the community through the democratization of knowledge. However, full participation can be difficult to achieve, particularly if community members do not have the time to participate in all aspects of the research. The greater the participation of the community in creating knowledge, the greater the potential for empowerment. Therefore, the researcher is obligated “to do whatever is possible to enhance participation” (Greenwood, Whyte, & Harkavy, 1993, Our View section, para. 8).

The further the researcher moves toward the positive on the continuums of community, collaboration, and knowledge creation, the greater potential for change that “transforms the structure of power relations so that those without power gain power” (Stoecker, 2002b, p. 232). If the researcher is partnering with a midlevel organization, the research will likely lead to programmatic change rather than broader social change. Though any change is important in that small changes can lead to greater overall change, limited programmatic change has less value within an individual CBR project.

Conclusion

Reaching for a radical model of CBR may not be as compatible with higher education norms as is the mainstream model of CBR (Stoecker, 2003), but if the goal of CBR is social action and social change that lead to social justice, then it is imperative that we pursue the radical model. As Freire (1970) states:

“The radical committed to human liberation does not become the prisoner of a ‘circle of certainty’ within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it” (p. 21).

Existing realities point to the need for significant changes in our society. As Stoecker (2003) argues, the gap between the wealthy and the poor is continuing to widen, and economic and political decisions are being made primarily by the wealthy. “The only way for the poor to gain a seat at the table, then, is for them to counter the power of money with the power of numbers” (Stoecker, 2003, p. 43).

If we want to expand democratic participation to include those individuals who have been excluded because of lack of economic and social capital, we need to push for radical changes. These kinds of radical change call for a radical model of research.

If we push for a radical model of CBR, some faculty and students who are interested in pursuing CBR projects may feel that it is impossible to achieve this goal and thus decide not to pursue community-based research at all. As Strand et al. (2003) point out, “We caution the current or would-be practitioner against becoming paralyzed by imperfections from these ideal principles, acknowledging that no CBR practice is perfect in its design and execution and that at some level, we need to do the best we can under our current circumstances” (p. 74).

I agree with this statement, and I feel that conducting mainstream CBR is better than not pursuing CBR at all. However, I do think that those who carry out community-based research should consistently seek to reach for a more radical form of CBR that has greater potential to impact the conditions of the people for whom the work is targeted.

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Acknowledgements

I wish to thank Alan Tinkler and Nick Cutforth for sound advice regarding earlier versions of this manuscript.

About the Author

Barri Tinkler is an assistant professor in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont.

Taking a Stand: Community-Engaged Scholarship on the Tenure Track

Kevin Michael Foster

“Despite obstacles, author sees ways and offers guidelines for community-engaged scholars to negotiate the tenure track.”

Abstract

This article assesses the journey to tenure among higher education faculty whose scholarship focuses on community engagement. It provides examples for two categories of action—contextual interventions and structural interventions—that agents of the university enact in order to create space for their approach to scholarship. It also describes structural transformation, which is the product of strategically conceived and deployed structural interventions that fundamentally alter university reward structures and culture so as to promote and support community-engaged scholarship. Finally, this piece describes a contextual intervention by the author that has allowed him to work within local communities while meeting standards of research and teaching that move him toward tenure.

Introduction

In this article I consider structural interventions to support the journey to tenure among faculty whose scholarship fundamentally includes ongoing community engagement. Such engagement is designed–often with community members–to research, analyze, and address challenges faced within communities and to subsequently have a direct, positive impact upon the quality of life in the areas addressed. I refer to the faculty work considered here as action-oriented and yet emphasize the research-based approaches to developing projects, analyses, and interventions that lead to the attainment of specific mutually identified outcomes. Such outcomes could include better circumstances for students in schools (Mehan, 2007), addressing health-care issues among the homeless (Power et al., 1999; Hwang, 2001), documenting community histories (Guajardo & Guajardo, 2004; Guajardo, Perez, Davila, Ozuna, Saenz, & Casaperalta, 2006), strengthening local non-profit organizations (Cairns, Harris, & Young, 2005), or policy reforms to address various unmet societal needs. The primary audience for this article are those involved in promotion and tenure of university faculty. An additional audience includes those outside the university structure who work with faculty on community-based projects.

My purposes are three-fold. First, I want to stake a claim for the importance and viability of an engaged, impact-oriented approach to community and scholarship now–before tenure–as a means to preserve dignity and integrity amidst a process that threatens to strip tenure-track faculty of both, and as a means to encourage like-minded faculty to stand for their freedom to pursue an intellectual agenda that centrally includes community engagement. Second, and by way of theoretical contribution, I want to provide a typology to

help scholars further consider and conceptualize the range of action-oriented responses among faculty operating in a context that does not fully support or value community-engaged scholarship. In doing this, I will discuss several terms: contextual interventions, structural interventions, and structural transformation. Third, I want to introduce the concept of intersectional scholarship as an approach to academic life defined by the seamless integration of teaching, research, and service.

As an additional introductory note, and though not the focus of this manuscript, it is important to mention that just as community-engaged scholarship is challenged and contested from within the academy, it also faces important community-based challenges. Challenges may include building trust, discerning and working with community-based epistemologies, and navigating non-university social and bureaucratic networks. Challenges will be ongoing and take different shapes in different times and places. Among those who have begun to address the external issues are Minkler (2005), who considered challenges of community-based participatory action research to address urban health problems, and Cheney (2008), who considered the ethics of engaged scholarship. The challenges to community engagement that are addressed in this article are those associated with the university structure and that help shape the cultural norms, values, and practices of faculty and administrators. The perspective is that of a tenure-track faculty member whose work consistently includes participatory action in community settings beyond the walls of his home university.

From Community Service to 

Community-Engaged Scholarship

Generally, higher learning institutions have been conceived to serve society, but this has meant different things in different eras. Plato’s Academy “trained individuals for public service by analyzing the outstanding issues of the day” (Neal, Smith, & McCormick, 2008, p. 93). In the United States, the Morrill Act of 1862 provided the framework and perennial support for the land-grant universities that would conduct regionally significant research and play an important role in the nation’s economic security and development. Land-grant universities, which today operate in all 50 states, “put things scientific at the center, around which an unusually strong research orientation has developed, with an emphasis on application and problem solving” (Johnson, 1981, p. 333). In World War II, the federal government turned to the nation’s universities to provide a research base for the war effort (Nelson & Romer, 1996). The role of universities in providing research for national defense and security was solidified and strengthened following the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the onset of the Cold War (Neal, Smith, & McCormick, 2008).

Along with efforts to serve society in partnership with the federal government, colleges and universities have also provided a range of specialized services to local communities. Among the examples are colleges of architecture partnering with local governments on municipal planning, law schools maintaining legal clinics for the poor, colleges of education providing teacher professional development, and dental schools offering continuing education for dental professionals and dental services for qualifying community members. Such works, however, are often defined as service or deployed as service-learning (thus fulfilling the university teaching mission in an especially effective way), as opposed to systematically conceived in terms of scholarly projects that will generate knowledge (see Yoder, 2006, for an example). Questions remain as to the connections between faculty work in community and faculty scholarship (Calleson, Jordan, & Seifer, 2005).

Among the examples of community-engaged work, it is possible to center such efforts within the academy by thinking of them in terms of how they can influence knowledge. For example, instead of simply offering professional development for teachers, it is possible for higher education faculty to work collaboratively with teachers to explore and develop increasingly effective professional development practices and to support teachers as active learners and researchers (Hamos et al., 2009; Karp, Sevian, Decker, Zahapoulos, Chen, & Eisenkraft, 2008). In such cases, what would otherwise simply be seen as service can be constructed such that it is grounded in pressing research questions, methodologies are developed and applied, and findings are written up and disseminated to impact theory and practice in relevant fields.

The field of anthropology, and in particular applied anthropology, is perhaps the academic discipline in which community-engaged scholarship has the strongest, and yet still incomplete, foothold. In the journal Practicing Anthropology, applied anthropologist Mark Schuller noted that:

It’s a matter of professional pride that anthropologists use our professional skills in the service of a here-and-now issue, group, [or] movement, or to solve a particular social problem. I am certainly proud of our heritage in real world issues. From Boas and Mead there is an unbroken legacy of social change agents in anthropology (2010, p. 43).

Yet later in the same article he also noted:

When I was asked to research and write a paper about Haiti’s food crisis that finally got world attention in April, 2008 because of riots, I had 36 hours to write a publishable account from scratch. This piece and others like it are more significant public anthropology than articles that I have spent literally years writing, editing, submitting, re-editing, and re-submitting, that “count” toward my tenure case (2010, p. 47).

The historic work of many scholars shows that there have long been at least some opportunities for action-oriented work. This can be seen in the work of anthropologists like Boas and Mead, sociologists like Du Bois, agriculture scientists like George Washington Carver, and of countless academicians who have worked for the federal government. At the same time, the conceptualization and framing of engaged work has shifted over time, and there has not been a consistently positive relationship between serving and engaging communities on the one hand, and tenure and status within the university on the other.

Disincentives for Community-Engaged 

Scholarship

Despite longstanding connections between university and community, contemporary academic life threatens to undermine faculty members’ penchant for service, even where that service is part of a research agenda (Shapiro, Frank, May, & Suskind, 2009). In some cases, those who would be interested in a vibrant service dimension to their scholarly profile are discouraged from being thusly engaged, especially when prospects for tenure are raised as an item for primary consideration. Even in colleges and universities where tenure policies have been reformed to reflect the value of community-engaged scholarship, tenure track faculty may find that many senior colleagues nonetheless encourage a more conservative path to tenure (O’Meara, 2002). Such a path would have faculty focus on those aspects of the tenure dossier likely to carry the most weight in the review process. In the contemporary academic climate, tenure-focused alignment of work would likely include producing a book published by an academic press or a number of peer-reviewed articles per year, receiving teaching evaluations above a minimal threshold, and engaging a minimal amount of service that provides evidence of broader university or community engagement by the faculty member. Finally, tenure track faculty may be discouraged from community engagement through department or university reward structures that base annual merit pay raises solely on publications and teaching (Kutal, Rich, Hessinger, & Miller, 2009). In some cases, service may not appear in the merit scoring rubric at all, thus rendering service an unrewarded hobby that would take time away from tangibly awarded activities.

Contextual Interventions, Structural 

Interventions, and Structural Transformation

Within this picture, there are at least two possible approaches for those interested in community-engaged scholarship. The first has to do with prospects for reforming or transforming our expectations of faculty and corresponding reward structures; the second has to do with the intellectual capacity of engaged scholars to theorize, document, assess, and publish in ways that their intellectual work can be clearly described in terms of prevailing expectations and reward structures (Calleson, Jordan, & Seifer, 2005). In short, one approach is to reform the structure, while the other approach is to conceptualize the work to fit within the structure. The strategies are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they fit within the framework of contextual versus transformational action as initially conceived by black studies scholar and anthropologist Ted Gordon, and further developed by Kraehe, Blakes, and Foster (2010).

Even at universities that include academic leaders who call for community-engaged scholarship, there may be a persistent reality that the calls to such scholarship and service contradict the basic realities of the university review and reward structure. Fortunately, there is a growing acknowledgment and critique of this reality (Ellison & Eatman, 2008; Shapiro, Frank, May, & Susskind, 2009). The critique creates intellectual space for community oriented tenure-track faculty to formulate visions of scholarship that include community engagement. The acknowledgement justifies efforts by interested senior faculty to build supports for community-engaged faculty members to carry out that scholarship.

As more faculty become involved with community-engaged scholarship, their work has often included responses to the structural impediments they face (Shapiro, Frank, May, & Suskind, 2009; Ellison & Eatman, 2008). Likewise, individual agents and units have worked to reform governance structures that hinder or devalue community-engaged scholarship. One way to categorize the range of these responses is in terms of contextual interventions, structural interventions, and structural transformations (Figure 1). Contextual interventions respond to and account for circumstances in context and in this case include adjustments to action-oriented practice and research such that the work meets the traditional academic expectations for teaching, research, and service. Such interventions can help individual faculty members survive within a structure that does not fully recognize or value their work, interests, or perspectives. Contextual interventions do not, however, alter, or even challenge, prevailing structures. Structural interventions are programs, policies, or practices that provide space, cover, and support for activities and understandings that are outside established institutional norms. Individual structural interventions constitute reform, but also fall short of fundamentally altering prevailing conceptions and policies unless they are coordinated and carried out in conjunction with complementary interventions. For example, the impact of policy changes will be limited if they are not coupled with efforts to change institutional culture (Kutal, Rich, Hessinger, & Miller, 2009). Finally, structural transformation is the product of strategic and accumulated structural interventions and constitutes a fundamental change in the procedural and cultural landscape—in this case in favor of conceptions of academic merit that encourage, support, and reward community-engaged scholarship.

Since returning to The University of Texas at Austin in 2005, I have developed contextual interventions that accommodate my interest in community-engaged scholarship. I have also been supported by structural interventions initiated by supportive faculty and administrators. My hope is to contribute to eventual structural transformation, which in this case would mean that the university’s policies, procedures, systems, and culture would support and reward community-engaged scholarship. Short of transformation, however, the interventions are critically important and have helped me to develop projects and programs through which I have experienced success as measured by standards that resonate both within the community and within the academy.

The programs through which I have experienced a sense of success and fulfillment were conceived of and operate in the context of the Institute for Community, University, and School Partnerships (ICUSP), which I founded as a vehicle to simultaneously conduct research, develop graduate students, and work with K-12 students, families, and schools. Our group, which includes myself, four graduate students per year, one full-time staff member, and administrative support that we in effect purchase from the university, has developed a range of student- and community-engaged programs. These include: an arts-focused residential summer leadership institute operated with a community partner; male and female student academic and leadership development programs for middle and high school students on 10 middle and high school campuses in central Texas; and embedded professional development where ICUSP project directors (graduate students or the one full-time staff member) work with schools to achieve specific outcomes related to teacher effectiveness.

Indicators of success that hold value within the local community include numbers of students who have gone on to college from our programs (115 of 121 seniors from 2007-2010); parent, teacher, and principal testimony about students who, instead of being suspended, are returned to the classroom as a result of conflict resolution skills acquired with the help of our university students; and local and national awards I have received for service to community. Few of these indicators of success hold anything more than symbolic value within the academy.

Indicators of success that are favored by the academy include program evaluations, quantitative data that attest to program outcomes, and peer-reviewed research publications. Funds brought in through community-engaged work may be appreciated as an indicator that projects or programs merit investment from outside entities, including schools, school districts, donors, or federal and non-profit agencies.

Contextual Intervention, with the Specific Example of Intersectional Scholarship

The work highlighted above is part of a program of community-engaged scholarship that is made possible by several contextual and structural interventions. An example of a contextual intervention that has sustained my work as a scholar has been the conceptualization of an intersectional approach to intellectual life within the academy. I call this approach and its outcomes intersectional scholarship. Working from John Venn’s 19th century model representing the intersection of overlapping sets (the Venn Diagram), and further inspired by the Hedgehog Concept approach to developing a business organization (Collins, 2001), I attempt to work within a conceptual space where three traditional academic activities—teaching, research and service—intersect. Such an approach stands as an alternative to a fractured professional existence where each academic area is treated independently and service inevitably ranked lowest (Ellison & Eatman, 2008).

By concentrating my efforts in those spaces where the three areas come together, I have been able to fully engage in service while living up to my responsibilities to teach and conduct research. I have done this through community-based research projects in partnership with my graduate students. The projects have concretely served middle and high school students (as evidenced by their high school graduation rates, scholarships, and expression of satisfaction with our programs in surveys), been a source of learning and funding for my graduate students, and led to publications in peer-reviewed journals. Instead of viewing teaching, research, and service as three disjointed arenas of activity, I teach my graduate students and full-time staff to view ourselves as working in one arena with three dimensions (Figure 2).

The overlap of the three traditional arenas of academic work creates a nexus where all three can be coherently, simultaneously, and fruitfully engaged to the mutually reinforcing maximization of each.

Intersectional scholarship constitutes an intervention because it involves rearticulating academic work in a way that, while discouraged at the outset by several senior colleagues, meets both my intellectual interests and the interests of the academy. This work remains on the contextual level, however, as it is just one scholar’s creative adjustment to a potentially limiting set of circumstances. As a concept, however, intersectional scholarship provides the intellectual groundwork for structural interventions to the extent that the alternative conception becomes institutionalized—whether through its future embodiment as a concept to guide policy (to the extent that university-sanctioned centers, institutes, or departments reproduce and further develop its rationale), or by other means.

Structural Interventions

Structural interventions include policy reforms, programs, supports, and actions that help produce an alternative outcome or systematically support an alternative practice or set of practices within an institution or institutions. Structural interventions considered here are those that make community-engaged scholarship more tenable for those on the tenure track. Such structural interventions can come from campus units that value community-engaged scholarship, from scientific and academic leadership organizations, and from the federal government. At The University of Texas-Austin, the leadership of the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies has become systematic and diligent in supporting faculty whose work significantly includes research conducted in the context of concretely serving communities outside the university. Carefully reviewing tenure files and writing letters of support that attest to the intellectual merit of the work of strong community-engaged faculty have become a diligently and carefully executed annual activity that also constitutes a structural intervention.

Federal initiatives and funding programs can also create structural interventions that support community-engaged scholarship. In recent years, several federal agencies and offices, including the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Government Accountability Office (an independent bipartisan evaluator of the use of public funds), have developed programs, tools, or assessments to promote or measure the societal impact of scientific research. Their work tacitly, or in some cases tangibly, values research that most directly impacts society (AAAS, 2010).

The work of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which I observed for one year as a policy fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, provides several strong examples of structural interventions that support engaged scholarship. The NSF provides over $7 billion annually in funds for basic research in science. In 1997, the NSF added “Broader Impacts” to its review criteria for determining which research projects to fund (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf08_1/gpg_3.jsp) and has since produced a statement regarding activities that facilitate broader impacts (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/gpg/broaderimpacts.pdf). Michael Marder, a prominent physicist and architect of the highly successful UTeach teacher preparation program (http://uteach.utexas.edu/, http://uteach.utexas.edu/), cites this change as being of specific benefit for drawing science faculty into the effort to prepare future teachers and support those already in the field. Referring in an unpublished paper to the NSF review criteria, Marder (2010) noted that:

Criterion I asks, what is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? Criterion II asks, what are the broader impacts of the proposed activity? Since 2002, all proposals have had to address both questions explicitly in the opening summary, with a charge to promote “teaching, training, and learning,” and to “broaden participation of underrepresented groups” (pp. 10-11).

Marder further noted that while the “Broader Impacts” criterion has not led every natural scientist to deeply honor faculty engagement in K-12 schools, the criterion has inspired a critical mass to more seriously consider ways in which their work can directly impact society. Moreover, the criterion has created space for scientists to be acknowledged and rewarded for science education research that will directly impact K-12 teaching and learning. In short, such an esteemed independent federal agency as the National Science Foundation decided to require that to receive funding, researchers’ projects must have an impact upon society. This decision has lent credibility to calls for community-relevant work when issued by others, and lent both credibility and justification for community-engaged scholarship by faculty members.

Consistent with the framework established by the “Broader Impacts” criterion, and in response to authorizing language by the Congress, NSF also initiated the Math and Science Partnership Program, which further supports community-engaged scholarship by way of supporting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) faculty work in K-12 education (see http://hub.mspnet.org/index.cfm/homehttp://hub.mspnet.org/index.cfm/home). From 2002 to the present, the program has provided over $800 million for university-school partnerships that engage STEM faculty in K-12 settings to improve student outcomes. Lessons learned include ways for STEM faculty to support teacher professional development, the establishment of reward structures that facilitate faculty choices to engage K-12 science education, and the realization that STEM faculty engagement with K-12 settings can produce benefits for the STEM faculty, including greater understanding of how to teach effectively at the university level (National Science Foundation, 2010; Zhang, 2010).

In addition to examples of support for community-engaged scholarship from the federal government, national scientific disciplinary organizations and several academic leadership groups and organizations have also produced guidelines, published position papers, or otherwise organized to support community-engaged scholarship. One example comes from the Association for Public and Land-grant Universities, which represents 218 institutions and has instituted Promoting Institutional Change to Strengthen Science Teacher Preparation among 26 of its member universities (McEver, 2010). This effort is not direct community engagement, but is concerned with developing the university structures that support and reward faculty engagement in schools. Another is the Imagining America Tenure Team Initiative, which was “inspired by faculty who want to do public scholarship and live to tell the tale” (Ellison & Eatman, 2008, p. ii). This initiative brought together university presidents, deans, faculty, and leaders of academic non-profit organizations to produce an analysis with recommendations on knowledge creation and tenure policy in contemporary universities. The goal of this initiative is to impact tenure procedures, policies, and expectations such that community-engaged scholarship is fully supported (Ellison & Eatman, 2008). Even where they have a “grassroots feel” (in that groups of individuals have come together to develop and implement a strategy for change), the examples of support so far mentioned are structural interventions because the actions are those of institutional entities (an academic center, a federal funding agency, and organizations representing disciplinary fields or strata of the academy) that are directly or indirectly part of the academy writ large and largely owe their credibility to that affiliation.

Beyond the examples given, an additional argument can be made that the support of tenured faculty members, especially those on a tenure review committee, also constitutes structural support because the tenured faculty members are agents of the university. But while such support constitutes an endorsement of an approach to intellectual work, the breadth and power of that support are limited and must be put into the context of faculty governance, according to which individual faculty members represent one institutionally sanctioned voice among many, and one sanctioned voice within a structure that allows for, and even encourages, a range of voices and perspectives. In short, while systematic support from agents or bodies within the structure constitutes structural support, the weight of that support is determined by their proximity to or relationship with tenure granting centers of power (provosts, regents, trustees, etc.).

In the case of supporting community-engaged scholarship, the impact of the structural interventions is to provide intellectual space for the support and re-articulation of faculty work so that it can be recognized as valuable in the context of a traditional view that primarily measures scholarship according to the number of articles or books produced (quantified intellectual production), the selectivity or reputation of the venues or presses within which the writings are published (qualified intellectual production), and the evidence of a scholarly trajectory that predicts a likelihood for continued intellectual production after tenure. However, structural interventions fall short of structural transformation and the guarantee that community-engaged scholarship will be given as much weight as research that does not include evidence of “Broader Impacts.” Until there is structural transformation, the question as to how their scholarship will be perceived and evaluated at the time of their tenure review remains open for community-engaged junior faculty.

Structural Transformation 

Contextual and structural interventions, though limited, are of particular importance because they provide building blocks for structural transformation. Contextual interventions are creative adjustments limited to an immediate sphere of action. Structural interventions are attempts to reform aspects of a structure or system. Short of transformation, they provide cover and support for intellectual efforts that are not part of an institution’s norms.

Structural transformation, however, represents the seldom seen far side of the continuum, where interventions have been rendered unnecessary (Figure 3). Examples of structural transformation in support of community-engaged scholarship are difficult to find. One possible example, which represents the culmination of a series of structural interventions over several years, comes from the State of Georgia. In 2006, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved a policy statement on work in schools. According to the Academic Affairs handbook:

The BOR [Board of Regents] values USG [University System of Georgia] faculty engagement with K-12 schools (http://www.usg.edu/policymanual/section8/policy/8.3_additional_policies_for_faculty/#p8.3.15_work_in_the_schools). BOR Policy 8.3.15 states BOR expectation for faculty engagement with the public schools in institutions that prepare teachers. The Board expects presidents, provosts, academic vice presidents, and deans of colleges of education and arts and sciences in institutions that prepare teachers to advocate for, assess, recognize, and reward practices consistent with this policy ( http://www.usg.edu/academic_affairs_handbook/section4/handbook/4.7_evaluation_of_faculty/, http://www.usg.edu/academic_affairs_handbook/section4/handbook/4.7_evaluation_of_faculty/),

With this policy reform, a conversation about faculty involvement in K-12 education has fundamentally shifted. For any of the 35 higher education institutions in Georgia that prepare teachers, engagement with K-12 schools to develop teachers and improve student outcomes is not something that faculty members need to defend to tenure or merit review committees. Rather, it is now required that such engagement will be rewarded. But even this seismic shift could have a limited impact if it faced enough resistance from sufficiently empowered agents within the university structure. Thus, the structural interventions preceding the policy change were also critical to the eventual production of a structural transformation.

In the Georgia case, longstanding efforts to promote partnerships across the educational spectrum from pre-kindergarten through college found additional support from the National Science Foundation (Kettlewell, Kaste, & Jones, 2000). The Georgia Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics (PRISM), sought to engage higher education faculty in efforts to produce K-12 reforms that would enhance student learning (http://prism.mspnet.org/ and http://prism.mspnet.org/). Beyond calling for faculty involvement, the project included a strategic plan to fundamentally alter the collegiate landscape so that faculty could more freely engage in the work. The work included a series of structural interventions: convening, coordinating, and enrolling support of deans, department chairs, and other campus leaders; funding a cultural anthropologist to track and study the process of change; working with campus leaders to facilitate receptiveness of departments to engagement through workshops, symposia, and incentives; and proposing language and guidelines for acceptance and implementation by governance structures (Kutal, Rich, Hessinger, & Miller, 2009). Structural transformation in Georgia, then, was the culmination of a coordinated series of structural interventions that together produced a fundamental shift that systematically rewards faculty engagement work in schools.

Conclusion: Connecting Interventions, Knowledge Production, and Tenure

This article has so far introduced three categories of action-oriented responses to work and positioning within the academy among community-engaged scholars whose scholarly production is not automatically valued within traditional university reward structures. I have discussed contextual interventions, structural interventions, and structural transformation. In discussing contextual interventions, I also introduced the concept of intersectional scholarship. Unfortunately for the community-engaged scholar, there are few available examples of structural transformation in support of community-engaged scholarship. For tenure-track faculty, that leaves the reality of having to negotiate circumstances as best one can to produce work that one values personally and meets requirements for tenure. For community-engaged scholars interested in a rich theorization of their work, a nexus may emerge where a particular contextual intervention merits further consideration and subsequent incorporation into the literature and practice of a given disciplinary field or academic structure. In such an instance, the contextual intervention has become inseparable from knowledge production and thus becomes part of the justification for their tenure case. Further, contextual interventions that articulate a faculty members’ interests with that which contributes to a tenure case can help an individual faculty member avoid the fragmentation and “professional schizophrenia” referred to by Ellison and Eatman (2008). These are additional manifestations of intersectionality in practice.

Yet, as long as the interventions are contextual (or even structural), the risk remains that among community-engaged scholars “important areas of achievement [may be] illegible at the point of promotion” (Ellison & Eatman, 2008, p. 19). As Rice noted, it is notoriously difficult to fully discern how your work will be judged—something akin to “archery in the dark” (Rice, 1996, p. 31). O’Meara further commented that “a substantial amount of research concurs that promotion and tenure are often elusive, unpredictable and fraught with ‘conflicting expectations’ and unwritten rules” (O’Meara, 2002, also citing Rice, Sorcinelli, & Austin, 2000).

Because of the noted possibility that community-engaged scholarship may not be understood, valued, or appreciated as scholarship (Kutal, Rich, Hessinger, & Miller, 2009; Ellison & Eatman, 2008; O’Meara, 2002; Rice, Sorcinelli, & Austin, 2000; Rice, 1996), it would be foolhardy for untenured faculty members to stake their academic future on others’ perceptions of community-engaged work. Rather, until their university has been transformed, community-engaged scholars should aim to meet and beat the perceived standards for tenure–even as they conduct the work that they value most. As crass at it may sound–and to apply a familiar metaphor–this means to bean count, to generate a number of peer-reviewed articles that exceeds the number of publications of the scholars who came before them and to ensure that, in addition to publishing in the journals that most closely reflect the scholar’s interests, the scholar produces a high number of articles for more widely read and traditionally heralded and cited journals.

To some of us, the tenure process appears a conservative, brutish, and imprecise measure of intellectual worth coated with a veneer of civility. Yet if we are committed to the possibility of an academy that engages work and produces knowledge to transform lives and circumstances, then, to quote a memorable movie line, “we do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do” (Washington, 2007). Community-engaged scholars would do well to come to terms with the current academic realities and then steadily work to co-create possibilities and conditions (through contextual interventions, structural interventions, and finally structural transformation) that will allow for something different, and, from the standpoint of community-engaged scholarship, something better.

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Acknowledgements

I thank Ted Gordon and Heather Pleasants. Dr. Gordon is the initial architect for the framework that I develop in this article. His choice to focus on administrative aspects of institution-building within the academy has created space for community-engaged scholarship and space for a young scholar such as myself to develop ideas that I initially encountered in dialog with him. I thank Dr. Pleasants as an intellectually rigorous partisan for community-engaged scholarship and a supporter who introduced me to JCES as an outlet for my work and thoughts.

About the Author

Kevin Michael Foster is a science and technology policy fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the National Science Foundation and an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education at The University of Texas.

Developing a K-12 Rural School System Wellness Policy through Community Engagement

Joseph A. Brosky, Jr., Mark R. Wiegand, Alana Bartlett, and Tiffany Idlewine

“Community partners and service-learning students expand physical therapy roles while creating wellness policy for rural schools. “

Abstract

The Education Strategic Plan of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) outlines initiatives for professional practice, including enhancing physical therapists’ roles in: 1) social, governmental, and regulatory practices and policies, 2) health promotion and wellness, and, 3) assessment of societal needs and health disparities. In this paper we describe a community partnership that involved development and implementation of a wellness policy for a rural public school system. A partnership was established to achieve compliance with government mandates for physical activity, nutrition standards, and school-based activities. Collaborative meetings with stakeholders identified the following issues: limited school expertise and resources, community awareness, resistance to change, and sensitivity of dealing with childhood obesity. A comprehensive wellness policy was developed and implemented. Opportunities were found to exist in local communities for health professionals and students to use their intellect, talents, and skills to meet educational objectives related to social responsibility, advocacy, disease prevention, and wellness. Service-learning experiences provided leadership opportunities to promote the role of physical therapists beyond traditional settings through community engagement.

Introduction

The APTA 2006 Education Strategic Plan outlines initiatives that are crucial to realizing practice opportunities for physical therapists as delineated by Vision 2020 (APTA Vision Statement, 2009). Selected goals of this strategic plan include increased physical therapist (PT) involvement in social, governmental, and regulatory practices and policies, further enhancement of PT’s knowledge, skills, and public recognition in areas of health promotion and wellness, and PT contributions to the assessment of societal needs and health disparities. Furthermore, the priority goals of APTA promote PTs as the universally recognized provider of fitness, health promotion, wellness, and risk reduction programs to enhance quality of life for persons across the life-span (APTA Priority Goals, 2009). Effectively achieving these goals requires PT educational programs to explore ways of providing learning experiences in these areas. Service-learning can be a means for providing student experiential learning opportunities through the development and implementation of partnerships between universities and community-based entities. In addition to community goals, these partnerships may support the development of professional skills and behaviors in student PTs associated with the APTA Education Strategic Plan and Priority Goals. The purpose of this article is to describe one such community partnership with a rural school corporation that involved the development and implementation of a wellness policy necessary to comply with new educational regulations (IDOE/SNP Policy 87 Public Law 108-265). An important objective for this wellness policy was to address the growing problem of school age obesity.

Physicians, health policy experts, and health-care providers and wellness advocates see childhood obesity as a multi-factorial epidemic with serious implications for health-care delivery systems and society now and in the future. The effects of obesity in children include chronic illness, disability, low self-esteem and economic hardship for individuals, families, schools, communities, employers, and nearly all facets of the health-care system (Koplan, Liverman, & Kraak, 2005; Thompson, Brown, Nicholos, Elmer, & Oster, 2001; Finkelstein, Fiebelkorn, & Wang, 2004; Thompson, Edelsberg, Kinsey, & Oster, 1998; Tucker & Friedman, 1998; U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, 2001). Children and adolescents are especially likely to develop serious health and psychosocial problems related to obesity, which may impair academic performance and social functioning (Schwartz & Puhl, 2003).

Perhaps the most significant component of the obesity epidemic in children is the likelihood of early development of adult associated health problems and risks. Obesity among young people is associated with increased risk for type 2 (formerly called adult-onset) diabetes mellitus (T2DM), high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and musculoskeletal problems (Koplan et al., 2005). Nearly 60 percent of overweight or obese 5-10 year-olds have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor (e.g., high cholesterol or high blood pressure) (Freedman, Dietz, Srinivasan, & Berensen, 1999). Type 2 diabetes has become increasingly prevalent among children and adolescents as overweight and obesity rates rise (Rosenbloom, Joe, Young, & Winter, 1999). One study estimated that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime (Venkat Narayan, Boyle, Thompson, Sorensen, & Williamson, 2003). Ferraro, Thrope, and Williamson (2003) reported that children overweight by age eight were more likely to be morbidly obese as adults. Furthermore, it has been reported that overweight children and adolescents are likely to become obese adults (Freedman, Khan, Dietz, Srinivasan, & Berensen, 2001). Recently, it has been suggested that children in rural areas are particularly susceptible to obesity and increased risk for the development of T2DM (Yousefian, Ziller, Swarts, & Hartley, 2009; Adams & Lammon, 2007).

Physical therapists are uniquely qualified to embrace active roles in community health and disease prevention by providing consultative and intervention services for health and wellness issues to individuals of all ages (APTA Priority Goals, 2009). Opportunities in disease prevention exist in local communities and allow PTs and student PTs to use their intellectual property, talents and skills to meet professional objectives related to social responsibility, advocacy, and prevention and wellness. Community-campus partnerships are recognized in the health professions as an effective strategy in addressing many community health issues through service-learning experiences (Seifer, 1998; Seifer, 2000).

Service-learning is an educational strategy that combines community service with structured experiences, specific learning objectives, and directed student reflection (Seifer, 1998; Community Campus Partnerships for Health [CCPH], 2006). Successful service-learning emphasizes clear open commmunication between involved parties and balanced responsibilities and outcome benefits, mutually shared goals, accountability, respect and commitment (CCPH, 2006). In addition to supporting curricular objectives and skill development, service-learning can be a useful tool to develop professional behaviors and attitudes that are often considered part of the hidden curriculum of professional education (Hafferty, 2006; Stern & Papakakis, 2006). Service-learning experiences using the world as the classroom can be an effective way to provide real world training and leadership opportunities and promote physical therapy outside of traditional settings.

The primary and secondary education system offers a readily accessible network to provide information and intervention on two important factors associated with obesity: nutrition and physical fitness. Primary and secondary education systems should play an important part in a national effort to prevent childhood obesity. However, there are challenges facing educators promoting health and physical education in our school systems. For instance the 2002 federal “No Child Left Behind” legislation (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) mandated that all children pass standardized educational testing by 2014 placing greater emphasis on meeting academic measures and not physical fitness and wellness standards. As states and school districts rely on standardized tests to hold schools and students academically accountable, physical activity and health-related education have become a lower priority (Collins, 2007, p. 383). There exists an opportunity for PTs to help schools improve student performance in physical activity and health education (School Health Policies and Program Study [SHPPS], 2006). Elementary and secondary education facilities, in conjunction with academic institutions and community groups, can promote good nutrition, physical activity, and healthy lifestyles in children through health and wellness education, encouraging physical activity, and providing school health services (Michael, Dittus, & Epstein, 2007). In fact, results from SHPPS 2006 suggests improvements and initiatives are needed to increase collaborations with families and community-based organizations to support school health programs nationwide (Michael et al.).

The Community Partnership

Two student PTs interested in rural health and concerned about current health disparities in rural school-aged children fostered a community partnership with an Indiana public school corporation. The school system needed to achieve compliance with new government mandates (IDOE/SNP Policy 87 Public Law 108-265) for nutrition standards, physical activity, and other school-based activity programs. The school superintendent was contacted and a meeting was held to discuss current health promotion and physical fitness programming for the system. In this initial meeting, existing resources and needs related to the development of health and wellness initiatives were identified. The highest perceived need was the actual development of a school wellness policy to bring the school in compliance with IDOE/SNP Policy 87 Public Law 108-265. Accordingly the school-based wellness policy was mandated to:

• Include goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness in a manner that the local educational agency determines appropriate.

• Include nutrition guidelines selected by the local educational agency for all foods available on each school campus under the local education agency during the school day with the objectives of promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity.

• Provide an assurance that guidelines for reimbursable school meals shall not be less restrictive than regulations and guidance issued by the USDA.

• Create a plan to measure implementation of the local wellness policy including designation of one or more persons within the local education agency, or at each school as appropriate, charged with operational responsibility for ensuring that the school meets the local wellness policy.

• Involve parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, the school board, school administrators, and the public in the development of the school wellness policy.

From this initial meeting with the superintendent a plan was devised to meet with stakeholders and conduct a formal needs assessment through interviews and focus group discussions.

Description of the School and Stakeholders

The Southwest Jefferson County Consolidated School (SWJCS) Corporation supports 1,500 students, kindergarten through 12th grade, in a community of 9,600 residents. The students at Southwestern Elementary School are almost exclusively Caucasian (96%), with the remaining 4 percent classified as African-American, Hispanic American, Asian, or multiracial. Regarding gender, the entire student population consistently measures nearly an equal number of females and males. The community is primarily residential and agricultural with some small business. The SWJCS is a public, state-funded school district in rural Indiana and has 15 high school and 10 middle school sports programs. The median household income in the school district is $37,944 (SWJCS website, 2005). Approximately 50 percent of the students in the school system participate in the free and reduced lunch program. Working with the school system superintendent, the following were identified as key partners: cafeteria staff, representative school faculty, physical/health education staff, district school board members, parents, students, and local community leaders. The superintendent played a central role by identifying and coordinating initial contacts with the stakeholders and articulating the need for development and implementation of the wellness policy.

Focus groups, meetings, and interviews with key stakeholders (e.g., administrators, faculty, staff, and parents) were held in the evenings using “brainstorming” strategies that identified system strengths, barriers, and potential strategies for implementing a multi-faceted wellness program. During these initial meetings, stakeholders were familiarized to the needs of the school system in regard to IDOE/SNP Policy 87 Public Law 108-265. While the underlying causes of childhood obesity were understood to be complex, the interaction of lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating was considered primary. These factors required input and direction from the cafeteria staff, parents, faculty, and specifically the health and physical education faculty. The barriers specific to SWJCS were limited fiscal and other resources, lack of community awareness about the childhood obesity epidemic, student extra-curricular involvement, and the potential for community resistance to change.

Significant consultants and collaborators in this project were the cafeteria personnel who played a key role in development of the nutrition section of the wellness policy. The head cooks from the schools and the food service director provided menus, recipes, and personal and professional opinions pertaining to nutritional content and food choices currently available to students. The cafeteria is a self-supporting entity within the school system and depends on adequate revenues to meet its budget. Because of this arrangement, the cafeteria needed to sell the items to cover expenses. Balancing the economic realities of the cafeteria enterprise with the nutritional requirements of the wellness policy was a challenging process. Cafeteria staff expressed concerns about changing menu choices from items that might be popular with students and tend to be inexpensive (processed or frozen items such as French fries and chicken nuggets) to items that might be unpopular and lead to reduced revenues. Healthy food items such as fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be more expensive and require more effort to prepare and are typically unpopular with students of all ages.

Health and physical education teachers assisted with the activity and health awareness components necessary to meet the state requirements. Physical education and health educators discussed the challenges regarding funding levels, gym time availability, the use of out-dated equipment, and coordination of class schedules. The physical education and health educators also indicated that the typical student tended to be indifferent to matters pertaining to physical fitness and wellness. They also noted a general lack of student accountability for their own health. School board members played an important role by critically reviewing, providing feedback, and ultimately adopting the collaboratively developed wellness policy. The board consisted of five active community members who served as educational consultants and provided community oversight of the school wellness policy implementation. The school board members demonstrated unanimous support for adoption of the wellness policy. Key community contributors in policy development and implementation were the state-appointed childhood obesity coordinator and the local hospital wellness coordinator. These individuals had worked together closely in the past to develop strategies to increase community wellness awareness and prevention of obesity and served as external consultants to the school system and student PTs in the development of the health and wellness policy.

Following the interviews and focus group meetings, three phases of project development and implementation were identified:

Phase 1. Wellness policy development. The PT students met with the school system superintendent to discuss the progression and events needed to implement a successful and sustainable policy. The superintendent provided academic and administrative insight necessary for policy development. The student PTs conducted an extensive literature review on information relevant to the following topics: childhood obesity; physical activity, health, and nutrition standards; current status of physical health among young people; nutritional recommendations and requirements for children; pathogenesis of obesity-related disease; economic implications of obesity; and existing model wellness policies. Highlights of this review were presented to the superintendent and supported the collaborative development of the school system wellness policy. The superintendent provided a realistic framework of the system’s capabilities and resources to address policy recommendations. This framework, and the information obtained during the literature review, directed the policy development into three major areas: physical activity, nutritional standards, and other school-based wellness activities. An initial draft policy was developed by the student PTs, reviewed by the university faculty advisor and the superintendent, and revised. Upon compilation of a final draft, a school board meeting was scheduled to address the policy and the concerns of the board and other stakeholders. Initial concerns from the food service director were related to additional costs of major changes in the menu. Concerns included potential loss of revenue by eliminating the vending machine contracts that provided financial support to the athletic program. A copy of the draft policy was provided to all school board members a week prior to the school board meeting to allow for review and formulation of questions. A formal presentation was provided to the school board and community members during the school board meeting, outlining the policy and details pertaining to the policy implementation. The policy was unanimously accepted and endorsed by the school board for implementation during the 2006-07 school year.

Phase 2. Policy implementation. Following approval and acceptance of the policy by the school board, efforts were made to increase community awareness of the new policy. The local newspaper featured an article about the school system’s implementation of the wellness policy, highlighting the key factors for change in the school in response to the federal legislation (Whitney, 2006). A wellness team was formed consisting of the superintendent, food service director/manager, the school nurse, a parent representative, two student representatives, a staff member representative, a health and physical education representative, a member of the school board, and local health professionals including a dietician, physical therapist, and two doctors, one of whom was a pediatrician. Team members developed and discussed plans on how to implement the policy in the school system. A site wellness coordinator, who was a health and physical education faculty member, was appointed for the elementary school as this was the first area for implementation of the policy in the system. The final phase involved assessment of the effectiveness and outcomes of the policy.

Phase Three. Policy assessment. The final phase addressed policy assessment and program transition to the designated school site wellness coordinator. The development of a reference guide for the wellness team was the first step in transitioning the program to the site wellness coordinator. A reference guide was developed by the student PTs to serve as a source of information regarding nutrition and physical activity recommendations, the School Health Index (SHI), implementation ideas, wellness education, parent education, and additional resources targeting specific examples for ideas for elementary classroom parties, fundraising, and healthy snacks. The SHI was designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help schools assess and improve their physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco use, and unintentional injury and violence prevention policies (Harrykissoon & Wechsler, 2004). The SWJCS reference guide was made accessible online through the school corporation website with a hard copy available in the central school office.

Outcomes

A written wellness policy was developed through a collaborative partnership between two student PTs and SWJCS in compliance with Public Law 108-265 Section 204. The policy was created through review of existing models of wellness policies and other resources from local, state, and federal government organizations. The policy was implemented in the elementary school and intended to be phased-in completely in the middle and high school by school year 2010.

Early anecdotal reports a year after implementation of the policy were obtained from the superintendent and administrative staff, cafeteria staff, school nurse, psychologist, school board parents, testing coordinator, and technology administrator. Examples of compliance with the wellness policy noted for nutritional improvements included: exclusive sale of baked snack chips and items containing zero trans fat on snack cart; sale of mostly diet, caffeine free soft drinks; offering water and healthy juice alternatives in vending machines; baking cafeteria food items with the exception of French fries (French fries are scheduled to be phased out by 2010); addition of healthy wrap sandwich options to menu; daily offerings of salad bar and baked potato bar; yogurt offered with breakfast options; introduction of alternative milk options, including vanilla and strawberry milk, which were very popular with the student body; and a daily “healthy sack lunch” available to elementary students. The cafeteria staff decreased serving fried foods from five days a week to only two days a week with plans to limit to one day a week in the next academic year. Other observable nutritional changes consisted of an increase in the number of school lunches consumed by faculty. Average faculty lunch consumption for the prior school year was 18 per day in the elementary school; this increased to 58 per day following implementation of the wellness policy and was attributed primarily to the availability of the new daily salad bar. An initial staff concern with policy implementation was the possibility of decreased cafeteria revenue, particularly for the elementary school cafeteria, which had been experiencing difficulty generating a profit. However, since incorporating healthier food options in the cafeteria, the elementary school cafeteria generated approximately $6,000 in profit in the first three-month period. While actual numbers were not available, the faculty and administration reported a decrease in the number of student visits to the elementary school nurse’s office during morning hours during this initial phase-in period. In response to the wellness policy implementation and administrative encouragement, many teachers adopted a policy of no cakes/cookies and requested healthy snack choices for all classroom parties. Any practices that promote the consumption of less nutritious snack foods and beverages in schools have been shown to be associated with poorer diets and higher body mass index among students (Brener, O’Toole, Kann, Lowry, & Wechsler, 2009). The changes related to healthy eating introduced by the cafeteria staff, the vending machine offerings, and the classroom party snack policy, have all been important and proactive changes to at least promote healthy eating, though the long term effectiveness of these changes will take years to determine.

Several barriers limited the progress of the physical activity components of the wellness policy. The primary limiting factors were the availability of gym space and staff required for an increase in structured physical activities, the perception of dissonance between academics and wellness and nutrition policies, and the minimal state physical education requirements for high school grade levels. Despite these limitations, observable changes have been made in the elementary school. A notable addition to the elementary school curriculum as a result of the new policy was the implementation of a daily 40-minute, four-week swimming course. Previously, the pool was only being utilized by the elementary school 20 percent of the available time during the school week. However, after the policy was enacted, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers incorporated swimming classes for an hour a day for eight-week periods through the school year as part of the physical education curriculum. In addition, elementary staff attempted to incorporate additional physical activity into the scheduled lunch period, allowing students the opportunity for unstructured play after finishing lunch. However, an increased amount of plate-loss (uneaten food) was noted as many of the children were rushing through meals to participate in the lunch time physical activities. This resulted in a decision to temporarily discontinue the additional lunch period physical activity time until other strategies could be identified. Perhaps some of the most exciting and unanticipated developments involved the faculty and staff. The SWJCS faculty and staff initiated an after-school walking program on campus, a weight loss contest and a no-smoking policy. Additionally, because of the increased community-wide awareness of the school wellness policy, the faculty and staff were offered a free one month membership at a local fitness center. From a community perspective, the school has also opened up the pool to community members two nights per week for a nominal fee (one dollar) to cover the cost a lifeguard.

Discussion 

The rising incidence of childhood obesity requires grassroots efforts by many concerned parties. The development and implementation of a school system wellness policy by student physical therapists is one example of how academic institutions, community members, and local stakeholders can assemble talents, resources, and intellectual capital to work for a common cause. The community and academic partners were visionary, enthusiastic, dedicated, and driven through a common need to meet a state educational mandate. We have reported here that following the implementation of the wellness policy, substantive changes were made in the cafeteria offerings providing healthy food options, and there were increased opportunities for children to engage in physical activity during the school day. In addition to obvious benefits associated with the wellness policy, there were other immediate benefits to the school system, including an awareness of faculty and staff on role modeling through healthy food choices and regular physical activity. These non-classroom/non-academic life skills and behaviors are potentially as important as academic skills and behaviors learned in the classroom.

Several challenges were identified while assessing the needs of the school system. They included stakeholder expertise, limited resources and funding, the lack of community awareness, resistance to change, and perceived sensitivity of how to locally address the childhood obesity epidemic factor. However, through open and honest communication, planning and the combining of resources, the community stakeholders were able to work together to address these challenges. The many benefits reported from other school wellness program models (Michael et al.) have also been realized at SWJCS and include improved student morale, more focused children in the classroom, fewer headaches, healthier eating habits, and neutral or improved revenue streams from the cafeteria.

The primary intent of the wellness policy was aimed at influencing the current health and wellness practices of students, faculty, staff, and community members. Sustainability of the program will depend on continued community involvement with established local resources, the dynamics and dedication of the current wellness team, and, most importantly, parent, student, and family involvement. Parents and families may have the greatest responsibility to have positive and lasting effects on children through healthy living and setting good examples by incorporating regular physical activity and healthier eating habits into their daily routines. The superintendent (personal communication, April 17, 2009) reported in a telephone interview some preliminary observations and changes from the wellness policy including the elimination of all fast foods brought into the school, an 80 percent reduction in the days fried foods are served, and improved interaction with the cafeteria and nutrition staff about menu and best practices. When asked about the impact on the faculty and staff, he observed that faculty and staff are walking and/or swimming more than before and the elementary teachers have started the “biggest loser” weight loss contest with monetary incentives for those losing the most weight. He also believed the increased use of the swimming pool during school hours for the elementary children and creating community evening availability two nights per week were viewed as an example of increasing healthy behaviors for physical activity and exercise within the entire community. The superintendent also expressed what he felt were the two major challenges to incorporating lifestyle and behavioral changes in the school children. One is the “technology challenge,” which involves limiting (or at least balancing) computer, video, and television time with appropriate physical activity. The other is the “stranger/danger” phenomenon regarding the real or perceived problem of limiting outside play by children; rural communities have been shown to be particularly sensitive to this challenge (Yusefian et al.). These are issues perhaps best addressed by school systems, parents, families, and the communities working together.

The need to increase public awareness of the alarming statistics related to the childhood obesity epidemic and future health-care implications is real. There are important roles for community members and health-care providers from multiple disciplines to bring their expertise and intellectual property to the table to work collaboratively and meet the needs of individuals and society. Cultural, racial/ethnic, and socio-economic differences need to also be considered as childhood obesity has been shown to disproportionately affect minority youth populations, with African- American and Mexican-American adolescents more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic white adolescents (National Center for Health Statistics, 2006). In response to changing demographics in the nation, it is crucial that local health-care communities initiate active roles in health awareness, education, wellness, and disease prevention and collaborate to address this epidemic.

The CDC conducts SHPPS every six years to assess school health programs in the United States, with the most recent information published from the 2006 study (Kann, Brener, & Wechsler, 2007). The SHPPS is a valuable resource for school and public health practitioners, policy makers, and advocates for those concerned about the health and safety of youth. Essential elements of effective school health programs include health education, physical education and activity, health services, mental health and social services, nutrition services, healthy and safe school environment, faculty and staff health promotion, and family and community involvement. Several of these essential elements were addressed through this partnership, although SHPPS 2006 recommends more family and community involvement is needed (Michael et al).

One of most important aspects of the policy was the recognition and importance of emphasizing opportunities to empower students. Incorporating physical fitness and nutrition into a daily routine within the curriculum allows even young children to appreciate benefits and begin to develop healthy lifestyles. It is anticipated and hoped these changes will lead to the development of a commitment to lifelong learning in which physical fitness and nutrition are incorporated into their daily lives. However, assessessing long-term impact of the wellness policy on actual student behaviors, lifestyle changes, and on childhood obesity is beyond the scope of this paper and will require years of ongoing evaluation to establish any cause and effect.

Impact on Professional Development of Physical Therapist Students

The PT students, now practicing clinicians, reported personal and professional growth through their involvement and leadership in this community-campus partnership. Reflecting on the personal impact, the PT students reported that this experience helped them with recognition and development of the core values of their profession: accountability, altruism, compassion, excellence, integrity, professional duty, and social responsibility (APTA Core Values, 2009). Furthermore, as students these individuals reported positive experiences in directing their own learning using the partnership as a vehicle for increasing their knowledge of health and wellness issues in children. As the project continued through the second and third curricular years, the PTs were proud of the accomplishments associated with the progress of the project and reported growing appreciation of the intellectual contributions that they were able to make as students to the community partnership. The project also provided opportunities and experience in disseminating their work in the form of scholarly endeavors at national meetings (Featherstone, Etienne, & Brosky, 2007; Abraham et al., 2008). These clinicians continue to be actively involved in the promotion and development of health and wellness initiatives in their workplaces and communities. It is important to appreciate that one of the initial challenges encountered by the student PTs and the SWJCS was the lack of resources available in the district to develop and implement the federally mandated wellness policy. This reality demonstrated the potential impact of partnership development between communities and academia, especially when students are involved through focused, credit-bearing service-learning. Truly demonstrative of a “win-win” situation, the work of the student PTs in development and implementation of the wellness policy saved substantial school system time, manpower, and financial resources.

Conclusion

As the profession of physical therapy advances toward APTA Vision 2020, there is relevance in community partnerships to promote physical therapists’ role in addressing wellness needs within local communities. Service-learning as a pedagogy has been effective in many health professions educational programs like medicine, nursing, and dentistry, but is relatively new in physical therapy educational programs. This current project may provide an idea or model for other physical therapists/students to explore community engagement and service-learning opportunities. According to Vision 2020, physical therapists will be guided by integrity, life-long learning, and a commitment to comprehensive and accessible health programs for all people; further, it states that PTs will render evidence-based services throughout the continuum of care and improve quality of life for society.

There is a real opportunity for physical therapists to act as change agents and advocates for preventative health care in the community and at local, state, and national levels. As the profession of physical therapy moves forward, it is necessary to validate a role in the provision of health-care services through research, addressing direct patient intervention and active health promotion and disease prevention. This validation will occur through endeavors that include advocacy and awareness, community partnerships, coalitions and collaborations, legislative action, appointments to federal panels, an assertive health services research agenda and infrastructure, and research capacity building (APTA Vision Statement, 2009). While academic programs will prepare physical therapists to effectively manage adverse effects of chronic adult diseases such as diabetes and obesity related illnesses, a continued emphasis may also include collaborative efforts on improving awareness and meaningful prevention measures in youth through multi-disciplinary community engagement.

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About the Authors

Joseph A. Brosky, Jr. is an associate professor in the physical therapy program at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Mark R. Wiegand is professor in and director of the Bellarmine physical therapy program. Alana Bartlett is with Healthcare Therapy Services and practices at Perry County Memorial Hospital in Tell City, Indiana. Tiffany Idlewine is a physical therapist at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Including Latino Communities in the Learning Process: Curricular and Pedagogical Reforms in Undergraduate Spanish Programs

Felisa Guillén

“Partnership with community brings bilingual reality to college’s Spanish program, while strengthening campus and community ties.”

Abstract

Since the fall semester of 2003, the Spanish program at Occidental College has been incorporating a community-service learning component in its intermediate and advanced language classes, as well as in all literature and culture courses. Based on the idea that culture-sensitive language instruction should include frequent and meaningful interactions with a language community, the Spanish program has developed a strong partnership with two local schools that have predominantly Latino enrollment. This mutually beneficial relationship helps college students improve their communication skills in Spanish while rendering a service to the Latino community through tutoring and mentoring programs, along with cultural presentations and artistic performances. Integrating the numerous activities resulting from this collaboration into the Spanish curriculum required rethinking program objectives, course structure, and responsibilities of the college, the faculty, and the students in the service-learning process. This article examines the pedagogical implications of embracing this teaching model at the departmental level, as well as the civic impact of the gradually increasing connections between the department and the neighboring Spanish-speaking communities. It also describes the program’s evolvement during four semesters of instruction; analyzes students’ reflections, community partners’ feedback, and departmental assessments; and evaluates the results, challenges, and benefits of becoming an engaged department.

Introduction

Occidental College is a small liberal arts college in a residential area with a large Latino population. Its mission is anchored by four cornerstones: excellence, equity, community, and service. Consistent with its mission, the college has a long history of mutually beneficial interaction with Los Angeles, dating back to the mid-1960s when the College opened its Community Literacy Center and one of the country’s first Upward Bound programs. These initiatives provided high school students with greater opportunities to succeed in their pursuit of higher education. Today, almost half of Occidental’s students participate in some kind of community service through the Center for Community Based Learning and through the different academic departments that offer courses that incorporate community outreach and service.

Thanks to the leadership of the center’s director and a grant from the Mellon Foundation, workshops in service-learning have been offered to the faculty every summer since 2002. It was precisely one of these workshops in 2003 that inspired the Spanish department to embrace this teaching model and to attempt to incorporate it across the curriculum. The workshop provided us with the theoretical framework and the pedagogical motivation to revise our curriculum in order to create opportunities for meaningful and mutually rewarding interactions between our students and the community. Given greater than ever enrollments in Spanish classes and the increasing needs of the Spanish-speaking population, we felt compelled to open the new experience to a large number of students, faculty, and community members. Also, we chose not to conceptualize service-learning in terms of individual course design only, but to explore its potential as a vehicle of curricular reform (Zlotkowski, 2001). Therefore, instead of offering one or two courses with a service-learning emphasis, we decided to completely adopt this teaching model and to work together as a department toward the incorporation of service-learning across the Spanish curriculum. This decision has had many different repercussions, which we address by analyzing data collected during two academic years and by evaluating the objectives, results, and challenges of becoming an engaged department.

Theoretical Background 

Following the recommendations of the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Language in its Standards for Foreign Language Education (ACTFL Special Project, 1999), many Spanish instructors are working toward greater connections with their neighboring communities. Their experiences, methods, and models of service and community-based learning have been discussed in scholarly forums and publications. Particularly relevant are two volumes of collected articles entitled Construyendo Puentes (Hellebrant & Varona, 1999) and Juntos (Hellebrant, Varona, & Arries, 2003), which provide an overview of community settings and methods while underlining the pedagogical benefits of this teaching model in the area of foreign language acquisition. The focus of these studies and many others recently published is the increasing applications of service-learning to specific segments of the Spanish curriculum. This article, however, addresses the challenges and rewards of incorporating a service-learning component across the curriculum and the different implications for the way in which courses are designed and revised. It also assesses the interaction between the students, faculty, and community partners who participate in such an endeavor.

Program Overview

The first semester

Our initial trial took place in the fall semester of 2003. Thanks to the collaboration of the Center for Community Based Learning, the Spanish department developed a partnership with a local elementary school that offers a transitional bilingual program in Spanish from kindergarten through third grade. Toland Way Elementary School proved to be an ideal partner. Located a 10-minute walking distance from the college, Toland Way has 570 students, about 80 percent of whom are Latinos from low-income families who speak Spanish at home. Many of these students need help to improve their reading and math skills, and they require this assistance in Spanish. To meet their needs, we developed a tutoring program in which our students were able to help the teachers and the students in the bilingual program through after-school activities and a Homework Club. By becoming tutors, Occidental students had the opportunity to use their Spanish in a productive way, while learning from children who are native-speakers of the language. Both the Occidental undergraduate students and the elementary school students benefited greatly from this experience. Occidental students helped Toland Way students with learning techniques and comprehension of subject matter, and Toland Way bilingual students helped Occidental students with their Spanish skills (Table 1).

Initially, participation in this program was open to Occidental students enrolled in intermediate Spanish classes (Spanish 201 and 210). Involvement was voluntary and an alternative was provided for students opting not to engage in the service-learning activity. For instance, students had the options of going to the language laboratory for an hour each week to watch the news from Spanish-speaking countries or taking part in another service-learning activity for the same amount of time. Accordingly, the service-learning component of each class was worth 10 percent of the final grade, the same percentage assigned to language lab attendance.

In order to prepare students to become tutors, orientations were offered both at the college and at Toland Way in collaboration with Occidental’s education department and the elementary school faculty. The orientation sessions at Toland Way presented school-specific information such as dress code, use of supplies, and safety rules. On the other hand, the preliminary meetings at Occidental emphasized the importance of assessment and reflection as essential tools in the both the tutoring and engagement processes. To facilitate this evaluation task, the Spanish department provided students with two specific forms: an “initial set of goals” form that assisted them in identifying the particular needs of their tutees and the objectives to be pursued during the tutoring practice, and a “weekly progress report” form that contrasted expectations and achievements and provided space for the tutor to determine the necessary actions for the following session (see Appendices 1 and 2).

Participation in the Homework Club consisted of 14 hours, comprised of hour-long weekly sessions for which several schedules were available. A diary entry in Spanish was filled out for each tutorial.

During the fall semester of 2003, about 15 students from three different sections of Spanish 201 and one section of Spanish 210 (Intermediate Spanish for Native-Speakers) chose to participate in our pilot program. The students’ background was very diverse, both ethnically and socially: 12 participants were female and three male; five came originally from California, 10 came from different states; there were two Latinos, one African-American, one Asian, and the rest were Caucasian.

About one-third of the students were upper middle class, one-third middle class, and one-third came from underprivileged families. Regardless of differences in their backgrounds, all these students had three identifiable and relevant things in common: most were freshmen, they had a very good command of Spanish, and they had been previously engaged in community work through their former schools or churches. As the Report from the National Commission on Service-learning (2002) stated, primary and secondary school students are volunteering in record numbers for community service activities, but they don’t seem to have the opportunity to connect their volunteer spirit to their school work. Therefore, our undergraduates welcomed the prospect of service-learning and the possibility of connecting their civic responsibilities to their studies. The 15 participants in our first service-learning activity were excited about providing a much-needed service to the community while improving their Spanish.

Preliminary Results

On a personal level, students acknowledged that the experience initially was a challenge, primarily because it was a relationship with children—something new to most of them—and it was in Spanish.

For the first time for most of them, Spanish was not a language to be studied, but a language used for the transmission of knowledge. Taking part in the tutoring program made them reflect about educational methods and their purposes, and acknowledge the difficulties involved in becoming a good teacher and in selecting the appropriate materials. While appreciating teachers’ work in the school, the students did not hesitate to discuss those practices they deemed deficient or unproductive, whether in individual teachers or in the school’s pedagogical organization. Those who felt drawn to teaching valued the service-learning experience as a great opportunity to sample the field of education.

Students’ diaries also showed their reflections about the complexities of bilingual education and the importance of helping the Spanish-speaking children succeed in school. As mentioned before, students were asked to reflect on their experience by comparing their initial set of goals with the weekly progress report they filled out after each tutorial session. These reflections were written in the form of a diary entry collected by the instructor at the end of the week. The instructor would then include feedback consisting of questions and comments to help the student reflect on broader issues connected to the situations described in the journal. In addition to their educational value, the diaries were also used as a communication tool between students, instructors, and community partners. For instance, from the students’ comments we learned that they did not have the appropriate vocabulary to help the children with math, since the Occidental students had never studied math in Spanish before. To address this problem, we met with the bilingual faculty from Toland Way and put together a glossary of terms and expressions that could be useful to our students in becoming better math tutors. The students’ dairies proved to be an essential instrument in facilitating communication and enhancing collaboration.

In short, student opinion demonstrated that this program represented a favorably innovative experience that allowed for their personal fulfillment and reinforced their Spanish language skills, while rendering a helpful service to the community. The advantages of the service-learning activities over more traditional practices like language lab exercises were also recognized by the three faculty members participating in this trial program. First, we witnessed an immediate improvement in the students’ oral skills. Not only did they considerably increase their vocabulary, but they also perfected their pronunciation and showed a greater familiarity with grammar structures. Second, they gained a lot of confidence in their communication abilities and were more eager to participate in class. Most of them decided to talk about their service-learning experience in their mandatory oral presentations, showing pride in their accomplishments and a desire to instill the same interest in their classmates. Third, through those presentations and the entries in their journals, the Spanish department faculty witnessed an increase in students’ civic awareness and social responsibility.

Along the same lines, our community partner, Toland Way Elementary School, expressed a high degree of satisfaction with our students’ performance and attested to the positive impact of the tutoring program on the learning and motivation of the Toland Way students. All the Occidental and Toland Way faculty members involved in this project met twice during the semester, once on each campus. In addition to these formal meetings, there was constant communication by phone and by fax between the school principal and the Occidental instructor in charge of the program. Through these contacts, we learned that participation in the Homework Club had increased due to our students’ efforts and that the children were very happy to get more individual attention.

Due to the positive response, during the second semester the Spanish department decided to continue its commitment to service-learning by opening up more opportunities for student involvement and by expanding its scope across the curriculum. Consequently in spring 2004, our second semester implementing service-learning, we extended our program. In collaboration with the principal of Toland Way, we multiplied the opportunities for tutoring, helping the school develop an “intervention program” to assist the students identified as not learning on schedule and falling behind in reading and math.

Failure to attain full level proficiency in reading and math is a very critical problem in bilingual education and demands additional resources that most schools lack. Research suggests that the attainment of age-appropriate grade level achievement in a second language is typically a four to five year process and that students’ progress depends on receiving well designed, linguistically sensitive instruction (Jimenez, 2002). Therefore, it is imperative that English-learning immigrant students get as much individual attention as possible inside and outside the classroom. With this goal in mind, we also offered our students the opportunity of helping the teachers in the kindergarten classes to provide the children with a more personalized experience.

A total of 51 Occidental students chose to engage in service-learning that semester, accounting for 50 percent participation from the eligible students in the intermediate and advanced classes. Four faculty members from Occidental and three bilingual teachers from Toland Way supervised their participation in the tutoring program. Participation was organized in three ways: Homework Club, which consisted of group work on each day’s assignment; Intervention Program, which focused on individual reading to improve comprehension; and teaching assistance in the kindergarten classes. Once again, the tutoring program was regarded as a positive experience. It was evident that the students had benefited tremendously from reversing the roles that they traditionally play in the classroom. By becoming tutors, they had to assume the responsibilities of the teacher and be proactive about communication and learning. Since all the activities in the Tutoring Program were conducted entirely in Spanish, the Occidental students also needed to overcome the language barrier. Nevertheless, as the students felt more confident about their speaking abilities in Spanish, they found the interaction with children very rewarding and they enjoyed being productively involved with the local community.

The Spanish faculty also agreed on the pedagogical value of these activities, inasmuch as they foster the acquisition of expertise and skills complementary to the classroom experience. The only issue questioned was the relevance of this program for Occidental students who were already native-speakers of Spanish. After some research and discussions on effective service-learning programs for Latino students, we concluded that for native-speaking students, too, the advantages of service-learning in terms of student ownership of the experience surpassed possible shortcomings. However, we did agree to look for alternatives other than tutoring for the bilingual students.

The Second Year

After a very successful first year, the Spanish faculty decided to continue the incorporation of service-learning across the curriculum. Since we were aware of the need of learning more about this teaching model, we asked the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning to organize a workshop specifically for our department. Ethel Jorge from Pitzer College led the one-day meeting. Every faculty member in Spanish, including part-time instructors, attended the workshop, and all of us became energized by the ideas and enthusiasm of Professor Jorge. Most of the workshop consisted of brainstorming sessions to identify additional activities that would work with the different language and literature classes as well as with the interests of the faculty teaching those courses. Professor Jorge led those discussions and answered many questions regarding logistical and pedagogical issues. She was supportive of our efforts toward becoming an engaged department and encouraged us to reflect on the challenges. One of the main concerns that we had was the potential disorder that could result from expanding our service-learning involvement by adding new activities and reaching out to other community partners. We decided that one person had to take the responsibility of becoming service-learning coordinator in the department to set up, supervise, and evaluate a variety of service-learning activities suitable for students in language and literature classes, as well as becoming sensitive to the needs of our community partners.

Since the coordination of all these activities entails a workload similar to teaching a regular class, we asked the administration for a course release for the coordinator. Institutional support was required to consolidate the role of coordinator and to fund some segments of the program. Therefore, we submitted a proposal for Community Service-Learning Initiatives to the dean of the college and to the Center for Community Based Learning. Our proposal to the Mellon Foundation was successful, and we received the approval of the college administration to implement the planned initiatives.

One of our goals for this second year was to help spread Spanish/Hispanic/Latino culture outside the classroom while allowing our students in advanced literature and culture classes to include the community in their learning process. In collaboration with Toland Way Elementary, we created two new activities: a series of cultural evenings intended for families and a performance of a play based on the windmills episode of Don Quixote. The cultural evenings involved group presentations on Latin American culture prepared by students in Spanish 303 (Contemporary Latin American Literature). The academic component of these presentations was directly tied to the content of the course. The Spanish 303 instructor helped the students with the conceptual organization of the material, but the PowerPoint presentation was entirely the students’ own creation. The first cultural evening was entitled “Mexican Culture: Poetry and Art,” and the students analyzed the works of famous writers and painters such as Diego Rivera in the context of the Mexican Revolution. The second one, entitled “Mexican and Peruvian Culture: Handicrafts and Music,” explored the connections between artistic productions in Mexico and the Andean regions. In their presentation, students showed a variety of national handicraft traditions, played Andean music, and encouraged the audience to think about the popularization of handicrafts in the age of tourism. Both cultural evenings were successful. The audience consisted of 45-50 people, including the Spanish-speaking students at Toland Way, their parents and other family members, and some teachers and administrators. The audience was particularly receptive to the effort made by the non-native students and very satisfied with the ability of the native-speakers to maintain their language and their culture. The students in turn were gratified by the sense that they were participating in the affirmation of a culture while sharing their experience with the community.

The second project that came out of our commitment to disseminate the Spanish/Hispanic/Latino cultures was the adaptation of the windmills episode of Don Quixote by the students in my class, Spanish 351 (Cervantes and the Renaissance), an upper division literature class that studies most of Cervantes’ narrative works, including numerous chapters from Don Quixote. This class consisted of 19 students, most of them seniors, who had taken many literature and culture courses in Spanish both at Occidental and abroad and who had very good command of the language.

Under the leadership of two theater majors, everybody took responsibility for one or more tasks according to their interests and expertise. Given their motivation and resourcefulness, I chose to step back and play the role of facilitator. I provided them with funds, supplies, and information at their request, but did not interfere in their decisions. Along these lines, I only revised the final version of the script for linguistic and historical accuracy, but did not make any changes in the content.

While working on the adaptation of the windmills episode, the students showed a great awareness about the needs of an audience consisting of bilingual children in kindergarten through third grade. They realized that adapting a narrative text written in the 17th century into a brief play for elementary school children was a very challenging, but also creative, experience that required them to be faithful to the literary work. All involved were satisfied with the outcome of this activity. My students were particularly proud of the children’s reaction to the play, because they seemed to have both comprehended and enjoyed it. This positive reaction was confirmed by the feedback we received in the children’s thank-you letters that included pictures and comments about their favorite part of the show. Similarly, the teachers in the bilingual program sent us a collective note expressing their gratitude and satisfaction about the performance. As a teacher, I was extremely happy and proud of my students for their dedication, hard work, and, above all, for the intellectual caliber of their reflections. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience. Everybody took away a great message about learning, friendship, and the value of a bilingual community.

Finally, during spring semester 2005, we expanded the possibilities of service-learning involvement by becoming partners with another school, Glendale High School, and by increasing the number of activities at Toland Way Elementary. We were especially satisfied with the computer lessons we provided to the Spanish-speaking parents of the elementary school children. Five Occidental students committed their time to teach a group of mothers how to use computers to help their children with their homework and to access valuable information and resources.

With Glendale High School, we developed a mentoring activity that had two main components: an intellectual collaboration between high school and college students, and a practical introduction to higher education and college life. For the first part, over 40 Latino students attending bilingual classes at Glendale High worked in groups with Occidental students to enhance their literary analysis techniques in Spanish. All our students in the intermediate and advanced classes were invited to participate, and among the 80 students who qualified to participate in this activity, 38 signed up for it. The partnership evolved during three weeks in which the students got to know one another via e-mail and worked together analyzing a short story by the Mexican author Juan Rulfo. Then both groups met at Occidental for a day. They toured the campus, visited professors from different departments, and discussed their academic interests and other aspects of college life. In the afternoon, they convened to give their oral presentations. Three Spanish faculty members, the director of the Center for Community Based Learning, and the Spanish teacher from Glendale High attended the oral presentations, and all of them were positively impressed by the quality of the analysis and by the speaking and presentation skills of both groups.

After the meeting, all of the students had to answer questions reflecting on the value of this activity in the form of an essay in order to receive credit. In these essays, they had to cover three major areas: their personal involvement in the activity; the short-term and long-term impacts that such activity can have on the community; and the value of the activity as a learning tool (see Appendix 3). Many Occidental students commented about becoming more aware of the privileges they enjoyed, from computer access to financial stability, and expressed their happiness for being of some assistance to high school students. Glendale High students, on the other hand, mentioned that being able to do oral presentations side by side with college students boosted their self-esteem. Overall, considering the information in the students’ essays along with our own observations, we concluded that the activity was meaningful because it served to encourage the younger people to continue their education and increased the civic contribution and responsiveness of the college students.

In sum, more than 200 Occidental students from more than 15 different Spanish classes had the opportunity to engage in service-learning. All faculty members in the Spanish department, full-time and part-time alike, were able to incorporate a service-learning component in their classes. Over 150 community members participated in our service-learning activities, and a strong partnership was developed with two educational institutions in our area. Above all, we worked hard to promote civic awareness through our curriculum, making the Spanish classes a valuable tool not only for linguistic improvement, but also for responsible service to the community. In return, the interaction with the surrounding Spanish-speaking population made possible an authentic and meaningful use of the language, facilitated multicultural appreciation, and instilled in the Occidental students and faculty a sense of belonging in the local community.

Program Evaluation

The Objectives

Many of the service-learning activities implemented by the Spanish faculty were intended to address some of the issues that were a matter of concern in the intermediate and advanced language classes at Occidental, such as the lack of time for student oral participation and the excess of teacher-centered exercises. A recurrent problem in second- and third-year language courses is that students and teachers struggle to cover all the material, usually combining a review of grammar with an introduction to literature and culture. Owing to the fast pace of such classes, student participation is limited to answering questions prompted by the teacher, monitored group activities, and a few oral presentations. These presentations are the only opportunities students have to express themselves in a more independent and personal way, but most of the time they choose a rather impersonal topic and their delivery tends to sound rehearsed, not spontaneous. Another alternative for students who wish to improve their oral skills is to enroll in conversation classes that match their language proficiency. Although somewhat more informal than the regular course, the conversation courses still take place in a structured academic environment where students continue to play a passive role. To overcome those restrictions, interactive and context-based service-learning activities that enable communication without the teacher’s presence are recommended (Hale, Mullaney, Boyle, & Overfield, 1999). Interactions with native speakers such as those promoted by tutoring programs are an ideal vehicle to facilitate a more spontaneous and authentic communication that empowers college undergraduates as well as school children, and helps both to develop new skills. Research shows that by negotiating meaning on their own, each group of students becomes more resourceful and less inhibited (Mullaney, 1999).

In that regard, Occidental students’ journals contained numerous reflections on the newly acquired communicative and learning strategies. One of the students remarked: “With the children, I don’t feel disoriented or embarrassed when I don’t know the exact word in Spanish. I just explain to them what I am trying to say and they help me find the right word.” The students’ journals also underline the additional benefits of this kind of interaction over the more traditional practices such as the language laboratory. For example, one student wrote: “I like participating in the Homework Club better than sitting in front of a computer in the language lab because I really get to talk and not just listen.” By being removed from the teacher-centered setting of the class or the technology-oriented surroundings of the lab, students took ownership of the communicative process and engaged in a true collaboration with their community counterparts.

The other pressing issue our service-learning activities aimed to tackle was the impossibility for many students of Spanish to completely immerse themselves in the Hispanic/Latino/Spanish cultures. Since the option of studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country is not available to everyone for academic or financial reasons, service-learning involvement works as an alternative to off-campus study, as well as an incentive to appreciate the richness and diversity of the local community. Research demonstrates that community-based learning opportunities also increase and diversify student exposure to cultural and linguistic material (Feal, 2002). A service-learning component may not have the intensity of a whole semester overseas, but it has the potential of promoting long-lasting interactions that are more difficult to attain in a few months of studying abroad. As a student commented in her journal: “I would like to continue to work with the same kids next semester, for I want to get to know them well. I want to forge relationships with them based on trust and respect.” Of the total number of Occidental participants, at least 30 percent extended their service-learning engagement a second year, becoming a valuable resource for the children, the faculty, and the parents of the neighboring elementary school. Significantly, each of those students has also applied and been accepted to study abroad in Spanish-speaking countries, which demonstrates how service-learning constitutes a valuable preparation as well as an important stimulus for transition from local to global communities.

As mentioned before, there doubts remain among the faculty about the value of these activities for native-speakers of Spanish. The main criticism was that the service-learning experience emphasized the improvement of oral skills, which is an aspect of the language in which the native-speakers already excel. Moreover, it was argued, talking in Spanish to younger students is not an unusual practice for many of the Latino students. However, their experience does not merely duplicate a practice that they have in their homes and communities; instead, it offers the Latino students the academic framework to re-evaluate the significance of their cognitive and linguistic skills and to reflect about the importance of their civic involvement.

For a variety of reasons, the participation of bilingual college students in projects such as the tutoring program can be extremely productive. First, given their language sensitivity and their parallel learning experience, Latino students can easily identify the more problematic areas of study for the children and help them to effectively overcome those difficulties. Second, the educational achievements of the bilingual undergraduates can be perceived by the children as a strong motivation to succeed in school and in life. Third, college-age bilingual students’ retention of their language and culture proves to the elementary school students and their families the value of their heritage. At the same time, the reflections made by the Latino students’ in their journals throughout the semester showed considerable increase in their self-esteem because of the positive impact that they were able to make in the children’s bilingual instruction. One said: “It’s really amazing how the children trust me and follow my advice. They seem to be very comfortable with my presence.” Another student commented: “I usually work with the kids who have been absent during the week and help them to complete the work that they haven’t done. The teacher says that without my assistance they would keep on falling behind. “

According to their own words, the insecurities many bilingual speakers feel regarding their linguistic competence seemed to be neutralized by the pride, empathy, and responsibility resulting from their civic engagement. Therefore, service-learning activities give Latino students a sense of purpose and motivate them to continue their education in Spanish and their involvement with the local community.

The Challenges

Many unforeseen challenges had to be faced throughout these two years, and many valuable lessons were learned in this process. First of all, the whole Spanish curriculum had to be gradually revised in order to re-evaluate the objectives and structure of most of the classes to allow the incorporation of a service-learning component. Making service-learning an integral part of the program and not just an add-on required finding the best approach to implement this teaching model to achieve the specific goals of each class. Given the diverse content and expectations of the many classes that integrate the Spanish curriculum, it was impossible to come up with a unique solution. The main problem was to identify what segment of each course could be considered equivalent to the service-learning experience and therefore interchangeable with it. In the intermediate Spanish classes it was easy to establish a parallel between the students’ participation in the tutoring program and their Language Lab attendance. Both activities consisted of weekly sessions and included a written summary. However, in the advanced language courses and in the literature and culture classes, it was more difficult to single out a class component that had a close equivalence to the service-learning activities available through the tutoring program. A connection had to be established in a somewhat arbitrary way or by creating ad-hoc activities tied to the content of the courses, such as the cultural evenings or the theatrical performance, that was relevant both for the class and for the community partner

From a practical point of view, having interchangeable course requirements makes things more complicated for the instructor, for he/she has to collect and evaluate different assignments with various due dates. The professor must develop diverse assignment routines and acquire a new expertise in order to help the students in the reflection process. For instance, it became clear that the students’ diaries should not be graded just in terms of the grammar and that the teacher had to provide meaningful feed-back in relation to the content. Therefore, the instructor ought to assist the students to transcend their particular experience and consider issues of social justice and civic responsibility by guiding their reflections and expanding their learning. At the same time, the teacher also needs to release some control on the transmission of knowledge and trust the pedagogical value of the off-campus segment of the class. While all the instructors agreed on increasing the community outreach, not every teacher was ready to create specific activities for his/her classes. In those cases, the professors encouraged their students to participate in the ongoing service-learning departmental activities under the supervision of the program coordinator, whose role is to inform the students of the different possibilities of service-learning engagement and to work out the logistics of their participation (schedule, training, transportation, etc), in conjunction with the community partner and any other agencies involved. The coordinator also generates the reflection questions in consultation with the faculty, although determining the format in which the students’ reflections should be presented—journal, essay or oral presentation—remains the responsibility of the class instructor as does the collection and grading of those assignments. Frequent conversations need to take place between the service-learning coordinator and the faculty to address any questions or concerns that may arise as the service-learning activity evolves and to assess its worth or appropriateness once it has been completed. Service-learning coordinators should be leaders and facilitators and should view the expertise in this pedagogy as an important aspect of their professional development. Participation in conferences and workshops is highly desirable, increasing familiarity with the new developments in this pedagogy. With the appropriate institutional support the position of service-learning coordinator should be consolidated with the due compensation and recognition. All full-time instructors should be granted the opportunity to become coordinators throughout the years to promote a greater participation from the faculty and to guarantee the continuity of the program. Consequently, teamwork and faculty cooperation are key elements in any attempt of incorporating service-learning across the curriculum for they prevent individual instructors from feeling overwhelmed with the methodological and practical innovations that are inherent in this teaching model.

A more active communication between faculty and students is also necessary to ensure that the service-learning experience is truly productive and not just another course requirement to be fulfilled in a mechanical way (Varas, 1999). Moving back and forth from the classroom to the community requires that the students switch gears regarding their own position in the teaching and learning process. In class they may continue to have a somewhat passive position, but in the community they need to become agents in the transmission of knowledge. It is the responsibility of the faculty to help the students negotiate the difficulties they may face in this transition. The reflections contained in the students’ journals served as a point of departure for an on-going dialog that brings the community into the classroom. In this course of action, students and faculty learn to work in close collaboration toward the betterment of the community.

All over the country, but especially in areas with growing Latino population, Spanish departments ought to become vigorous partners and embrace the main goals of the “scholarship of engagement” (Boyer, 1994). Spanish departments are potentially very valuable resources for the Latino community and ought to be open to working with the community instead of functioning as independent satellites. Organizations such as immigration and civil rights groups, health-care providers, schools, and youth groups need the involvement of Spanish-speaking people and offer innumerous opportunities for the students of Spanish to enhance their communication skills. Nevertheless a responsible interaction with the community not only requires the punctual assistance in the solution of a specific problem or concern, but also to concentrate in building relationships beneficial to all (Jorge, 2003). The association that the College Spanish department has constructed with Toland Way Elementary responds to this aspiration. For the last two years the close collaboration between both institutions has yielded very significant and constructive results. The homework club, the intervention program, the series of cultural evenings, the theatrical performance and the computer skills classes for parents are meaningful examples of the kind of projects that an ongoing partnership can produce. Thanks to all these activities, the faculty and students from College became knowledgeable about the complexities of bilingual education and took an active role in building support for the school, the students and their parents.

While working primarily with one partner simplifies many logistical aspects of the service-learning experience—transportation, schedule, training, for example—an effort should be made to achieve a far-reaching rapport with various community groups. This is not an easy task and requires that the different partners show a similar commitment and an equivalent degree of responsibility. Not every partnership will work, some will never get started and others will have to be stop in the middle of the process for lack of accountability or miscommunication between the different groups. For those reasons, it is very important to be able to count on the assistance of an intermediary, such as the personnel of the service-learning center, in order to find the right partner for each project. Another way to build solid partnerships is to work in association with a community group that already has a relationship with another department on campus. Through this venue, most of the initial uncertainties about the viability of the partnership can be avoided and a more extensive institutional cooperation with the community counterpart can be established.

Conclusions

The need to understand other languages and cultures is one of the challenges that our society and higher education, in particular, face in the present and will continue to confront in the future. In this context, foreign language courses should be re-examined for their practicality in communicating colloquial spoken languages (Yankelovich, 2006) and colleges and universities should look at the often multilingual surrounding communities both as providers and recipients of valuable services. Spanish departments should be especially receptive to the rising number of Latinos in the nation, as well as the large enrollments in language, literature, and culture classes. Opportunities for meaningful interactions between faculty and students and the neighboring Spanish-speaking communities can be established easily with the appropriate collaboration. Though it initially may appear to be an overwhelming task, a gradual implementation of a service-learning component across the curriculum is a feasible endeavor as long as the different participants work as a cohesive group. Faculty members must be willing to revise their course objectives and learn to evaluate the community-based activities, with consideration to their pedagogical and civic value. Institutions must recognize the academic merit that the incorporation of this teaching model entails and provide the necessary support to the departments. Students need to become more proactive about the language acquisition process, both to enhance their communication skills and to be able to render a positive service to the community. Finally, the community members should work together with their academic partners to set up relevant and long-lasting off-campus programs. Reaching out to the community is the logical path to follow in the pursuit of a culture-sensitive language instruction, for there is no language without the existence of a language community.

References

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Special Project (1999). National Standards for Foreign Language Education. Retrieved July 23, 2003, from www.actfl.org/.

Boyer, E. (1994). Creating the new American college. The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 9, A48.

Boyle, J., & Overfield, M. (1999). Community-based language learning: Integrating language and service. In J. Hellebrandt & L. Varona (Eds). Construyendo puentes (building bridges): Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

Feal, R. (2002). Foreign language study: World needs now. MLA Newsletter, 34(4), 5-6.

Hale, A. (1999). Service-learning and Spanish: A missing link. In J. Hellebrandt & L. Varona (Eds.). Construyendo puentes (building bridges). Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

Hellebrandt, J. & L. Varona (Eds). (1999). Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges). Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

Hellebrandt, J., Arries, J., & Varona, L (Eds) (2003). Juntos: Community partnerships in Spanish and Portuguese. Boston: American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Professional Development Series Handbook.

Jorge, E. (2003). Outcomes for community partners in an unmediated service-learning program. Michigan Journal of Community Service-learning, 10, 28-38.

Jimenez, T. (2002). Fostering the literacy development of Latino students. Focus on Exceptional Children, 34(6), 1-10.

Mullaney, J. (1999). Service-learning and language-acquisition: Theory and practice. In J. Hellebrandt, J.L. Varona, (Eds) Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges). Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish. Washington, DC. American Association for Higher Education.

Report From the National Commission on Service-Learning. Retrieved July 23, 2003 from www.learningindeed.org.

Varas, Patricia. Raising cultural awareness through service-learning in Spanish culture and conversation: Tutoring in the migrant education program in Salem. In J. Hellebrandt, L. Varona, (Eds). Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges). Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish, Washington, DC. American Association for Higher Education.

Yankelovich, D. (2006). Higher education in 2015. The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 2006, 43-53.

Zlotkowski, E. (2001) Mapping new terrain: Service-learning across the disciplines. Change, 33(1), 24-33.

About the Author

Felisa Guillén is a professor of Spanish and department coordinator of the Community-Based Learning Spanish Program at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Organizing Community Change: STD/HIV Awareness in a Greek Student Body

Naomi Sleap, Allyce Heflin, Adrian J. Archuleta, and Wendy P. Cook

“Students play key role in a major university’s decision to include STD/HIV information in risk-awareness seminars. “

Abstract

Sexually risky behaviors coupled with alcohol use elevate college students’ risks for contracting STDs and HIV. College students in sororities and fraternities often perceive that risky behavior is a normal part of Greek life. This paper describes a structured change effort led by students who urged Greek student leadership, university administrators, and health educators to incorporate sexual health information and the associated risks of alcohol use into risk awareness seminars. In fall 2005 and spring 2006, 1,500 and 1,000 Greek students between the ages of 18 and 24 entering 55 Greek organizations at Florida State University participated in the risk awareness seminars. Incoming Greek students were provided with sexual health information that promoted responsible sexual practices and detailed the risks associated with alcohol use. Because of this change effort, Greek student leadership and Greek Life Administrators have standardized sexual health information as a component of the risk awareness seminars.

Implementing an educational program that inspires a community to take preventative action requires the concerted effort of stakeholders who are dedicated to and affected by change. Such collaboration often necessitates amalgamating community resources to address the needs of high risk populations. At Florida State University, approximately 4,500 students participate in the Greek community as members of both sororities and fraternities. Greek council constitutions require all new members of the Greek community to attend two risk awareness seminars per year. Past seminars focused on alcohol related issues, but omitted the effects of alcohol and other substance use on sexual behaviors. Therefore, Risk Awareness Seminars offered by the university did not provide the Greek student population with information regarding risky sexual behaviors and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)/Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Research indicates that alcohol abuse increases risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex and multiple sexual partners (Huang, Jacobs, & Dervensky, 2010; Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000; Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995). While risk awareness seminars address alcohol use, they do not address the connection between alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors that increase the risk of contracting STDs and HIV. The propensity of Greek students to abuse alcohol increases their potential risk for acquiring an STD or HIV (Wechsler, Kuh, & Davenport, 1996) and requires prevention and interventions strategies that incorporate invested community members. This paper presents a student-led change project approach that assisted in standardizing sexual health education in risk awareness seminars to address risky sexual behaviors and alcohol consumption among a high-risk Greek student body.

Literature Review

Contributing Factors to Risky Sexual Behaviors

National College Health Assessments (NCHA) between 2000 and 2009 indicate that STDs/HIV, condom use, and the number of sexual partners for college students within a 12 month period remained relatively consistent (American College Health Association, 2000-2009). For example, in 2000, 24.3% of students reported having two or more sexual partners within the last 12 months. In 2009, 23% of students reported the same number of partners (American College Health Association, 2000, 2009). Additionally, only 6% (oral sex), 51.6% (vaginal sex), and 30.2% (anal sex) reported using a condom mostly or always during sexual activity within the last 30 days (American College Health Association, 2009). As a result, college administrators and health officials are increasingly concerned with the prevalence of risky sexual behaviors within the college-age population (Scholly, Katz, Gascoigne, & Holck, 2005).

There are many factors correlated with risky sexual behaviors among college students, but perhaps the most significant is the use of alcohol or mood-altering substances. Alcohol myopia theory provides a link between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior, contending that the pharmacological effects of alcohol alter one’s ability to process information and thereby disinhibit behavior (Steele & Josephs, 1990). When a person drinks alcohol, he/she processes basic biological cues such as sexual arousal, but is unable to process complex concepts such as the possibility of contracting diseases from sexual behaviors. Evidence suggested that drinking in a potential sexual situation increases the probability of sexual intercourse, while decreasing the chance that risk discussion will occur (Cooper, 2002). Simons, Maisto, and Wray (2010) found a reduction in condom use during oral and vaginal sex and an increase in risky sexual behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and cannabis. Therefore, using marijuana and other substances likely affects the possibility that risk discussion will occur since such substances also reduce higher order cognitive functioning that allows individuals to evaluate risk taking behaviors (Pattij, Wiskerke, & Schoffelmeer, 2008).

Other factors, such as perceived normative views or peer pressure, increase a student’s risk for contracting STDs and HIV (Paul et al., 2000). Students’ perceptions about their friends’ sexual practices, activities, and attitudes reflect their own sexual choices and behaviors (Lynch, Mowrey, Nesbitt, & O’Neil, 2004; Paul et al.). From a normative view, friends’ attitudes and sexual behaviors may be indicators of a student’s inclination to engage in unprotected sex (Bon et al.). College students’ perceptions of increased sexual activity and the number of partners among peers may lead a student to engage in riskier sexual behaviors (Lynch et al.).

Risky Sexual Behaviors and Alcohol Consumption

People under the age of 25 account for half of all newly diagnosed HIV infections (Centers for Disease Control, 2002), and three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year (Barth, Cook, Downs, Switzer, & Fischhoff, 2002). The primary reason for the increased risk of STD and HIV infection among college age students is their propensity to engage in risky sexual behaviors (Anastasi, Sawyer, & Pinciaro, 1999; Barth et al.). College students frequently engage in risky sexual practices such as unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners, and they also engage in sexual activities while using substances (Anastasi et al.; LaBrie, Earleywine, & Schiffman, 2002; Lewis, Malow, & Ireland, 1997; Lynch et al., 2004; Paul et al., 2000). Bon and colleagues (2001) reported that 14% of students had engaged in unprotected sex and 19% of students had engaged in oral sex while intoxicated, thus highlighting the frequency with which students engage in risky sexual behaviors while using substances.

Although condom use is the primary method of STD and HIV prevention, less than half of college students reported using condoms consistently (Stern & Zak-Place, 2004). HIV and STD testing is also an important indicator of safe sexual behavior; however, only 2% of students reported a known diagnosis of HIV, while 3.8% reported known diagnoses of other STDs (Stern & Zak-Place). Because some STDs develop over longer periods with few symptoms, failure to be tested will likely increase the problems among this age group (McCaul, Miltenberger, Smyth, & Tulloch, 2004). Greek affiliated students’ social activities elevate their risk for engaging in sexual behaviors that expose them to STDs and HIV (Larimer, Irvine, Kilmer, & Marlatt, 1997).

Risks to University Greek Populations

A study examining the effects of Greek membership on risky sexual behavior and alcohol use found that alcohol abuse and unsafe sexual activity were the most problematic issues within Greek organizations (Eberhardt, Rice, & Smith, 2003). Greek students were found to be more likely to consume unsafe amounts of alcohol than their non-Greek peers (Eberhardt et al.). Approximately 86% of fraternity and sorority members reported engaging in binge drinking, defined as five drinks for men and four for women (Wechsler et al., 1996). Of these members, 36% and 57% of non-resident and resident member men and 28% and 43% of non-resident and resident member women reported binge-drinking three or more times in the last two weeks (Wechsler et al.). Consequently, members of Greek organizations are more likely to report experience with the negative consequences of binge drinking, such as unwanted sexual advances and risky sexual behaviors (Eberhardt et al). Larimer and colleagues (1997) contended that alcohol-related risks and the sexual and academic consequences stemming from its use have become a normal part of fraternity and sorority life. While Greeks and non-Greeks both engage in risky sexual behaviors, there are alarming differences in the sexual practices of Greek women. Overall Greek students reported more instances of unprotected sex while intoxicated than non-Greek students, and Greek-affiliated women were less likely to use a condom during vaginal intercourse than both non-Greek women and Greek-affiliated men (Eberhardt et al.).

Intervention Strategies

Many college health education programs attempt to heighten awareness of high-risk behaviors using threats of adverse effects, which demonstrate no effect on reducing students’ high-risk behaviors (Scholly et al., 2005). However, individual self-efficacy significantly predicts one’s intended condom use (Stern & Zak-Place, 2004). Self-efficacy is “confidence in one’s personal ability to achieve a specific behavioral outcome that is said to enhance protective behavior” (Lewis et al., 1997, p. 153). College students’ belief in their abilities to engage in preventative STD and HIV behaviors is the most important factor in their intentions to act (Stern & Zak-Place). Therefore, intervention strategies should bolster efficacious behavior by educating college students about the rates of STD/HIV infection for their peer group, the importance of risk communication with partners, and the increased risk of STD/HIV transmission when alcohol or other substances are involved in risky situations.

Some effective interventions utilize social norms theory to address risky sexual behaviors among college students. Social norms theory postulates that students’ perceptions of their peers’ behaviors influence their decision to engage in similar behaviors (Scholly et al., 2005). Acting on this perspective, universities should enact awareness campaigns using posters, fliers, pens, and campus-wide screensavers to provide students with statistics that reflect their peers’ behaviors (Scholly et al.). Due to the correlation between risky sexual behaviors and perceptions of peers’ sexual practices, educational interventions should provide information and statistics that reflect actual trends of students’ sexual behaviors in order to correct any misconceptions about existing norms (Bon et al., 2001). For example, the National College Health Assessments (2009) indicates that 77.1% of college students report one partner or fewer in the last 12 months (American College Health Association). Intervention strategies that reflect students’ actual sexual behaviors will likely encourage students to make safer sexual choices that reduce STD/HIV transmission.

Current intervention strategies for risky sexual behaviors and STD/HIV transmission focus on abstinence or safe sex practices. If partners use a condom properly and consistently during sexual intercourse, they may reduce the risk of HIV by 70-100% (Lewis et al., 1997). Partners who discuss condom use are more likely to use them (McCaul et al., 2004). College men tend to use condoms when their partner puts forth the suggestion, while women are more likely to rely on their partners to initiate condom use (Lewis et al.).

However, college students are least knowledgeable about the STD/HIV infection rates for people in their age group (Opt & Loffredo, 2004). In a study of college students who voluntarily sought HIV testing, 75% of students indicated that they perceived their risk for STD/HIV transmission to be low or very low (Anastasi et al., 1999). Due to deficiencies in sexual health awareness, intervention strategies should be adapted to include an educational component addressing the risks that elevate STD/HIV contraction among the Greek student body. However, incorporating such information often requires change to an existing system where such deficiencies rest.

Change Strategy

To undertake a project that will elicit change in one’s community and environment, a thorough approach that considers the depth and influences of proposed activities should be utilized. To consider the potential impact of the change, a well developed and proven approach that considers the change agent, target system, structural factors, and critical and facilitating actors is necessary. The field theory approach to implementing change provides a framework for examining and balancing action (Brager & Holloway, 2002). This approach identifies a potential problem within a particular organization or environment that will become the target system for change. Formally, the target system is “the individual, group, or community to be changed or influenced to achieve” a desired social goal (Barker, 1995, pp. 378). Identifying a target system, critical and facilitating actors, and driving and restraining forces requires an iterative process fueled by brainstorming sessions that helps understand the problem holistically.

Brainstorming sessions often allow groups proposing change to identify interrelated components of the target system and generate potential interventions that draw on the experience of group members. Brainstorming during meetings at different phases of the project (i.e., prior to and following interaction with critical and facilitating actors) is an essential component in working with a target system and conducting and reassessing the group’s analysis of the problem. Brainstorming allows groups to maximize the amount of input available, draw on the strengths and wisdom of group members’ experience, and ensure that a project’s direction and goals remain collaborative (Brager & Holloway, 2002). Initial brainstorming sessions assist in narrowing the target system to maximize the effectiveness of the change project.

Once the target system is identified, a force field analysis is conducted to examine the continuity of forces that support or defer opportunities for change. This analysis involves identifying critical and facilitating actors or those individuals who could make important decisions related to the overall goal(s) of the change project, as well as individuals who can contribute important resources toward its completion (Brager & Holloway, 2002). Thoughtful consideration of driving and restraining forces is critical to advance change, along with selection of potential interventions that will ameliorate restraining forces and maximize driving forces.

Methods for Targeting Change

Overview of Change Strategy

A field theory approached emphasized by Brager & Holloway (2002) was used as a foundation for a generalized change strategy. Figure 1 outlines the process utilized to enact change.

The student change agents (i.e., students who conceptualized and organized the initial change efforts) began by conducting initial brainstorming sessions to identify a social problem to address. The students’ experiences with Greek organizations elicited concern for the risky sexual behaviors and alcohol/substance use among Greek students. Once the students targeted a problem, they conducted an initial force field analysis to identify critical and facilitating actors to include in decision-making processes, driving (i.e., resources) and restraining (i.e. barriers) forces, as well as the information and research needed to convince the critical actors of the severity of the problem.

Following an initial assessment, the student change agents conducted additional brainstorming sessions with the critical and facilitating actors during face-to-face meetings. These sessions considered how health educators could incorporate the information into the risk assessment seminars, determined the content most pertinent to the Greek student body, and helped to discover driving and restraining forces not previously identified by the group. Toward the end of the project, the meetings moved from brainstorming sessions toward a task group orientation to transition the project’s implementation to the critical and facilitating actors. Through these meetings, the students hoped to build collaborative relationships between the University Health Center, Greek organization leadership, and the Greek Life Administration that would lead to the inclusion of sexual health information in the risk awareness seminars to benefit the target system (e.g., Greek student body). Overall, the goal of this project was to receive commitment from Greek student and administrative leadership to include sexual health information in the risk awareness seminars while establishing lasting relationships between the Greek Life Administration, Greek student leadership, and the University Health Center. The following sections provide more depth to the process described above.

Target Systems 

Of the 55 fraternities and sororities at Florida State University, 35 Greek organizations are affiliates of the Panhellenic Sorority or Interfraternity Councils (University Office of Greek Life, 2008). Twenty fraternities and 15 sororities compose the interfraternity and Panhellenic councils, which act as governing bodies that oversee decisions and organize activities related to Greek life (University Office of Greek Life). Two additional governing bodies also regulate activities for different fraternities and sororities. Collectively, these sororities and fraternities are composed of racially and ethnically diverse groups comprised of males and females between the ages of 18-24. Unfortunately, leaders from the Multicultural Greek Council (11 fraternities) and the National Pan-Hellenic Sorority Council (nine sororities), representing a substantial number of racial and ethnic minorities in the Greek system, did not participate in the planning process.

As a result, the target system involved three components of the Greek community: the elected presidents from the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils, the University’s Student Health Center, and the Greek student body. Each component maintained a vital role in implementing this educational change in the Greek community. The presidents from the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils coordinated and made determinations about including information in the risk awareness seminars. The University’s Student Health Center recognized the importance of incorporating information on risky sexual behaviors and STDs/HIV and provided health educators who presented these topics at the risk awareness seminars. It was necessary to connect the health educators to the Greek presidents, who plan and implement the risk awareness seminars to new members.

The last target system, and specific target population, consisted of the approximately 4,500 students who are members of Greek organizations at Florida State (University Office of Greek Life, 2008). Although it is important to address sexual health and risky behaviors among all Greek members, only those individuals entering the Greek system for the first time are required to complete the risk awareness seminars. Therefore, only individuals new to Greek life will benefit from the sexual health education. These individuals are consequently a more specific population of interest, or target population. After identifying the target system, the student change agents conducted an initial force field analysis to target key actors to contact.

Force field Analysis of Target Systems 

Critical and Facilitating Actors

To identify critical and facilitating actors as well as driving and restraining forces (Brager & Holloway, 2002), a force field analysis was conducted (Figure 1). Through collaboration with the Greek Council advisor, the students identified the critical actors as those in charge of choosing topics for the awareness seminars and hiring the speakers to present the information: the presidents of the Panhellenic Sorority Council and the Interfraternity Council. Their approval was necessary before the risk awareness seminars could include content on risky sexual behaviors and STDs/HIV awareness. It was paramount that these two people were aware of and understood the importance of including sexual health education in the risk awareness seminars.

Facilitating actors help support change by gaining the attention of the critical actors (Brager & Holloway, 2002). Through face-to-face meetings with the critical actors, the group identified facilitating actors within the critical actors’ and students’ social networks. These facilitating actors could further assist in accessing the population of interest or lend their services and expertise in delivering the sexual health curriculum. Identifying facilitating actors with an established relationship with a group member or who assumed a position of influence among critical actors (i.e., individuals specifically identified by critical actors) assisted in gaining commitments to accomplish the change project and remove barriers likely to impede project implementation (i.e., restraining forces). After the student change agents (those organizing the initial project) identified critical and facilitating actors, the group held several meetings to discuss the important parameters for including the sexual health content in the risk awareness seminars (Figure 2)

For this project, the student change agents identified the assistant director of Greek Life and the health educators at the University’s Student Health Center as facilitating actors. The assistant director provided information about the Greek community and the relationship between the Greek Council and the risk awareness seminars. Her understanding of the risks faced by the Greek community and approval for including risky sexual behaviors into the seminars likely influenced the critical actors’ decision. The health educators’ interest in including sexual health training in the awareness seminars, knowledge of STDs and HIV information, and accessibility to students made them important facilitators. The health educators’ willingness to include risky sexual behavior information and perform the risk awareness seminars demonstrated to critical actors that changes in the seminars were possible.

Driving Forces

A driving force is something or someone that supports change. It includes concrete things such as people and physical locations and more abstract ideas such as attitudes, public opinion, and motivations (personal communication with co-author Wendy Crook, February 29, 2005). The group identified driving forces in two phases. First, the group conducted brainstorming sessions in the classroom with the instructor and peers to organize potential driving forces that would assist in the completed project and required procurement. Second, the group reassessed the driving forces for the project after initial and subsequent meetings with the critical and facilitating actors. Although the driving forces did not change, utilizing these opportunities to reassess the resources available to the project was crucial as social and organizational change demands flexibility.

The group identified existing research, time, space, and materials as driving forces for the project. The research literature helped clearly identify college students as a high-risk population for engaging in risky sexual behaviors resulting in greater exposure to STDs and HIV. Following a reassessment, it became clear that the assistant director of Greek Life and the University’s health educators occupied multiple roles, as their time, expressed interest, and support for the project became driving forces. The assistant director’s monitoring of the Greek community activities was particularly important because of her potential influence on risk awareness topics. The student change agents utilized the health educators’ expertise on the subject matter, as well as data specific to the university’s Greek student body, to influence the decision of the critical actors. Time, money, space, and materials were also driving forces for this change project. The project’s focus and limited number of tasks minimized the amount of time required to accomplish the identified goal and objectives. The availability of resources through the university allowed costs to be defrayed and use of existing space and materials increased the feasibility of changing the curriculum.

Restraining forces

The student change agents recognized that several restraining forces, or factors deterring change (W. Crook, personal communication, February 29, 2005), could significantly impact the short and long-term effectiveness of this change effort. Because HIV is stigma-laden, individuals sometimes presume that certain qualities predict who will contract the disease. In addition, social stigma often prevents individuals from being tested or discussing sexual health issues with their partners (Chesney & Smith, 1999). This stigma likely persists among college students, who may assume that STDs and HIV/AIDS awareness is not relevant. In addition, the relevance of alcohol abuse in Greek life socialization and the previous omission of information on sexual health and risky behaviors in the risk awareness seminars were additional concerns.

Engaging Systems in Change

To minimize restraining forces and maximize driving forces, the student change agents acted as coordinators, educators, and facilitators to engage the identified systems in the change project. The students helped to establish relationships between the University’s Student Health Center, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Sorority Council, and Greek Life Administration. Facilitating relationships supported by open dialogue through coordinated face-to-face meetings was critical because these relationships connected the individuals in Greek student leadership positions with key support (i.e., Assistant Director of Greek Life and the University Student Health Center). As educators, the student change agents presented research on the risky sexual behaviors of college students to critical and facilitating actors.

The unanticipated role of planner arose from engaging these different systems. The Panhellenic Council president requested assistance in developing the seminars. Working together, the Panhellenic Council president, health educators, and student change agents developed ideas for the seminars. These ideas included the creation of an educational pamphlet to distribute to students, as well as interactive role-play by students that addressed potential consequences from engaging in risky sexual behaviors due to alcohol use. The Panhellenic Council president felt that an open forum including information on alcohol policy and the effects of alcohol would engage students.

Results

Attainment of Goal and Objectives

The goal of the change project was to receive a commitment from the Greek community leadership to include sexual health and risky sexual behaviors information in the risk awareness seminars. The Interfraternity and Panhellenic council presidents committed to including information on risky sexual behaviors, STD and HIV awareness, and alcohol consumption in the risk awareness seminars. Assurance was given that healthy and safe sexual practices would be a major focus of the risk awareness seminars for Fall 2005. In addition, the Panhellenic Council president documented all of the planning and research to encourage future seminar planners to include sexual health education. In fall 2005, approximately 1,500 Greek students entering fraternities and sororities participated in the risk awareness seminar, and an additional 1,000 students completed the seminar in spring 2006. Unfortunately, the health educators and Greek Life Administration did not collect demographic information on individuals attending the risk awareness seminars. Therefore, the demographic makeup of these groups could not be determined, representing a significant limitation.

Two important objectives were established, both of which were accomplished during the course of this project. The first objective was to establish relationships between the Student Health Center, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Sorority Council, and Greek Student Affairs Administration. The second objective of the project was to increase awareness among Greek leadership of the importance of including risky sexual behavior training in their risk awareness seminars. During initial brainstorming meetings, the Panhellenic Council president requested specific information about the university’s student population to create a pamphlet for participants in the risk awareness seminars. The health educator offered help in developing a pamphlet and offered to update the information as needed. The connection between the health educator and the council president was helpful in standardizing the sexual health information in the risk awareness seminars.

Evaluation of Force Field Analysis

The force field analysis was an accurate depiction of the anticipated events for the change project. Despite identifying individuals as critical or facilitating actors, not all individuals participated because of personal and professional time conflicts. Due to an unforeseen personal predicament, the Interfraternity Council president was unable to participate in the change project. His removal did not impede the change project because the Panhellenic president actively participated and played a key role in organizing the Greek risk awareness seminars. Due to scheduling changes, one of the University’s health educators was unable to participate in the meetings. However, the personal and professional time conflicts did not affect the overall outcomes of the project. All decision-makers were amenable to including information on risky sexual behaviors in the risk awareness seminars. They recognized the risk to Greek students and were more than willing to include the sexual health education component. Although decision-makers provided little resistance, it is difficult to determine whether educators relayed the information in a non-stigmatizing manner or whether students created obstacles for others by stigmatizing the sexual health information.

Target population and Target System

In evaluating the engagement of the target population, it is apparent that the project could have included more members of the Greek council and members of the Greek student body to provide a representative group of potential beneficiaries and benefactors. The Panhellenic Council president agreed to include the risky sexual behavior information in the risk awareness seminars, thereby successfully including the education component identified in the target system. By agreeing to include this new topic in the risk awareness seminars, the Panhellenic Council president helped to ensure the inclusion of sexual health information in future seminars.

Limitations

There were several limitations related to this process that should be considered. First, the student change agents transferred the responsibility of disseminating the sexual health information to the health educators and the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils, none of whom routinely gathered demographic information on individuals completing the risk awareness seminars. Therefore, the characteristics of those individuals participating in the risk awareness seminars are unknown. Second, this process did not include an evaluation of students’ attitudes or behaviors following the educational session, so the immediate or long-term changes in Greek students’ attitudes toward risky sexual behavior and alcohol and substance use also remain unknown. Lastly, the Multicultural Greek and National Pan-Hellenic Council leadership did not participate in the planning process. Therefore, the planning and brainstorming sessions represent a limited perspective and the delivery of the sexual health information may lack an important cultural perspective.

Discussion

The purpose of this paper was to present an approach for addressing risky sexual behavior and substance use among a Greek student body at high risk for STDs and HIV contraction. Utilizing this approach, student change agents obtained commitments from Greek organization leaders, a university administrator, and university health educators to incorporate sexual health information into risk awareness seminars. Administrators, Greek leadership, and health educators presented this information to 1,500 (fall) and 1,000 (spring) Greek students in the 2005-2006 academic year. In subsequent years, administrators and Greek leadership have continued to present this information to incoming Greek students. By empowering the Greek student leadership to promote healthy sexual practices, the Greek student body was be exposed to educational material that hopefully will increase their awareness of how risky sexual behaviors affect their potential exposure to STDs/HIV.

Risky sexual behaviors, coupled with inappropriate alcohol use, represent a significant problem among college age students that leaves them vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (Halpern-Felsher, Millstein, & Ellen, 1996; Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2003). This risk is higher for members of Greek communities because alcohol and substance misuse resonate through their social activities (Larimer et al., 1997; Wechsler et al., 1996). Finding an appropriate venue for distributing information and preparing incoming students for Greek life is a challenge that is only complicated by the stigma associated with STD/HIV testing and prevention efforts. College students are the least knowledgeable about STD/HIV infection rates among their group (Opt & Loffredo, 2004). Additionally, stigma, limited exposure to information about STDs/HIV, perceived severity of the disease, and perceived consequences of infection influence whether college students pursue testing (Barth et al., 2002). Therefore, interventions and strategies that identify and address multiple facets of the target system are needed. Institutions and organizations may often omit the critical relationship between alcohol and sexual health practices or neglect to address the role that norms play in guiding risky sexual behavior and alcohol use among students.

In instances where vulnerabilities are supported by existing educational deficiencies and organizational reinforcement, it is necessary for interventions to identify existing community support and resources to implement change. Furthermore, it is important for universities and Greek organizations to present sexual health information that raises awareness and promotes responsible and healthy sexual practices (e.g., condom use and testing). Drawing from Brager and Holloway (2002), the social action approach provides health professionals, organizations, and institutions a systematic method for recognizing and addressing risk for various populations.

Future change projects could benefit from broadening critical and facilitating actors. Inclusion of the student population is likely to harness additional support, creativity, and engagement of the target population and aid coordinators in identifying underlying forces not clearly accessible to outside groups. In addition, including leaders from the Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Sorority Council in the planning process represents an important perspective that was not present. Including leaders who represent diversity could assist in determining whether the material presented was sensitive to a broader range of Greek students. By noting these improvements, future change projects could prove to be greatly successful and beneficial to universities or communities in need.

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About the Authors

Naomi Sleap is a project coordinator for the Florida State College Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation in Jacksonville. Allyce Heflin is staff director for the Florida House of Representatives’ PreK-12 Appropriations Committee. Adrian J. Archuleta is an assistant professor at the Kent School of Social Work, University of Louisville. Wendy P. Crook was an associate professor in the College of Social Work at Florida State University. Since the completion of this manuscript, Wendy Crook has passed way and we would like to acknowledge her amazing contributions not only to this research but also to this world. The positions and analyses presented in this article are the authors’ and theirs alone.

Youth-Centered Service-Learning: Exploring the Professional Implications for College Studentsice-Learning: Exploring the Professional Implications for College Students

Russell L. Carson and Elizabeth A. Domangue

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the professional impact that a youth-centered service-learning program had on college students. Participants were 34 undergraduate students (28 females, 6 males) enrolled in an academic core course that integrated Lifetime Exercise and Physical Activity Service-Learning (LE PAS), an after-school program developed to address the physical and social needs of hurricane displaced K-5 youth living in a travel trailer community. The students worked in LE PAS-related activities and completed a series of reflections. Inductive analysis revealed that a youth-centered service-learning program was effective for (a) getting college students to think seriously about working with youth professionally, and (b) discovering and adopting valuable strategies for working with youth.

Introduction

Concerns about the daunting issues facing today’s children and youth (obesity, drugs, and crime, for example), especially in economically deprived settings (Ball & Crawford, 2005), and undergraduate students’ wavering interest in and attitudes toward working with culturally diverse children (Barnes, 2006; Proctor, Rentz, & Jackson, 2001), have motivated educators to find ways to attract future professionals to work with young populations (Ingersoll, 2002; Merrow, 1999). Interspersed shortages in early child care, education, recreation, and other youth-related fields are becoming more and more common (Howard, 2003). One largely overlooked strategy that has great potential for increasing the supply of youth-oriented professionals is service-learning.

Service-Learning

Service-learning is a hands-on experience that simultaneously fulfills a local community need and the learning goals of an academic course (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). While this form of real-world learning, also referred to as community service learning, can take many shapes (Eyler & Giles, 1999), it is essential that both the community and the students benefit; that is, the service must be meaningful to the community while enriching the learning of the student. Researchers have added a third element to service-learning, purposeful civic learning. This element highlights how this forum of learning prepares students to be future contributors to their communities. (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Howard, 2001). Programs that fall short of these ingredients, or that emphasize one ingredient more than others, should not be referred to as service-learning (Eyler & Giles, 1999; Howard, 2001; Richardson, 2006).

The central thread between the meaningful service provided to the community and the enriched educational growth of the students is reflection. Reflection can come in many different written and oral forms—reflective journals, class discussions, directed readings, personal narratives, directed writings, and reflective interviews, for example). Reflection is most effective when it incorporates the “4 C’s”: (a) continuous—is undertaken throughout the service-learning experience; (b) connected—is directly related to the course objectives; (c) challenging—demands high quality student effort and facilitates instructor feedback; and (d) contextualized—complements the level and type of learning activities of the course (Eyler, Giles, & Schmiede, 1996).

Youth-Oriented Service-Learning

Service-learning programs have been implemented in higher education courses throughout the United States since the mid-1970s (Zlotkowski, 1998); yet, it was not until the mid-1990s that service-learning principles surfaced within the course syllabi of child-centered programs (Anderson, Swick, & Yff, 2001). Since then, the presence of service-learning within mainstream youth circles has ballooned. The most common examples include placing future teachers in school- or community-based field settings (Baldwin, Buchanan, Rudisell, 2007; Domangue & Carson, 2008; Hale, 2008; Malone, Jones, & Stallings, 2002; Potthoff, Dinsmore, & Eifler, 2000; Slavkin, 2002; Strage, Meyers, & Norris, 2002; Vickers, Harris, & McCarthy, 2006); or involving teachers and K-12 students themselves in the design and implementation of service-learning assignments at local schools (Nelson & Eckstein, 2008).

Research pertaining to youth-oriented service-learning programs has predominately focused on documenting the academic, behavioral, or civic learning outcomes acquired by those providing the needed public service (e.g., preservice teachers) or those receiving the needed public service (e.g., youth). Findings have clearly demonstrated that service-learning can significantly increase both providers’ and receivers’ personal identity and esteem, interpersonal and leadership skills, sense of civic and social responsibility, cultural and racial understanding, connectedness to school and each other, application of course content, and, for receivers only, academic skills and knowledge, school attendance, motivation to learn, and graduation likelihood (Eyler, Giles, Stenson, & Gray, 2001).

Another body of research suggests that service-learning contributes to the future intentions of those involved, whether it is in their commitment to service or future engagement in community organizations (Astin, Sax, & Avalos, 1999; Yates & Youniss, 1996). However, what is less known is the impact that service-learning has on participants’ future career endeavors. In a literature review, Richardson (2006) concluded that service-learning has been successful in enabling participants to become more knowledgeable and realistic about their careers. Perhaps, service-learning might not only have the power to increase career awareness, but also to attract future professionals to certain careers.

Given the pressing employment needs in youth fields today, it seemed important to investigate how service-learning can influence the careers aspirations of college students. Thus our purpose was to explore the professional impact of a youth-centered service-learning program on college students.

Method

Participants and Course Description

The participants were 34 upper division undergraduate student (28 females and 6 males, of whom 27 were Caucasian Americans, two were African-Americans, two were Hispanic Americans, one was Asian American, and two were self-identified as “other”) enrolled in an academic core course at Louisiana State University. The main objective of the course, Lifespan Motor Development, was for students to develop an understanding of the age-related changes in human motor behavior (e.g., reflexes, locomotor skill, fine motor skills, object-control skills) from infancy to adulthood, and the cognitive, social, and physical processes that underlie these changes. The course is a requirement for all allied health, rehabilitation, wellness, and athletic training majors at LSU. It is generally conducted in a lecture-style format. Students are assessed via exams, a presentation, and a series of assignments. Beginning in the spring semester of 2007, LE PAS was integrated into the course as an assignment.

Service-Learning Program: LE PAS

Following the destruction of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the fall of 2005, government-funded travel-trailer communities were established throughout the Southeast to house evacuating families. An array of local and state service providers, including universities, responded to the immediate and long-term needs of these evacuees. Services that targeted youth focused on increasing their educational outcomes and life success through stable, safe, and structured homework and after-school activities. LE PAS was one of the many valuable after-school programs provided at the largest government-funded, temporary living community (1,600+ residents, 550+ trailers) in the United States at the time.

The purpose of LE PAS was to address the physical and social needs of children and teens displaced by the hurricanes, while allowing college students the opportunity to authentically experience course content relative to teaching methods in physical education (see Carson, 2008) and the motor development process in childhood and adolescence. LE PAS took place four days a week for two hours a day in conjunction with an after-school tutoring program. During the first hour, general education service-learning students tutored the youth who then went outside to participate in physical activities led by either a LE PAS instructor (a graduate student or paid LE PAS students from previous semesters) or undergraduate LE PAS students. The outdoor activities varied, but generally included some form of aerobic/rhythmic movements, cooperative challenges, or lifetime sports. Before the closure of the housing community, LE PAS was in place for five consecutive semesters, enlisting a total of 141 undergraduate service-learning students, and serving an average of 28 children and 12 teens a day.

Procedures and Data Sources

This study was conducted across the spring and summer semesters of 2007. At the onset, we obtained Institutional Review Board approval and the students’ informed consent. We also verbally emphasized to the students that participation was voluntary and in no way would affect their course grade. Data transcription and analysis did not commence until after the summer 2007 semester had concluded.

Prior to the first visit to the service-learning site, all participants completed a study-designed questionnaire that pertained to their previous youth-related work or volunteer experiences, future career plans, and initial thoughts about how LE PAS might impact their career choices. Then, as part of the service-learning portion of the class, participants were required to provide the displaced youth with five hours of service throughout the semester. Participants fulfilled this requirement by either organizing and leading LE PAS outdoor activity sessions or assisting with after-school tutoring. Throughout the service-learning experience, participants were asked to (a) reflect on each visit in a course journal, (b) contribute to in-class discussions related to LE PAS, and (c) reflect on the entire experience by writing an overall, more thorough, final reflection. These reflections were guided by questions that addressed their concrete experiences (e.g., “What happened at the community service site?”), academic learning (e.g., “What did you learn about the course content as a result of your involvement today?”), and personal and professional growth (e.g., “What impact might your service have on your career path?”). The instructor also recorded personal observations and reflections in a journal, which was later transcribed and used as a data source along with students’ course journals and final reflections.

Service-learning course credit was based on the number of LE PAS participating hours and corresponding reflections students completed throughout the semester, not on the content of their journals or final reflections. Therefore, college students were encouraged to reflect freely and openly.

Data Analysis and Trustworthiness

Data were inductively analyzed (Patton, 2002) using the three-step process of open, axial, and selective coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). That is, the central ideas of the journals and reflections were first labeled and grouped into conceptually similar categories, which were deepened from the close examination of related and unrelated meanings, and finally constructed into larger relational statements or themes that resemble the essential elements of interrelated categories. The results of this study, therefore, are grounded in and abstracted from the data rather than being imposed a priori from preconceived premonitions or propositions. We attempted to minimize some degree of researcher bias or distortion by having a second researcher, who was not involved in LE PAS in any way, conduct all analyses. Final interpretations were member checked and shared with a peer debriefer, who was also unrelated to the research studies of LE PAS, to ensure that findings were trustworthy and dependable. Participant and service site anonymity were maintained through the use of pseudonyms.

Results

LE PAS provided a unique opportunity for the college students to become involved in a service-learning experience. Many were enrolled in the university when Hurricane Katrina struck, and LE PAS allowed them to give back to the residents who were affected. Susan emphasized an important reason for providing the youth-aged residents with regular physical activities, when she wrote:

Due to their circumstances, some of the family members may feel extra stress in their lives. It is especially important during times like this that exercise be incorporated into people’s lives. Not only does exercise increase health, but it can decrease stress, which is important in times of turmoil.

The college students not only were able to provide physical activities for the youth, but also found significance in the work they were doing. Cassie stated:

It has to be hard to have your home completely destroyed and have to live in a trailer for two years. These children were taken out of their comfort zones and placed in an area and school that they probably never even heard of before the storm. The families had to start all over and make the best of a bad situation. They are hanging in there, and the kids are actually benefiting from this experience.

The empathy these college students felt perhaps served as a springboard to allow them to make meaningful connections to their future interests and career paths.

Two themes emerged pertaining to how college students’ involvement in LE PAS impacted them professionally. First, LE PAS allowed college students to confirm or discover a future career in youth service fields. Second, college students realized and adopted valuable strategies for working with youth. The remainder of this section will explore these themes.

Confirming and Discovering a Career Path 

That Includes Youth Populations

This theme is significant due to the fact that only 8 of the 34 college students initially believed their career paths would entail working in youth-centered environments. For example, Julia, who already assisted youth at a pediatric physical therapist clinic, expressed a continued interest in serving youth due to her enjoyable LE PAS experiences.

Additional comments echo these sentiments.

[Susan] This opportunity to work with children at New Start Village [service-learning site] has really been a glimpse into the future. I want to go into pediatric physical therapy, and it may be that I will have a child in my care whose family goes through what these families have gone through.

[Ashlee]My experience…[in LE PAS] was an important learning lesson. I will be able to take what I have learned and apply it to my future career as a nurse. As a nurse, I want to work with children. I believe that working with the children was similar to the interactions that I will experience as a nurse.

Cameron presented an alternative way to continue working with youth. In addition to her goal of being a coach, she stated that after participating in LE PAS, she now plans on finding ways to get her student-athletes involved in community service activities. She commented:

[LE PAS] has encouraged me to do more around me…when I become a coach.… It will be extremely important to me to always be involved in the community…and to share that feeling with the girls that I will coach.

By the end of the service-learning program, there were 14 students who either reconsidered their initial career paths to include youth populations or expressed a new-found interest in assisting children in the future. As a result of working with the youth in LE PAS, Mary, who previously was uninterested in a youth-oriented career, wrote:

Before this experience, I planned on focusing my future career aspirations on rehabilitation. Whereas, now I would also like to help promote physical activity among youth, especially due to the rising epidemic of childhood obesity. At first, I was more interested in dealing with individuals around my age because it is easier to relate to them than those not in my age group. I am now considering working with younger populations.

Molly is another example of a student who originally did not intend to choose a youth-oriented career path. However, after her experiences in LE PAS, she stated that a career in pediatric medicine is now a very realistic option for her. She wrote: “If I were to go into pediatrics I would be able to use the knowledge that I’ve gained from forming relationships with these kids to form relationships with my future patients.”

Although each student’s future career plans were unique, this service-learning experience appeared to open the door to new considerations and possibilities.

While the professional horizons of several participants were expanded to youth settings, not all of the students arrived at this conclusion. Eleven of the students revealed that the service-learning experience had less of an impact on their future plans. Laura reflected: “I know from this experience that this [age group] is not a population I would work well with.” Her comments reiterate the important role of reflection in service-learning; without reflection Laura might not have come to this career realization.

Adopting Strategies to Reach Youth

Through meaningful connections to their service efforts, the college students were able to learn, adopt, and adapt effective strategies for working with the youth of LE PAS, which seemingly had identifiable career implications. One valuable method they learned when relating to and involving children was the power of making activities fun. Once many of the students realized that it was important for both them and the children to have positive movement experiences, they were able to reconsider how to structure and organize the activities to include a high level of enjoyment for everyone. Patrice wrote:

It challenged me to think of fun ideas and games, to make sure the kids were having fun. For example, instead of just playing catch for thirty minutes, I had to think of ways to make the game a little bit more challenging and fun.

Likewise, Sarah stated: “This experience has taught me to never underestimate how much of an impact you can have on someone by simply playing a game.” She also discussed a time during her involvement in LE PAS when a child told her that he had never had so much fun. Similarly, Jessie realized the impact that “having fun” had on the children. She wrote: “I think the most significant aspect of service-learning is experiencing the kids’ joy. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing how much fun they were having.”

A valuable lesson Susan learned from observing and interacting with the children was that, “No matter how hard life gets, you can always put on a smile.” Her experiences in LE PAS increased her fervor to adapt exercise and physical activity so that it is fun and exciting. She astutely noted: “The more fun people have at exercising, the more likely they are going to stick with it and incorporate it into their daily lives.”

The students learned the power of fun not only by observing the children having fun, but by having fun themselves. Andrea reflected: “…working with them [kids] you have to…know that they are kids and just want to have fun….Being with kids allowed me to loosen up and just have a good time.” Julia agreed:

No matter what my attitude was going to the site, the second a little kid smiled, it was as if everything that was going wrong suddenly did not matter. I could feel sick or have a ton of homework that I needed to do, but once I got there and saw the kids, the other stuff faded to the back of my mind and no longer mattered. It was a whole body recharge. Playing with the kids made every problem in my life become insignificant. My focus became making what time I had with them enjoyable and hopefully memorable.

Marcus expressed similar reactions to the fun he shared with the youth. He wrote:

Before going to New Start Village, I didn’t expect to gain much from the experience. I considered it just another assignment which I had to get done…. But after the first trip, I found myself looking forward to the next one. The great thing I’ve always found about kids is that they allow me to forget my own age. I can act silly, forget about all the other responsibilities and commitments in my schedule, and just have fun.

These reflections emphasize the need for service-learning students to recognize that their contributions are not just unidirectional.

Enjoying the service-learning experience was not the only strategy learned when working with children; two other strategies emerged from the reflections. The college students became aware of the importance of being creative to spark youths’ interests. For example, Alexis wrote: “Having this experience really taught me that I have to be able to be creative in order to keep the child’s…attention.” Additionally, college students learned the importance of maintaining patience, which is an essential strategy in all careers paths. Camille reflected:

I feel that this experience will help me out with some of my future plans. I plan on going into the field of pediatric cardiology. The interaction with children was definitely a learning experience for me. They helped me to build the patience that I know I will need in the future.

Similarly, Anna acknowledged: “…I believe that this experience could affect my future career. I think it helped me with having patience with other people, especially since you may not know what they are going through at the time.” Although Anna plans to be a personal trainer and does not intend to work with youth in her future, she acknowledged that the skills gained from her LE PAS experiences can be applied across the lifespan.

Discussion

The purpose of this study was to explore how a youth-centered service-learning program influenced college students professionally. Findings support the professional impact of a youth-oriented service-learning program, as two-thirds (22 of 34) LE PAS appeared to alter their preconceived notions of children. Moreover, the participants also learned successful methods for working with youth populations, such as the power of fun, creativity, and patience, which they felt would be helpful in any career path.

There are several explanations for why LE PAS might have influenced the decisions of college students to serve youth in their future. First, this service-learning program provided the college students with an impressionable positive experience with children that, to most, was seemingly unexpected. Certainly, the LE PAS experiences reaffirmed the professional interests and passion of those already striving for a career in a youth field. However, for almost half of the college students, LE PAS appeared to alter their preconceived notions of children. The structure of LE PAS, with planned, movement-related activities as the focus of each session, allowed initially unenthused college students to interact with youth in a fun and meaningful way. For many of the college students, this was their first time leading movement activities for youth, giving them the opportunity to increase their confidence and attitude toward youth.

Second, it appeared that the college students felt their service really mattered. This is not too surprising given that service-learning is expected to result in some tangible community benefit (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). But the observed gains in the LE PAS youth struck a deep human chord with the college students that seemed to fuel a need for similar experiences in the future. One possible reason for the future impact of this human connection is that they probably experienced frequent success reaching youth. Due to the harsh circumstances in New Start Village, it is highly possible that the college students felt the youth benefited from their efforts each and every visit. These feelings could have easily carried over to a belief that they could reenact similar feelings again in the future with other youth populations.

Third, the outcomes of any form of service-learning cannot be realized without reflection. The assignment of a youth-oriented service-learning program might have been a rewarding experience to college students, but in all likelihood would have probably been less influential on their careers if reflection were not part of the process. Following the recommendations of Eyler et al. (1996), college students were constantly asked to specifically reflect on the career implication of the service-learning experience. While this was not an easy connection for everyone, this study confirmed that the reflection process did instill greater career awareness in college students–whether confirming one’s professional interest (or disinterest) in working with children or learning strategies that can apply to any future job settings (Astin et al., 1999).

Related to reflection, and crucial to uncovering this study’s findings, is the need for service-learning coordinators to consider college students’ initial perspectives or apprehensions toward working in youth-oriented settings. Through such inquiries, instructors can gain insight into college students’ perceived strengths and weaknesses regarding youth, while also accessing information that can assist in the development of a service-learning program that is sensitive to previous experiences and perceptions. For individuals who have future plans to work with youth, the instructor can shape the environment so that it provides opportunities for these students to maintain their youth-oriented career interests while learning useful career-related skills. If the instructor discovers that individuals are disinterested or have trepidations toward working with youth-aged populations, the instructor can provide these students with helpful tools to work with the targeted population.

This study found three tools to be helpful for college students when working with children: having fun, being creative, and maintaining patience. These three tools have previously been shown to be effective for motivating children in education settings (Garn & Cothran, 2006; Weinstein, 1989; Ward, Wilkinson, Vincent-Graser, & Prusak, 2008), and this study indicated that they are also beneficial to those working with children. Regardless of career aspiration, college students realized that the lessons learned from serving youth (e.g., enjoying the task at hand, challenging oneself to be imaginative when meeting goals, and recognizing that individuals acquire knowledge/skills at different paces) are also applicable to most professions, especially in service-oriented settings. This study highlighted that working with youth allowed college students to broaden their professional skill set and thus enhance their career path.

Practical Implications

The suggestions we offer to service-learning coordinators as result of this study are threefold. First, expose college students to people of all ages in service-learning. As Gutheil & Chernesky (2006) found with older populations and we confirmed with youth, exposing college students to individuals outside of their initial interest can be an effective means for teaching college students about this population and attracting them to a related career. Second, include contemplative, career-oriented questions throughout the service-learning experience. As noted above, these questions might first be included at the outset of the service-learning experience as a barometer for how the service-learning experience might be shaped to meet college student needs. Sample pre-service-learning questions might include (a) what are your career plans?, (b) how do you see your career plan linked to this service-learning experience?, and (c) what do you think you might gain professionally from this service-learning experience? Similar questions could be included in the reflective process throughout the service-learning process as well. Besides those posed in the procedures section of this study, these questions might include (a) how did your career plan change as a result from today’s experience?, (b) how can you best use what you experienced today in your future career?, and, (c) professionally, did you gain what you thought you might gain from this experience? Third, give college students the freedom to have fun and be creative in youth-oriented service-learning settings. Adopting the same strategies college students learned from youth in this study could very well be successful in altering career decisions and mapping out future goals to include serving youth. Future research is needed to confirm this relationship.

Conclusion

This study is one of the first to examine how youth-centered service-learning influences the future interest and career paths of college students. This study examined how youth-centered service-learning impacts the future interest and career paths of college students. While college students only engaged in LE PAS for five hours throughout a semester, this service-learning experience with youth also allowed college students to recognize important strategies for working with children, all of which were believed to be significant skills they could use across ages groups and professions. Follow-up efforts should elucidate the actual long-term career effect from youth-centered service-learning programs.

References

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Notes

We sincerely thank a) Rosie O’Donnell’s For All Kids Foundation for building the spacious children’s plaza used for LE PAS, complete with playgrounds and open-play spaces, (b) Louisiana Campus Compact and LSU’s Department of Kinesiology for funding the graduate assistants and undergraduate students who served as LE PAS on site instructors, and (c) LSU’s College of Education, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and the U.S. Office of Public Health and Science, Department of Health and Human Services for the varied and developmentally appropriate equipment.

About the Authors

Russell L. Carson is an assistant professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University, where Elizabeth A. Domangue was a doctoral student until her recent employment by Harrison School District 2, Colorado Springs, CO, in the curriculum and assessment department. She was involved in programs at New Start Village from its opening to closure.

Exploring Career Implications for College Students

Students in an LSU service-learning program, some of whom are shown here, became more likely to consider working with children in the future and learned strategies for doing so effectively.

A Letter-Writing Campaign: Linking Academic Success and Civic Engagement

Regina A. Rochford and Susan Hock

Abstract

The goals of this project were to a) engage two classes of developmental writing students in a service-learning project to support the preservation of an on-campus historical site, and b) improve students’ scores on the ACT Writing Sample Assessment (WSA) exam. After touring the historical site, each advanced developmental writing student tutored a beginning English as a second language (ESL) learner as he/she drafted a letter. By advising the ESL students as they composed and modified their letters, the advanced writers contemplated, discussed, and improved their own skills, so that they were able to achieve passing scores on the WSA, which requires students to write persuasive letters. Moreover, through this project, the instructors effectively linked the academic study of rhetoric with community service by assisting Queensborough Community College and a historical society in preserving an important site and by helping students comprehend their role as valued citizens of the college community.

Introduction

How can two professors meaningfully incorporate service-learning into developmental writing courses whose students are predominantly full-time, low-income, community college students who work as many as 40 hours a week and have little time to spare? Moreover, how can a service-learning project assist in improving students’ scores on the WSA? These were the challenges encountered when two writing professors decided to integrate service-learning into two developmental writing classes.

In 2007, approximately 52 percent of incoming freshmen were placed in developmental writing courses after they failed to obtain the minimum score of 7 required to pass the WSA (Queensborough Community College Fact Book, 2008). Worse, after completing developmental writing courses, only 45.7 percent of the native speakers of English and 34.8 percent of the ESL learners achieved passing scores on the test.

Many academics have suggested that developmental students experience difficulty passing the WSA because they lack experience in composing persuasive letters in authentic situations (Deans, 2000). Moreover, although these students are instructed in this form of discourse before taking the ACT, they believe the practice topics and the test prompts are artificial and disconnected from their lives. Therefore, in an attempt to develop both a sense of civic responsibility and improve student achievement, we engaged their students in a service-learning project that required learners to write persuasive letters to gain the first level of landmark status for a noted historical site on campus.

Service-Learning and Developmental Writers

Service-learning is a teaching philosophy that integrates meaningful community work with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (Learn and Serve America’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, 2005). According to Kraemer (2005), developmental writing instructors who engage in service-learning often assert that this pedagogy prepares students for leadership roles in their careers and communities. It also assists them in seeing their assignments as publicly viewed acts, instead of mere pedantic writing assignments, because the students are writing for real audiences rather than just their instructors. In addition, composition students place more value on service-learning writing activities because they are more purposeful and consequential (Deans, 2000).

Course-based service-learning programs are more effective among writing students, especially when students can readily connect their service-learning activity to the course content (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, and Yee, 2000). Most important, service-learning has resulted in improved academic outcomes in critical thinking, grade point averages (GPAs), and writing skills (Astin et al.; Markus, Howard, & King, 1993). Prentice (2009) reported a higher rate of retention among developmental reading and writing students who participated in service-learning activities. Astin et al. also asserted that these results occur because the learners receive more emotional support from faculty and engage in more student-to-student discussion.

When first-year developmental reading and writing students at Queensborough Community College took part in a variety of short-term service-learning experiences, their GPAs and rates of retention increased, and they acquired significantly more college credits (Rochford, in press). This occurs because service-learning enhances the freshman experience by drawing students together to form a community of learners in which social, academic, and community integration occur (Stavrianopoulos, 2008). Furthermore, McCarthy (1996) reported that although one-time or short-term service-learning experiences may be limited, they provide a balance of challenge and support for students and can result in perceptual and attitudinal changes among participants. Stavrianopoulos also indicated that incoming freshmen who participated in a service-learning program were more engaged in their educational process and even energized by their involvement. Her study demonstrated that the integration of academic content and community service created a sense of connectedness between classroom learning and personal lives by transforming passive, rote classroom exercises into active engagement so that the students discovered the link between real life experiences and classroom learning. Kincaid and Sotiriou (2004) discovered that when first year composition students mentored intermediate ESL writers, both groups reported (a) an improvement in their basic writing skills, (b) a greater need to attend to details in their own writing, and (c) more willingness to scrutinize their work to make the corrections necessary for a polished product. We had these research experiences in mind when we decided to integrate service-learning into two writing courses.

The Service-Learning Assignment 

Goals of the Service-Learning Experience

The purpose of this project was three fold. The first goal was to initiate a letter-writing campaign for the Queens Historical Society to obtain a Queensmark for the Oakland building, a historical site on the campus of the Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York.. The second goal was to provide beginning ESL students with additional individualized tutoring as they learned to compose and organize basic compositions. The third goal was to enhance the writing skills of the advanced developmental writers to help them pass the WSA.

Historical Significance of the Oakland Building

In 1645, the Dutch governor of New Netherlands granted John Hicks one of the first grants to assume ownership of the land on which the Oakland building was erected years later. In 1845, this parcel was passed down to the Lawrence family, who built the Oaks Mansion. It is believed that the name “Oakland” was derived from the name of this mansion. In 1859, John Taylor cultivated the property into a horticultural enterprise. However, after his death, his son developed the Oakland Golf Course, a private country club that maintained very exclusive membership that included prominent wealthy New Yorkers such as Bernard Baruch, H.F. du Pont, and Frederick Steinway. In the early 1920s, the Oakland building was constructed as a clubhouse for this elite golf course. In 1952, the golf course became a public facility. In the early 1960s, to alleviate overcrowding in local schools, the City of New York purchased the golf course so that Queensborough Community College, Benjamin Cardozo High School, and Public School 203 could be built. The Oakland building is the college’s oldest structure. It sits on a hilltop overlooking the entire campus. It currently houses a modern museum and contains works by many contemporary artists, although the structure still retains many of its original 1920s architectural features, all of which are enjoyed by the college and surrounding communities (The Oakland Golf Club: A History, 2008).

The Oakland Service-Learning Experience

This service-learning project was implemented in two developmental writing classes. One class consisted of learners from an advanced developmental composition course for native speakers of English, while the other class contained beginning ESL composition students. The students were first introduced to this project when the Queens Historical Society executive director visited their classes and provided a lecture and literature about the history of the Oakland building. The purpose of this session was to explain the historical significance of the Oakland building in the preservation of Queens and the role of the Queens Historical Society in this community. After the executive director provided an overview, she distributed brochures and documents for the students to read and discuss. The literature included: (a) The Oakland Golf Club: A History (2008); (b) The Landmark Process (2008), which specifies the requirements for landmark status in New York City; (c) a Request for Evaluation (1999), a form completed when an organization applies for landmark status; and (d) applications for the Students’ Preservation Council of Queens. This council permits students to join an advisory committee that works in conjunction with the Queens Historical Society to determine if buildings in Queens County merit the distinction of a Queensmark due to their outstanding architectural, cultural, or historical significance.

During the in-class presentation, the ESL students were quiet and made few inquiries. However, when the instructors and their students stood outside the Oakland building to compare its exterior to the old pictures in the literature, the students began to enthusiastically discuss their observations.

After they entered the building, the students were immediately impressed by the beautiful interior and the art exhibits in the lobby. At this point, the curator appeared and escorted the group through the entire facility. As he explained the exhibits and the history of each room with interesting anecdotes, he also shared photographs of the interior as it had appeared over the past 90 years. By the end of the tour, both the students and teachers were captivated by this historical structure and the rich history it brought to a modern community college campus filled with functional buildings. After the tour ended and the students were free to leave, many remained in and around the building discussing its charm and trying to comprehend why it had not yet received any form of landmark status. Clearly, the students were excited about participating in this letter-writing campaign.

After the tour, each advanced composition student was assigned an ESL tutee and was required to coach this pupil in composing a persuasive letter to support the preservation of the Oakland building through a Queensmark. Both the ESL and advanced writers were informed that each letter should include: (a) a clear introduction that specified the main idea; (b) two body paragraphs that began with topic sentences and contained appropriate and accurate supporting details; (c) a conclusion; and (d) accurate spelling, grammar, and transition words. This activity obligated the advanced composition students to: (a) verify that a suitable introduction was provided; (b) recommend corrections to body paragraphs that lacked clear topic sentences; (c) clarify why certain supporting details were inappropriate, insufficient, or redundant; (d) suggest how to develop thoughts; and (e) correct any sentences that obscured meaning.

Although the first two tutoring sessions occurred during class time, the remaining sessions were conducted in the Basic Skills Learning Center so that both groups of students could request the guidance of a trained tutor or the use of a computer. In addition, the students maintained reflection journals in which they expressed their thoughts about the project as it progressed throughout the semester.

After the advanced writing students completed several tutoring sessions and their ESL tutees submitted their letters, the advanced learners were then instructed to compose their own letters, which required three body paragraphs instead of two and more elaborate supporting details. Through advising the ESL students as they drafted and modified their letters, the advanced developmental students would contemplate, discuss, and improve their own writing skills. This process would increase the likelihood that they would pass the WSA, which requires students to write organized, well-developed, persuasive letters. In addition, through this project, the instructors effectively linked the academic study of writing with community service by assisting the college and the Queens Historical Society in preserving an important historical site and by helping students comprehend their role as citizens of the college community.

Thus, this service-learning project moved developmental writing students out of the classroom and engaged them in: (a) the observation of an authentic historical site; (b) a genuine letter-writing campaign during which they corresponded with real audiences; (c) civic participation and responsibility; and (d) reflection about their individual learning experiences.

Discussion of the Results

Since this project produced many positive results, this section will discuss each of these findings individually. Although some statistically verifiable results were achieved, many of the more subtle outcomes were gleaned from teacher observations, as well as from the students’ and instructors’ reflection journals.

Academic Achievement

When the semester began, the advanced developmental writing students exhibited extremely weak writing skills, especially in producing supporting details. However, as a result of reading, analyzing, and interpreting information from the Queens Historical Society and tutoring their ESL partners, they became adept at creating lengthy, well-organized paragraphs containing an average of 10 sentences. As experienced writing instructors will attest, it is unusual for so many weak writers to make such progress in one semester. It appears these skills transferred to their other writing activities because these students earned a mean WSA score of 7.07, a passing score.

In fact, 67 percent of this class scored a passing rate, considerably higher than the average college passing rate of 45.7 percent. The project also appears to have had an indirect effect on the advanced writing students’ ACT Reading Compass scores, as they achieved a mean score of 76.68, in contrast to the nonparticipants’ mean of 74 (Rochford, in press). Clearly, these scores reflect remarkable progress, and they corroborate the findings of Kincaid and Sotiriou (2004), Astin et al., and Markus, Howard, and King (1993), who reported academic improvements among students who took part in service-learning activities.

In addition, after the advanced composition students worked with their ESL tutees and discussed relevant information to be included in the ESL learners’ letters, the advanced writers discovered even more information to incorporate into their own persuasive letters. Moreover, because the entry-level ESL students had limited lexical ability, the advanced composition students were required to point out and correct vocabulary issues. As a result of this discourse, the advanced composition writers reported being more cognizant of their own lexical limitations, and thereby improved their vocabulary, too.

Throughout this project, the advanced writers indicated a recurring concern: How could they be expected to assist the ESL students when their own writing ability was so inadequate? However, at midterm, the advanced developmental students provided their instructor with positive feedback when they revealed that working with the ESL students had heightened their awareness of their own deficiencies so that they had become more skilled at revising their letters. These findings are consistent with those of Kincaid and Sotiriou (2004), who reported improvements in basic writing skills when English composition students tutored ESL students. In the future, it is suggested that the advanced writers use their reflection journals to record some of the writing issues they have identified and corrected by tutoring ESL students .

The advanced developmental writing students also revealed how much they admired the work ethic of the ESL students. Both instructors reasoned that the ESL learners’ positive attitude and diligence permeated the learners in the advanced writing class and ultimately cultivated improvements in the native speakers’ attitude toward their writing. Consequently, this experience proved to be a great motivator for the advanced developmental writers, and it supports the findings of McCarthy (1996), who indicated that short-term service-learning experiences can generate an improvement in students’ attitudes.

Lastly, at the end of the semester, the advanced developmental students also learned how to post their letters on the college’s E-Portfolio system. Many students asserted that this activity was a useful organizational tool because it provided the opportunity to re-read their letters and engage in reflection, an essential ingredient of service-learning. Most important, it gave each student the chance to take ownership of his/her hard work.

When the advanced developmental writers first began to tutor their ESL partners, the instructors repeatedly heard the tutors informing their ESL tutees that they hadn’t included topic sentences. This feedback was anticipated inasmuch as beginning ESL writers often experience difficulty crafting topic sentences in learning to draft body paragraphs. However, after the ESL students submitted their letters, every letter contained well-written, clear, topic sentences. Likewise, the ESL students in the service-learning class continued to use topic sentences correctly in their subsequent compositions. In contrast, the ESL instructor noticed that in her other beginning ESL composition class that did not participate in the service-learning project, these ESL writers struggled with composing accurate topic sentences throughout the semester. This anecdotal evidence suggests that ESL students in the service-learning class obtained a deeper and more meaningful level of knowledge as a consequence of the discussions they engaged in with their peer tutors about topic sentences.

Next, although the ESL students were required to read many complex historical documents about the Oakland building and received no guidance from their instructor in comprehending this literature, judging from their ability to discuss this information accurately and effectively in their letters, they were able to understand the text. A comparison of these students to the other learners enrolled in this beginning ESL writing course during the same semester yielded no statistically significant results for the WSA or the Compass Reading exam; however, the ESL students who participated in this service-learning experience achieved slightly higher GPAs and completed more college credits. The instructors believe that the ESL learners’ comprehension and writing skills were enhanced enough to produce slight improvements because this project permitted them to hear, see, touch, discuss, and immerse themselves in an authentic topic instead of one contrived by their teachers.

Overall, these findings indicate that the ESL tutees (those receiving the information) did not reap as many academic benefits as their tutors in the advanced writing class. That is, the design of this service-learning task did not place tutees in a situation where they had to understand and articulate reading material and writing techniques.

This observation suggests the need to design a service-learning experience to permit entry-level ESL students to coach elementary school children as they learn to read, thereby affording the ESL learners the opportunity to enhance their English language proficiency and their reading and writing skills in a less sophisticated environment.

Civic Responsibility

As a result of this service-learning project, the students acquired an in-depth awareness and appreciation for the rich history of the Oakland building and the college. Moreover, because of the students’ efforts, the Oakland building received the distinction of a Queensmark, which is the equivalent of a Queens landmark. This project also introduced the possibility of obtaining the status of a New York City landmark for this site. Furthermore, after the advanced composition class read a New York Times article about a Columbia University service-learning project that permitted students to perform volunteer work for credits (Santora, 2008), they realized that service-learning had implications beyond their project. This notion was further enhanced when the concept of community service was emphasized in the platforms of both 2008 presidential candidates. Thus, as a result of this service-learning project, these readings, and the presidential election, our students began to view service in a broader context, and became more motivated to engage in civic action and to be good citizens at their school and in their communities.

Moreover, since the college was experiencing serious budget cuts at this time, the amount of tutoring that could be offered was severely limited. However, by participating in this project, the students in the advanced writing course provided their ESL tutees with many hours of one-on-one individual assistance at no cost to the college.

Student Fulfillment and Socialization

Although the ceremony for the Queensmark occurred after the semester had ended and the grades had been submitted, many students from both classes voluntarily attended this service, which included their instructors, high-level college officials, representatives from the Queens Historical Society, and the press. These developmental students, who often indicate that they feel marginalized in the college setting (Chaves, 2006), were astonished by the fact that their letters had prompted this occasion and that the college president and a New York Daily News reporter wished to speak to them about their individual contributions, while their instructors sat quietly in the background and watched them glow.

This service-learning project not only benefited the college; it also simultaneously empowered developmental students to flourish academically and understand their worth in the college community. It should be noted that many students attend this community college because they are academically ineligible for a public-four year college. Thus, they often perceive themselves as second-class citizens (Chaves, 2006), marginalized and humiliated, especially when they are placed in remedial courses. However, this service-learning project appears to have alleviated this stigma by demonstrating the value of these learners in the college community, and it supports the findings of Stavrianopoulos (2008), who stated that service-learning experiences draw students together to form a community of learners in which social, academic, and community integration occurs.

The project also offered students exposure to the artwork in the Oakland building. When the students visited the art gallery at the beginning of the term, they viewed an exhibit entitled Blossoms and Fantasies by Yelina Tylkina, a renowned Eastern European artist. The students were intrigued by this artist’s use of vibrant color and the unconventional nature of her work. During the tour, the students also viewed the gallery’s permanent collection and were impressed by its extensiveness. Many indicated that they had no idea that the college offered such a rich cultural experience that was free. Furthermore, later in the semester, several learners returned to the Art Gallery during their free time with family and friends.

One student in particular benefited strikingly from the assignment. Before this project commenced, this learner had refused to complete any assignments, strayed off task, and frequently wandered out of the classroom during lectures. However, when the students toured the Oakland building, this young person immediately offered to operate the instructor’s digital camera and energetically photographed the entire facility and his classmates. He was completely enthralled and stimulated by this project, and for the first time in the semester worked conscientiously with his peer tutor to create a well-written letter. This student’s positive demeanor continued throughout the remainder of the term. The instructor believes that this transformation resulted because this very creative learner had discovered a constructive way to release his artistic energy, instead of feeling confined and trapped in a highly traditional learning environment. This situation reflects the findings of McCarthy (1996), who discovered that one-time or short-term service-learning projects can result in perceptual and attitudinal changes among the participants.

Another student from the advanced developmental writing class also indicated that as a high school student, he participated in the College Now program offered at Queensborough. At this time, he had toured the campus and was quite impressed by the historical significance and beauty of the Oakland building, and he equally was surprised that it also housed a museum. In the end, he indicated that this historical and cultural center was a major reason for his decision to enroll at Queensborough. He was thrilled when he heard that visits to this facility would be incorporated into his writing course curriculum. This account suggests that the Oakland building may play a role in attracting students who seek creative, enriching educational experiences.

Socialization is an essential component of the college experience, especially since a lack of integration into the college environment diminishes commitment, increases isolation, and raises the possibility of leaving before completion (Tinto, 1993). Because this community college is a commuter school, the classroom environment is the primary conduit for establishing relationships. For the most part, the students in these two service-learning classes were incoming freshmen; therefore, when the semester commenced, they were noticeably anxious, withdrawn, and awkward. However, as the term concluded, the students in both classes became part of an integral unit and formed friendships. They also demonstrated confidence by happily reading aloud and readily sharing their thoughts and opinions with their classmates. Moreover, because the students from both classes became comfortable socializing with each other, the ESL students were afforded the opportunity to improve their English by making friends with students whose primary language was English. This is important inasmuch as many ESL learners practice English only at the college, because they don’t have the chance to engage in discourse outside of the academic environment. This observation supports Astin et al., who asserted that service-learning activities generate more student-to-student discussions.

In addition to the students bonding with each other, the professors also became personally acquainted with the learners in both classes. In fact, one student in the advanced composition class for native speakers was clearly an ESL learner, but was accidently enrolled in the wrong course. When the ESL instructor became aware of this, she worked with this young woman in the office and by e-mail. They formed a collegial working relationship likely to endure throughout this student’s college years. This situation also supports the findings of Astin et al., who contended that service-learning experiences generate more student-faculty interactions and support.

Conclusion

As Rohn (2006) observed, “Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.” When the instructors initially considered participating in a service-learning project, they were apprehensive about asking developmental writing students to perform a community service because of the demands of the WSA, the large class sizes, the limited class time, and the additional time needed to plan, execute, and manage such a program. However, this project has demonstrated the adage that the giver receives more than the receiver. Although these students enabled the college to receive a Queensmark for a noted historical site on campus, they also reaped the benefits of: (a) improving their reading, writing, and communication skills; (b) acquiring respect in the college community; (c) enhancing their self-worth; (d) establishing new relationships; and (e) cultivating positive attitudes. Clearly, this venture has repaid these developmental learners many times over, and it will continue to produce benefits every time they write a letter or paper or stroll past the Oakland building, because they will recall what they have accomplished for the college community and themselves.

References

ACT Writing Sample Assessment. (2000). Iowa City, IA: ACT Inc.

Astin, A.W., Vogelgesang, L.J., Ikeda, E.K., & Yee, J. A. (2000, January). How service-learning affects students. University of California, Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute.

Chaves, C. (2006). Involvement, development, and retention. Community College Review, 34(2), 139-152.

Deans, T. (2000). Writing partnerships: Service-learning in composition. Urbana, IL: National Center for Teachers of English.

Kincaid, N.M., & Sotiriou, P. (2004). Service-Learning at an urban two-year college. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 31(3), 248-259.

Kraemer, D.J. (2005). Servant class: Basic writers and service-learning. Journal of Basic Writing, 24(2), 92-109.

Learn and Serve America’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. (2005). Retrieved December 14, 2008 from http://www.servicelearning.org.

Markus, G.B., Howard, J.P., & King, D. C. (1993). Integrating community service and classroom instruction enhances learning: Results from an experiment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15, 410-419.

McCarthy, M. (1996). One-time and short-term service-learning experiences. In B. Jacoby (Ed.), Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices (pp. 113-134). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Prentice, M. (2009). Service-learning’s impact on developmental reading/writing and student life skills courses. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 33(3), 270-282.

Queensborough Community College, Bayside, NY (2008). Queensborough Community College fact book. Retrieved on December 14, 2008 from http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/OIRA/factbook.asp.

Rochford, R. A. (in press). The effects of service-learning on remedial reading and writing students at an urban community college. Submitted.

Rohn, J. (2006). Retrieved from http://thinkexist.com/quotes/jim_rohn, January 14, 2009.

Santora, M. (2008). At Columbia, students mix studies with volunteer work, for credits. The New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11nyregion/11service.html.

Stavrianopoulos, K. (2008). Service-learning in the freshman year experience. College Student Journal, 42(2), 703-712.

The New York City Landmark Preservation Commission. (1999). Request for evaluation. Retrieved from http://home2.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/forms/request_for_evaluation.pdf.

The Queens Historical Society. (2008). The Oakland golf club: A history. Queens, NY.

The Queens Historical Society. (2008). The landmark process. Queens, NY.

The Queens Historical Society. (2007). The Students’ Preservation Council of Queens. Queens, NY.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college. Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition, (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

About the Authors

Regina A. Rochford is an associate professor at Queensborough Community College, City University of New York, in Bayside, NY. Susan Hock is a lecturer, also at Queensborough.

Page 84—JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND SCHOLARSHIP—Vol. 3, No. 2 Developing a Community-Led Education Pipeline

Christine Meyer and Laura Laumatia 

Abstract

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the University of Idaho Extension, and other community and regional partners have been collaborating on the development of an education pipeline as a result of several years of leadership training in the community. Through their collaboration, gaps in educational services have been identified, new partnerships are being developed, and a deeper analysis of the root causes of the high rate of school dropouts is taking place.

Bridging the Educational Achievement Gap

In the fall of 2007, the University of Idaho began an 18-month partnership with the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Reservation community in Northern Idaho through the Horizons program, a program aimed at poverty reduction through grass-roots leadership. The process included an asset-based approach to addressing long-standing issues on the reservation. Through the process, a community steering committee broadened its definition of poverty to include not just economic issues, but social, emotional, intellectual, and cultural/spiritual challenges as well. Our participation in Horizons empowered us to tackle our community’s most challenging obstacle: the educational achievement gap. Although we have made great economic strides in recent years, our graduation rates have plummeted in the past decade, and recent classes have seen an average of only 25 percent of entering high school freshmen graduate.

As education director and extension educator, respectively, we realized that the collaborative community-led approach we learned in Horizons was foundational to transforming our education system from a passive recipient of state-mandated programming to an active, engaged community that meets the needs of our students. The Tribal Department of Education developed an education pipeline (Figure 1), a linear, visual presentation, inventorying community partners and supports for education from cradle to grave. The pipeline includes the Tribe’s Early Childhood Center, local schools, and the higher education programs offered by the Tribal Department of Education, as well as all of the programs and services that support our community members at each educational stage, including family services, out-of-school-time programs, sports, tutoring, career programs, and college preparation programs. We created an interagency team to inventory the services other programs were providing. We now meet quarterly with the Tribal Youth Activities staff, local clergy, school administrators and staff, Tribal Court, social services, and higher education representatives. We have identified where services overlap, where gaps in services exist, and where community partners need to develop shared visions for student success based on the intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and cultural needs of each learner.

The development of the pipeline led to new questions that our team is now studying, using participatory action research with middle and high school students. We are now asking when and why students disengage from the education pipeline.

Risky Behaviors Contribute to Poverty

Our collaboration has led to deeper community analysis of root causes of our dropout issue. Our team recently studied five freshman classes, from 2004-2008, through their senior year. The resulting identification of drugs, alcohol, and pregnancy as primary factors in student dropouts led to our recognition that social and emotional poverty is the underlying issue that we need to address as a community. Our next phase will analyze all services or programs in our pipeline to determine appropriate interventions.

Our actions and research have empowered our team to inform community leaders and school administrators about actual student needs, rather than relying on anecdotal information. We also are better poised to work with our university partners to design projects and programs that faculty and community can co-research to help build a stronger community.

About the Authors

Christine Meyer is director of education, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and Laura Laumatia is extension educator at the University of Idaho.

Student Sections: Destroying Stereotypes about the Innercity Poor

Essay by Per Jansen 

In 2007, as a student at the University of Cincinnati, I participated in a research-focused community engagement project with the Day Labor Organizing Project (DLOP), a workers’ center in Cincinnati, Ohio, that was attempting to organize day laborers and ensure the protection of their labor rights. The project’s methodology (a combination of survey and in-depth interviews) required us to embed within the community. Many specific aspects of the project proved challenging, and the methods we used may help others whose goal is engagement with marginalized populations who are often cautious and hesitant when interacting with those outside of their own reference groups.

Day laborers make up the bottom of the urban employment ladder; they begin their workdays at 5 a.m. and perform back-breaking work under hazardous conditions to earn around $50 a day. The supply of workers far exceeds demand, leaving them in a weak bargaining position. Day labor firms, concentrated in the poorest urban neighborhoods, can fire workers for any reason and enforce strict rules and procedures to maintain control of the workforce. Many firms deduct charges from the workers’ pay, frequently bringing pay beneath minimum wage. In Cincinnati, most day laborers are African-Americans; many are homeless and have had brushes with the law. These conditions result in a population with little defense from mistreatment.

Engaging this particular demographic often proves difficult, as was the case in our work with them. First, researchers, as well as DLOP activists, had access to the laborers only during the early morning hours (approximately 4-5 a.m.) when workers line up for a better chance at receiving a job. Second, speaking with workers during working hours was not possible and would result in their termination. Additionally, day-labor firms are located in neighborhoods that suffer from high crime rates, presentinga safety concern to researchers going there in the early morning. Finally, many workers were hesitant to speak with DLOP for fear of retaliation and termination if their participation with a labor-organizing effort was discovered.

To overcome these challenges, DLOP used the efforts of retired day laborers, who directly engaged current laborers and sought to recruit them for the organizing efforts. As former workers, they do not face the retaliation current day laborers do, and they did not look suspicious in day labor halls. The former day laborers also attended rallies, spoke at city council meetings, and met with churches and civic organizations around the city. These efforts put a personal face to the stories of deprivation and labor abuse, helped to enlist volunteer support from undergraduate students for both the research project and the organizing effort, and built a positive media narrative encouraging support from city politicians. The former laborers helped with the research project as well. They formed teams with student research assistants, escorted them through neighborhoods, and encouraged cooperation from day laborers who were concerned for their anonymity.

Many factors make engagement with formal day laborers difficult, and day-labor firms easily exploit this weak position in the labor market. However, engagement through safe, trustworthy channels brought multiple benefits to the project, facilitating research and enabling the incorporation of new workers into the labor organizing effort.

The project had a deep impact on the student research team, including myself. Working in the early morning was difficult, but for us, the project and early hours ended, a small price to pay for an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of hardworking people who do this work every day. Destroying stereotypes about the urban poor and developing professional relationships with kind, dedicated people from dramatically different socioeconomic backgrounds proved personally rewarding and relevant to my future goals as an attorney representing the indigent, especially on labor issues.

About the Author

Per Jansen is a graduate student in community planning at the University of Cincinnati.

Book Reviews

Jo-Anne Dillabough and Jacqueline Kennelly. (2010).

Lost Youth in the Global City: Class,Culture and the Urban Imaginary. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415995580 (paperback).

Reviewed by Jeena Owens, doctoral student in instructional leadership at The University of Alabama

In Lost Youth in the Global City: Class, Culture and the Urban Imaginary, Jo-Anne Dillabough and Jacqueline Kennelly challenge existing paradigms that reinscribe binary ideologies about youth culture in society. In challenging dominant discourses in youth culture that posit juxtapositions between, for example, low-income and middle-class youth or children of color and white youth, the authors have produced a text that not only encourages scholars to view youth in increasingly nuanced ways, but they also provide a methodological path that other researchers may choose to follow in future scholarship related to investigating youth’s lives.

Dillabough and Kennelly analyzed various dimensions of youth identity through qualitative research completed in two Canadian cities—Beacon Park, Vancouver, and Tower Hill, Toronto— cities that are seen as uniquely positioned to inform educators’ understandings of the diversity among youth subcultures. The authors characterized these cities as global, given various ethnic populations, and the extent to which multiple youth subcultures are a part of each context. With these cities as a backdrop, the authors set out to learn about the cultural experiences of ethnically diverse youth from different social classes within cities described as “radically transformed modern urban centres” (p. 2). Through an ethnographic lens, Lost Youth in the Global City documents two years of research on youth interpretations of their identities in relation to the global city in which they reside.

As a foundation for this research, Dillabough and Kennelly draw on an interdisciplinary theoretical approach; primary theoretical frameworks used to support this study are Ricoeur’s (1981) hermeneutic [interpretive] imagination, and cultural phenomenology. Together, these approaches allow the authors to learn about youth’s worlds by comprehending “their deeply felt cultural experiences” (p. 44). Since the concept of hermeneutic imagination posits youth culture as an interpretive enactment, the researchers are able to use this concept to create a sense of the performative within a more traditional phenomenological approach. Applied collectively, these theoretical frameworks enable the collection of data that includes participants’ visual representations, youth narratives, and interviews, and this data is particularly effective in communicating the perceptions of youth who are often seen as “lost” in global cities.

Dillabough and Kennelly are first able to explore the cultural experiences of youth in global cities through visual representations that show the diverse perceptions that youth hold about themselves and societal concepts. For example, participants illustrated “good citizenship” through drawn pictures of good and bad citizenship (p. 189). By collecting visual artifacts (including photographs and participants’ drawings) and placing these pictures and photographs throughout the text, a window into the meaning participants associated with their visual artifacts was created. However, this is not a “window” shaped only from researchers’ interpretations; Dillabough and Kennelly demonstrate their commitment to learning the experiences of youth by gathering photographs from youth coupled with a description of youth’s meaning attached in order to share a clear picture of participants’ ideas. This approach, one that is increasingly encouraged in ethnographic work, is also used in the incorporation of drawings by youth that represent their future goals (Baert, 1992; Cavero, 2000). Participants’ illustrations—and participants’ own explanations of these illustrations—offer researchers an unambiguous idea of how youth view themselves and the value they attach to individuals and things in their life.

In addition to visual artifacts, youth shared their stories with the authors during interviews. Students’ drawings and photographs, along with interview responses and stories, bring the experiences of youth closer to the reader. Through an analysis of youth narratives, the authors demonstrate the power of stories to represent lived experience and the meanings attached to it as complex and multi-layered. For example, when a young white male’s peers have classified him as a thug because he listens to rap music, has shaved his head, and wears flashy clothing, he conveys his unhappiness with this categorization, expressing that he just wants to be himself. During an interview, the student (Tony) shares the following with the interviewer:

Tony: [I] listen to rock music, which I usually don’t like but now I’m getting fully into it…the rockers are happy with that, me getting into it…. Most people classify me as a thug because they call me Sun [Slim] Shady, 8, you know, Eminem. They mostly classify me as that ’cause I listen to rap and all that…and I had my head shaved and dyed blonde at the base.

Interviewer: OK.

Tony:[B]ut they said that I’m slowly starting to turn.…I eventually hope to get out of that, like being my own self, next year (p. 117).

Through Tony’s responses, readers come in close contact with the participant’s struggle to be defined beyond the monolithic characterizations of others.

Throughout the book, the authors weave theory through discussions of participants’ lived experiences, and in doing so, clearly illustrate the connection between theory and material conditions for youth on the fringes of global cities. For this reader, this was most clear in the way that Dillabough and Kennelly shared the experiences of a 15-year-old Portuguese boy named Hayden, who lives with his mother. During an interview, Hayden discussed his feelings about the fact that his mother had to work two jobs. When asked if this was the ideal work situation for his mother, Hayden stated that it did not bother him, and “everything’s okay” (p. 149). The authors offer supportive scholarship that theorizes Hayden’s responses regarding his mother’s arduous work demands. Reay and Lucey (2000, 2003) “describe [Hayden’s] ambivalence as a form of working-class resilience or refusal, a manner of seeing things as bearable, ‘even OK’, in order to not be overwhelmed” (p. 149). Dillabough and Kennelly’s straightforward technique of linking theory to participants’ experiences is effective because they provide examples that illustrate their method of using theory to explain material conditions in society.

Aside from showing readers how to link theory to rich qualitative data, Dillabough and Kennelly provide a thoughtful and theoretically well-grounded model for how to explore the experiences of youth who reside in global cities. By developing an interdisciplinary theoretical framework that draws support from an effective ethnographic research design, the authors emphasize the importance of a reflective and critical strategy for researching youths’ lived experiences in global cities. Such a model may be useful in replicating this research in other geographic and cultural contexts around the world. In this way, the authors create the opportunity for comparing youth experiences in many global cities, which in turn will contribute to a more intricate understanding of the ways that youth culture and identity develop and are performed. However, in regard to understanding the ways youth culture is discussed in this book, it is evident that this research is tailored to the needs of a particular audience, individuals who pursue careers in the academy. With this in mind, the authors do not provide an invitation for the results from their study to be shared with individuals studied in their research. It would have been helpful for the authors to discuss how the results are applicable to the youth and their families. Perhaps it is beyond the scope of the book, but further research investigating youth subcultures should build the need to ponder the idea of creating a research project that communicates to the individuals in the study as well as individuals in academic circles. In order to transform the position of youth in global cities, it is important to continue the work discussed by the authors by making it accessible to all audiences. The engagement of multiple audiences (educators, youth, parents/guardians, other stakeholders) in this text would have made the book stronger, and would have encouraged needed dialogue.

Overall, the authors use engaging methodological tools to learn about youths’ perceptions of their lived experiences in global cities. Their work is a contribution to interdisciplinary fields, including education, sociology, and youth studies, and is ideal for novice researchers seeking a model of ethnographic research, especially given the ways in which efforts are made to articulate clear links between theory, methods, and analysis.

Telling Stories to Change the World—Global Voices on the Power of Narrative to Build Community and Make Social Justice Claims.

Edited by Rickie Solinger, Madeline Fox, and Kayhan Irani. (2008). New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0415960800 (paperback).

Reviewed by Richard Meyers, Ph.D., an instructor at American University

Perhaps the best way to describe Rickie Solinger, Madeline Fox, and Kayhan Irani’s Telling Stories to Change the World is to say that what is embodied in a textual form is in actuality a cascading frame of stories about projects about stories that provoke further narratives (including the present review). In creating this book of stories embedded in stories, it is interesting to note that the editors’ backgrounds provide an interdisciplinary foundation for what follows; one is a historian, one is a social psychologist, and one is a community arts practitioner. The theoretical threads that connect their compilation seem to hinge upon the concept of community identity, be it personal, cultural, collective and/or singular; and, the ways in which people actively engage in projects that generate activism beginning at a local level and undertaken through the medium of “storytelling.” The editors’ goals were to gather stories about activists in local settings who utilize storytelling as a means to further social activism within their communities. In pursuing that goal, “storytelling” is broadly defined as ways of narrating stories from different vantage points to address social issues.

The result of the editors’ goal are 23 essays from across the globe, essays which, on the whole, describe the ways social justice activists, artists, and project leaders utilize stories as grassroots tactics for making social justice claims. Nineteen of the essays in the text are project based while the final four are more open ended explorations into larger thematic issues involving power and the limits of storytelling as a medium of activism or tangible policy.

Part I

In chapters one through six, we are exposed to projects that are about preservation—“Of language and environment, of history, memory, community, health, personal, and group resources” (p. 11). The first chapter is titled, “Zuni River—Shiwinan K’yawinanne Cultural Confluence.” Both of the authors to this project are Zuni tribal members who worked in collaboration to write up the chapter. One is a Native Zuni speaker while the other has an M.F.A. and serves as the executive director for a non-profit organization dedicated to sacred sites protection and cultural revitalization for the tribe. The authors wish the chapter to be a challenge to globalization and also a call to action with regard to environmental justice and cultural recover y. The narrative style and writing fits well to the backgrounds of the authors. Here is a small sample, “This chapter has been collaboratively created by two writers who are linked to a high desert ecosystem and the cool midnight sky where countless generations of our grandfathers and grandmothers have dreamed and danced, prayed and fasted, and farmed and hunted in the vast lands we know as Idiwana, the Middle Place” (p. 21). Chapter four, “‘Our Ancestors Danced Like This’ Maya Youth Respond to Genocide through the Ancestral Arts,” is similar to the subject matter of the first chapter. This segment is written by a Pinay dancer and human rights observer living in Guatemala as a Fulbright scholar. The narrative relays a story of the genesis of a social group in Guatemala called Sotz’il. Made up predominantly of youth, it infuses elements of old traditional stories about Maya relations with the original Spanish conquistadors. Aspects of the Sotz’il’s artistic performances and plays narrate the survival and integrity of Maya culture. Thematically, these two chapters deal with indigenous communities trying to keep cultural elements alive and from falling victim to erasure by modern industrialized society. Unfortunately, modern society often replaces cultural identity with what is known as a “market identity” category rooted in egocentricity as opposed to the more collective tribally based indigenous cultural identities that are considered to be sociocentric.

Chapters two and three contend with topics that could be viewed thematically as representing how individuals prevent themselves and their experiences from being silenced. Chapter two is titled, “The Memory Book Project in Kampala, Uganda.” This particular project and write up was made possible through analog (cassette) recordings that were then transcribed into a text submitted to the editors. In dealing with stories about surviving and coping as mothers with HIV and AIDS in Uganda, the taboo nature of the issue is addressed through the creation of memory books. These books are then passed along to surviving family members so that the phenomenon is not silenced. Chapter three, “Telling the Truth-How Breaking Silence Brought Redemption to One Mississippi Town,” describes the work of the Philadelphia Coalition, a group formed to heal a stigmatized and traumatic historical experience in their community. This chapter is a redemptive story that deals with the aftermath of the murders of three civil rights workers in this small rural town in 1964. The coalition’s goals are to address the silent barrier of racism that has shrouded the community since the heinous crime. Through community narratives focused on justice, the cloudy stigma and veil of shame is shown to be slowly lifting in this town, and community engagement is centralized as essential to the healing process that has begun..

Chapters five and six begin with the authors’ statement of position/standpoint as a context for their respective projects. Chapter five, “An Unlikely Alliance-Germans and Jews Collaborate to Teach the Lessons of the Holocaust,” begins with the following sentence: “As the daughter of Holocaust refugees, I inherited a painful and burdensome legacy from my parents” (p. 56). Chapter six, “Storytelling in SisterSong and the Voices of Feminism Project,” begins with the following: “As an African American feminist, I come from a verbal, storytelling culture with deep roots” (p. 65). Both chapters convey the complicated ways in which doctrine can silence those who need to speak up while an act of atrocity is occurring, as opposed to waiting for history to reveal its truths. In chapter six, the following quote relays themes found in both stories: “An important aspect is owning our stories, and determining if, when, why, and how they are shared. As women of color we feel that others often tell our stories for us in a colonizing way, denying us the right not only to tell our own stories but to decide what the stories mean” (p. 67). The shared theme of these chapters lies in the concept of co-construction and access to the creation of the narrative or storytelling activity. Chapter five demonstrates collaboration and co-construction in creating a new story. Chapter six articulates the reclaiming of the narrative that has been controlled and told by outsiders as a way of maintaining oppression and cultural domination over the women in the story. The notion of preserving and reclaiming permeates these chapters.

Part II

Chapters seven through fourteen describe projects that came about due to crisis, though the title of chapter seven, “The Neighborhood Story Project in New Orleans,” does not immediately identify this idea. The narrative jumps immediately into a dialogue transcription, with the “script” describing the Neighborhood Story Project and its connection to Hurricane Katrina. Similarly, Chapter eight, “A Story of a Suicide and Social Change in Contemporary China,” submerges the reader from the beginning, through describing the suicide of the project director’s grandmother, an event that is the impetus for the project. An outside political scientist whose specialty is China writes the chapter. She details the contrast in narratives between the “supposed” to be “objective” style of the writing of an academic versus the power of personal storytelling. This chapter details a magazine that gives voice to Chinese women from rural backgrounds. It achieves this voice through the medium of storytelling as a vehicle of change.

Chapters nine, eleven, and twelve are narratives about projects that convey immediacy and are compiled into storytelling phenomena. Chapter nine is titled, “Depo Diaries and the Power of Stories.” The authors depict their project well in their own words here, “Depo Diaries: A National Storytelling Project came out of our need to understand their own experiences with the adverse effects of birth control. We needed to highlight the ways that the medical community and others enforce systematic and coercive reproductive practices, relying on racist, ablest, heterosexist, and classist assumptions” (p. 101). Depo-Provera is a form of birth control targeted at the poor and communities of color, and in this chapter are collections of stories that narrate individual women’s experiences of being put on the drug. Chapter eleven, “Our Stories, Their Decisions Voter Education Project,” demonstrates the ability that stories depicted in the medium of DVDs and digital storytelling have in bridging the gaps between government decisions at the policy level through the personal impacts felt by voters. This particular project is a prescriptive representation intended to be utilized by other community activist organizations trying to effect social change. Chapter twelve, “Drawing Attention to Darfur,” has as its focus the space of abuses known to many who follow human rights issues: “Darfur. One of today’s gravest man-made human rights and humanitarian crises. Named a genocide—the worst of all crimes—by the United States government, the world has stood by while Sudanese soldiers and militias have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and forced 3 million people to flee their homes” (p. 127). The project is written by a pediatrician turned public health physician who tells of encountering stories of atrocities through drawings from children who sought his medical care. The project compiles these stories that the children draw and are collected by the doctor to voice the atrocities to a greater audience.

Chapters ten, thirteen, and fourteen are all stories about the interface between the performative aspects of storytelling and crisis. Chapter ten, “Immigrant Stories in the Hudson Valley,” is an ongoing project that consists of a series of interactive, bilingual theater performances with audiences of immigrants from Mexico, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Belize, Paraguay, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. All live in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York, a semi-rural region. A project/theater company, Hudson River Playback Theatre, invites audience members to tell personal stories that sync in with each performance and actors and music so that it forms theater on the spot. “Other tellers of border-crossing stories have indicated a similar relief, consistent with the findings of trauma research that those who have undergone trauma feel a compulsion to tell their story, and that this telling is essential for healing to take place” (p. 115). Chapter thirteen, “Insan Natak-Phoenix or Dodo in Lahore,” details the work of four young people with university degrees who wished to enact change and “to do good” in Kot Lakhpat, Pakistan. They founded the Insan Foundation that performed on-the-ground plays and skits for the children and the community with a pro-human rights, anti-war stance. In time, the group was renamed Insan Natak. From what began as an initiative to help literacy and allow for grassroots performances grew an internationally renowned troupe of actors in a project that eventually ended, due to the dialectic of extending beyond the initial project goals and losing the community grounding. In tracing the rise and fall of this unique theater group, the authors define the triumph of real grassroots activism void of commercial politics and co-opted behavior.

Chapter fourteen concludes Part II with the chapter titled, “Everyone Needs to Know—Five Stories about AIDS and Art in India.” It details the patuas of West Bengal, multimedia artists who paint narrative scrolls accompanied by sung poetry. One of the authors of the chapter is a folk arts curator who wanted to revitalize the artistry of the patuas by commissioning and utilizing them in a contemporary venue. From the origins and benevolent intentions of the folk arts curator to the intersection of an American scholar’s research, and cascading to the other authors of this chapter/story, the reader sees how AIDS becomes narrated through patuas’ performances in this locale in India. Through the stories, the human connection and ability to respect and understand versus to simply take a position is an important result of their project.

In sum, the chapters in Part II depict projects that attempt to address various crises. Either by alerting the world, or one’s own community, these narratives describe projects that disseminate stories in ways that are reminiscent of a call to arms. This sampling of story-based projects allows us to see examples of issues that were created out of acute urgency.

Part III

Part III brings together projects that voice revolutionary and innovative ways of storytelling. Beginning with chapter fifteen, “The We That Sets Us Free—Imagining a World Without Prisons,” we are exposed to the premise that prisons are wrong. According to the author, “Prisons have colonized hearts and minds” (p. 162). The chapter challenges readers to envision a world without prisons and infuses music and recordings of female inmates compiled into a CD. In chapter sixteen, the author describes an organization, Women Living Under Muslim Laws. This organization uses a performative act, “Great Ancestors,” to demonstrate Muslim women’s stories of dissent, dignity, freedom, and repression, stories that have recurred throughout history and that have produced common challenges.

Chapter seventeen, “Creating a Forum—LGBTQ Youth and The Home Project in Chicago,” highlights the collection of stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or queer youth who are homeless. The author describes the project’s impetus well here after narrating encounters with homeless youth: “This is how theater projects start for me. I am going about my business when a question hauls back and punches me in the gut. Or maybe it’s an idea that takes my breath away. To then create a production that shares these stories is what the Home Project does” (p. 184). Chapter eighteen, “From Storytelling to Community Development—Jahori, Afghanistan,” tells a tale from the vantage point of a man with an almost completed Ph.D. in oral tradition and community development who fled Afghanistan in 1978. He articulates that even in the face of war and numerous attempts to squelch storytelling, the “need to tell tales has not died and cannot be extinguished… . Storytelling, an ancient art form conveying fairy tales, folklore, legends, myths, and religious epics, has become a rare commodity and the rawi is almost extinct.” (194) The rawi are storytellers of the Hazaras, who were strategically silenced by oppressive means of cultural domination and war.

In the last chapter of Part III, Chapter nineteen, “Sins Invalid—Disability, Dancing, and Claiming Beauty,” we are exposed to what I would deem as something “new” to me and unexpected as a reader. I was drawn into the story by the following excerpt:

Like many good stories, the early threads of this one were woven over dinner, a large bowl of saffron-laced paella, steaming on the table between two good friends…We’ve both been disabled since birth, and bluntly, we’re both pretty hot, and we both humbly know it. Still, every day throughout the day we each struggle with the disconnect between what we know to be true about our beauty and the passion of our lives, and what the world seems to believe, that we are less than, undesirable, pitiable…it’s hard, to know that you have been blessed while others seem convinced you’ve been cursed (p. 202, 203).

As a reader, I was captivated by the phenomenon of “ableism versus disableism” and sexuality. This chapter’s purpose and the project as a whole appear to be about normalizing and naturalizing the exotic and erotic into a space of acceptance; yet it also invokes the realism of what isn’t discussed in normative discourse. The poetry and performance production of this group seeks to introduce a new way to storytelling.

Part IV

To frame closure to the text, the four final chapters/stories are meant to interrogate/explore the relationship between “storytelling” and “telling truth” (p. 213). Chapter twenty, “Using Personal Narrative to Build Activist Movements,” uses the examples of renowned activists whose personal biographical stories invoked social movements. To see that large numbers of people are ideologically reachable in the format of a story disseminated to unify and aggregate people is an attribute often associated with storytelling. In chapter twenty-one, “Trafficking Trauma,” the author points out that emphasis on South Africa and trauma stories being harvested above and beyond an immediate need depicts an almost fetish for trauma and invokes the question of how to determine what is useful and what is not. It also outlines some of the ethics involved in intellectual property and turning collective stories of trauma into commodities of individual narratives. Chapter twenty-two, “Imagining Cuba: Storytelling and the Politics of Exile,” depicts the ways people in exile reconstitute and shape identity, almost entirely based upon storytelling. The author speaks her own truth regarding her identity, and in doing so, presents a legitimate example of the ambiguity of the Southern Floridian Cuban exiled identity. The final chapter, twenty-three, “Stories in Law,” continues along the thematic path of how stories are inherently and inevitably ambiguous and applies this to the legal realm. The author points out the ability of storytelling to disrupt or dismantle rationalizing and generalizing analytical modes of discourse within the law. All of the chapters within Part IV share in their narratives the relationship of storytelling and stories to the public sphere and greater concept of society.

As expressed in this book, and in this reader’s experience, stories are ways of invoking and referencing realities felt and imagined and lived. They bring to life the words that shape and create the ways of seeing and breathing the world around us as human beings. To be in a story and to feel the spatialized embodiment of the story surrounding you versus to be outside the story looking in and acknowledging the events occurring to the actors inside the structure are two very different vantage points. This book frames a philosophical spectrum with which one can view and interpret the internal narratives and stories within this edited compilation. It is a collection of essays that spans continents and disparate cultural spaces—Uganda, Darfur, China, Afghanistan, South Africa, New Orleans, Chicago. The book describes projects in which communities use narrative as a way to explore what a more just society might look like and what civic engagement means. These compelling accounts of resistance, hope, and vision showcase the power of the storytelling form to generate critique and collective action. They also show the humility of human connectedness.

Each chapter in this compilation can stand on its own in addition to being threaded together with the other narratives of social justice. Each author details how her or his projects were brought into reality from the abstract idea forms to the on-the-ground practical manifestations in their project deliverables. There are numerous grassroots storytelling projects out there. However, to obtain an essay written about an actual project entails the materializing of a narrative version about the project from someone willing to write it up. The storytelling projects inevitably become entextualized, and we are therefore reading a piece of literature about a storytelling phenomenon as opposed to experiencing the storytelling in the way each chapter aims to articulate as the unique attribute to the respective project. In other words, we, the readers of this compilation of stories, are reading about how activism is about reaching people through the various mediums of storytelling that do not involve reading. It is somewhat of an interesting ironic twist to the overall message of the book, one not fully addressed by the editors. Overall, the text is a valuable resource to sociolinguists, specialists to the regions mentioned, and teachers and educators of all grades and levels. It is also a practical text for community activists and anyone interested in reading about stories that aren’t couched in overly academic terms and obtuse arguments.

Staff

Publisher Samory T. Pruitt Vice President for Community Affairs The University of Alabama
Editor Cassandra E. Simon The University of Alabama
Production Editor Edward Mullins The University of Alabama
Editorial Assistant Jessica Averitt Taylor The University of Alabama
Editorial Intern Brett Bralley The University of Alabama
Design Intern Antonio Rogers The University of Alabama

The Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship is published at The University of Alabama by the Office of Community Affairs for the advancement of engagement scholarship worldwide. To reach the editor e-mail jces@ua.edu or call 205-348- 7392. The NASA infrared image on the cover is of Hurricane Katrina as it approached the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Marsha H. Adams, The University of Alabama Jay Lamar, Auburn University
Andrea Adolph, Kent State University Stark Campus Hal A. Lawson, The University at Albany, State University of New York
Katrice A. Albert, Louisiana State University James Leeper, The University of Alabama
Theodore R. Alter, Penn State University Robert C. Liebman, Portland State University
Robert E. Bardon, North Carolina State University Marybeth Lima, Louisiana State University
Anna Sims Bartel, Bates College Hildy L. Miller, Portland State University
Delicia Carey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert L. Miller, Jr., The University at Albany, State University of New York
James D. Cashman, The University of Alabama Mary Ann Murphy, Pace University dt ogilvie, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Jeremy Cohen, Penn State University Jacob Oludoye Oluwoye, Alabama A&M University
Jan Cohen-Cruz, Syracuse University Michael E. Orok, Alabama A&M University
Richard L. Conville, The University of Southern Mississippi Ruth Paris, Boston University
Susan Curtis, Purdue University Clement Alesander Price, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith, The University of Alabama Josephine Pryce, The University of Alabama
David J. Edelman, University of Cincinnati A. Scott Reed, Oregon State University
Barbara Ferman, Temple University Michael J. Rich, Emory University
Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Michigan State University Howard B. Rosing, DePaul University
Philip A. Greasley, University of Kentucky Sunil Saigal, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Susan Scheriffius Jakes, North Carolina State University Nick Sanyal, University of Idaho
Phillip W. Johnson, The University of Alabama Amilcar Shabazz, University of Massachusetts
Lisa Hooper, The University of Alabama L. Steven Smutko, North Carolina State University
Rhoda E. Johnson, The University of Alabama Lee H. Staples, Boston University
Mary Jolley, Community Development, Tuscaloosa, Ala. John J. Stretch, Saint Louis University
Kimberly L. King-Jupiter, Lewis University  J. Robert Krueger, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
William S. Kisaalita, University of Georgia John R. Wheat, The University of Alabama
Kim L. Wilson, Purdue University
Diane F. Witmer, California State University