Faculty Investigation Group: Service Learning
Greetings from the Service Learning and Civic Engagement Committee!
Our committee has been hard at work in 2018- 2019 and we want to share with the larger Hostos community what we have been working on, where we are headed in 2019-2020, and how the committee and/or coordinator can serve faculty and students. After a decade as the founding chairperson, Prof. Sandy Figueroa stepped down as chair in Spring 2018 but continues to serve on the committee and mentor the newly elected chair. We added “civic engagement” to our committee name (another type of Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO), which reflects our expanded purview. With the support of CTL and OAA, we added a coordinator position. We begin the academic year with a 15-person committee that includes representation from most departments and several programs and divisions.
In September of 2018, the committee completed a self-assessment tool designed by Andrew Furco1. We examined our results quantitatively using Google Forms by putting Furco’s rubric into a simple survey and set our agenda for 2018-2019 using that self-assessment.
For Institutional Support, we requested and received support for a Coordinator and strengthened communication with the Registrar’s Office to ensure service learning (and eventually civic engagement) courses can be easily located in CUNYFirst. To examine Faculty Knowledge, Awareness, Involvement, and Support, we facilitated a New Faculty Orientation workshop, presented at Hostos CTL’s Teaching Day, came up with new procedures for committee terms and welcoming new members, and updated our CTL website with the help of CTL staff. We identified Student Awareness, Opportunities, and Leadership as an area that needs particular attention so we 1) increased the visibility of SL designated courses both within CUNYFirst and on campus with fliers, 2) added a student to the committee, explored ways to leverage social media, designated four new SL courses. Although we have many strong community-based organizations, our self-assessment pointed out several areas to improve in the area of Community Partner Awareness, Voice, and Leadership. Several committee members attended the Career Services Community Based Organization (CBO) Breakfast and the committee worked with Career Services to learn new tracking tools that will improve communication with CBOs and Career Services. Finally, like every other area of the college, we too focused on Evaluation and Assessment. We requested and obtained data from Institutional Research and examined the effectiveness of SL courses and presented our self-assessment model of growth and sustainability at Guttman’s Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO) Symposium.
Moving forward, our committee strives to communicate better with units, departments, and programs at Hostos to engage more faculty who are utilizing high impact practices that dovetail or are already service-learning and/or civic engagement courses. To this end, we will be reaching out to units, programs, and departments to invite faculty who are interested in and/or engaged in this work to teach these courses as designed service-learning OR civic engagement (two separate designations in CUNYFirst) in Spring 2020.
The coordinator will seek to build bridges among faculty who are already engaged in this work and to increase the awareness of these courses through course designations, advertisement, and communication with advising and student leadership.
Community colleges were “created to democratize both American higher education and the student who came through their open doors.”2 At Hostos, my experience teaching service-learning courses has been in the context of ESL students in a learning community (SOC 101 and ESL 35/36) who have walked around the block to Patterson Senior Center starting in 2014. This group of students has learned not only about sociological topics from the seniors’ (my co-teachers) stories of their childhoods in Puerto Rico, in the Deep South, and in the Bronx but they have also been able to think about policy issues and activism as they witnessed flooding in the basement-level senior center and an extended period in which the center closed because Patterson Houses had no water, too much heat or not enough heat, and through the seniors’ stories of being fearful of gun violence, drugs, and neglect of community spaces in their communities.
With the U.S. Census and an election year in 2020, it is more important than ever to provide high quality opportunities for Hostos students to participate in ELOs. Our students have firsthand knowledge of structural inequalities and as Franco says, “these students [community college students] …will be prepared for lives of critical inquiry and not active participation, refusing to accept the perpetuation and masking of social structural inequality wherever they see it and experience it. And, most importantly, they will work as civically engaged citizens to help America better fulfill its promise of equal opportunity for all” (2006).
In solidarity and service, Sarah & the SL-CE Committee
Chairperson, Service Learning and Civic Engagement Committee
Service Learning and Civic Engagement Coordinator
—————– About the Author —————–
Behavioral & Social Sciences Department
Sarah L. Hoiland is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Hostos Community College, which is located in the South Bronx. She taught in the Florida College System for 5 years (2008-2013) at Polk State College prior to CUNY and still feels very much at home in central Florida. Her areas of pedagogical research include numeracy and faculty development, service-learning, and online learning assessment.