Some CU students will be experiencing a different kind of writing and rhetoric class this semester as professor Dr. Veronica House works to integrate community service into the standard course material.
The service learning classes involve traditional assignments as well as 15 hours of outside community service at a non-profit organization of the student’s choice. The written course work done in the class then relates to the service work done outside the class.
“When (the writing assignment) is just a hypothetical, it can be so dry. This way we can make their educations seem meaningful,” House said.
House has been teaching service learning classes since she was a graduate student nine years ago. She continued the approach when she began teaching at CU three years ago, and said that although there were a few other teachers requiring some kind of service for their classes as well, there was no umbrella organization for this kind of program.
That all changed this semester, however, when the Institute for Ethical and Civil Engagement (IECE) gave House a $6,000 grant to pursue her vision of a service oriented writing and rhetoric program by training other teachers in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) to implement service learning as well.
Peter Simons, director of the IECE, said that they gave House the grant because they think that community service is an integral part of receiving a full, well-rounded education. Though IECE seeks to provide students with many tools, including helping them find scholarships, internships and outreach programs, Simons said that their main job is funding programs like House’s.
“There are a lot of faculty in the writing and rhetoric department who do this kind of work and want to do this kind of work. (Director of PWR) John Ackerman was also very involved and supportive, so we sat down and decided to make House’s project a model-project,” Simons said.
Simons said that a model-project is a funded experiment to test how well a given program works. If House’s service learning model-project is a success, and if the IECE has the money, they will continue to fund the project and it will expand.
House said that the ultimate goal is to have about 10 percent of the PWR classes be service learning classes. She said that this goal is foreseeable because of the support of both Ackerman and Chancellor Peterson, whose Flagship 2030 initiative indirectly calls for this type of progressive education.
Julie Highland, 19, a freshman integrative physiology major took House’s service-learning class last semester. Highland said she volunteered at EXPAND, an organization much like the Special Olympics. It is organized by Boulder Sports and Recreation, which trains and puts on events for special needs athletes. Highland said that she played sports with the athletes, trained them and helped to facilitate events.
“I like volunteering, but usually I don’t have the time. The requirement pushed me to do it, and I’m going to keep doing it even though the semester’s over,” Highland said.
House said that at the end of the semester, each student gives a PowerPoint presentation to share what they’ve learned with the class. She said that the majority of students each semester express that this class has truly helped to change perspectives, give insight into potential future careers and teach that students can make a difference.
Ashley Morton, 20, a sophomore humanities major took one of House’s service learning classes last semester. She said that she has known for a while that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, so she used the opportunity the class provided to volunteer at an elementary school.
Not only did Morton have what she described as a great experience, she also received valuable experience hours to put on a resume. House also said she recently wrote Morton a letter of recommendation for an internship.
Morton said not only did she feel incredibly rewarded after doing the volunteer work, but that she thinks most of her peers felt the same way.
“You could see when everyone was giving their PowerPoint that everyone was really proud and passionate about what they’d done. You could tell they had lots of respect for their organization,” Morton said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hanna Johnson at email@example.com.