Service connects student assignments to community needs

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Community members interact with an exhibit on poverty designed by Tyler Galloway's Designing Social Interactions class.
Community members interact with an exhibit on poverty designed by Tyler Galloway's Designing Social Interactions class.

KU students need not wait to graduate before tackling real community issues using the skills they develop in college.

Students in Michael Krueger’s ART 224/335 relief printmaking class, for example, worked with high-needs and under-served youth at Van-Go Inc., teaching them a printing technique and creating art that could be sold in the Van-Go gallery.  

Krueger’s class is one of many service-learning classes that take place at KU each semester. Service-learning courses, developed by instructors in conjunction with community partners, are equally focused on student learning and community impact.

Student design efforts made for a creative and informative display at the Lawrence Public Library about poverty in Douglas County. Erika Dvorske, CEO of the United Way of Douglas County, worked with Tyler Galloway’s VISC 404 Designing Social Interactions class to develop the exhibit, providing the students with content for the exhibit gathered by the United Way.

“We gave them very bland information and they transformed it into an engaging display,” Dvorske said. “We especially appreciated their perspective and innovation.”

For Angela Blackwell’s OCTH 422/482 occupational therapy students, a service learning project with the Academy for Integrated Arts charter school allowed them to delve into a new area of occupational therapy (OT).

“Although occupational therapists commonly work in schools, embedding OT into the recess environment is an emerging practice area,” Blackwell explained.

Working to address community issues can incur real-world costs, and six of last semester’s service learning classes got a boost from grant funds to help cover their project expenses. The Center for Civic and Social Responsibility provided $500 per course to help student efforts benefit the community.

According to Matt Burke, whose ART 300/500 sculpture students built traditional bee hives to benefit local food pollination, “translating course content into service learning experiences would not have been possible without CCSR resources.”

Emalee Squires stands with her groups' beehive as they prepare it for installation at Buller Family Farms.
Emalee Squires stands with her ART 500 groups' beehive as they prepare it for installation at Buller Family Farms.

Both faculty and students noted the difference in student engagement when community issues were incorporated into class assignments.

“Motivation and self-momentum increased measurably,” said Burke, attributing the change he saw in his students to working with local farmers and food producers.

Ella Gore, senior in visual communications, appreciated the heightened responsibility of doing her best work for the community.

“I think this is one of the most positive things to come out of this project,” she said. “It pushed us.”

Service learning mini grants are available each semester, with an application process announced the semester prior. Following is a complete list of Fall 2015 service learning courses supported by grant funds:

  • Angela Blackwell’s OCTH 422/482 occupational therapy students developed healthy recess activities for nonprofit charter school students;
  • Matt Burke’s ART 300/500 sculpture class constructed traditional beehives to promote local food production;
  • Tyler Galloway’s VISC 404 graphic design students created a poverty-awareness exhibit at the Lawrence Public Library with the United Way of Douglas County;
  • Michael Krueger’s PRNT 224/335 printmaking students led young Van Go interns in arts-based skill building;
  • Jomella Watson-Thompson’s ABSC 150 applied behavioral science students developed community leadership skills while serving area youth with multiple organizations; and
  • Andy Wu’s OCTH 422/482 occupational therapy students devised treatment plans for patients at a teaching clinic for underserved individuals in Kansas City.


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