Meredith has a long history of giving back to the community. For years, service-learning provided an opportunity to both enhance the students’ academic experience and help non-profits and other entities in the larger community.
Now, service-learning will be known as community-based learning, according to Callie DeBellis, chair of the College's Community Engagement Advisory Committee.
According to DeBellis, the new name reflects a national movement away from the word “service,” which implies a more one-sided approach to engagement. The relationships between the College and the community partners should be sustainable and encourage capacity building, rather than solely providing charity work.
“Community-based learning is grounded in true reciprocal partnerships,” said DeBellis.
DeBellis also observed that some scholars have seen the idea of “service” as reinforcing negative stereotypes. In contrast, within an academic setting students learn about issues facing the community, assets the community members bring to the table, and what systematic changes may be needed.
At Meredith, the community-based learning model will also offer more flexibility for faculty members who are interested in participating. Some of the feedback she had received about service-learning was that it was somewhat restrictive and didn’t allow for variations in the amount of time or type of programs that qualified.
“We recognize that there are many types of engagement that enhance the learning of our students, and that such engagement can take place over one day, multiple days, or more. We’re broadening the definition, while still maintaining the quality, rigor, and outcomes of these experiences for our students,” said DeBellis.
The new name also better reflects Meredith’s involvement in Campus Compact, a national consortium of schools dedicated to community engagement. Meredith is a founding member of the North Carolina affiliate and President Jo Allen serves on the Executive Board.
Faculty Workshops Coming Spring 2017
As part of efforts to involve more faculty, DeBellis is organizing a series of workshops for the spring semester of 2017. Faculty may apply to participate in the workshops with a course in mind that they might offer with a community-based learning component.
Faculty who participate will receive a stipend for completing the series of workshops and another stipend once they teach and assess the course. DeBellis is hoping that a variety of departments will be represented in the workshops.
--Submitted by Gaye Hill