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St. Olaf aims to increase civic engagement with faculty institute
June 19, 2008
As a group of St. Olaf College faculty members offered a helping hand recently at two nonprofit organizations in Minneapolis, they were asked to put themselves in the shoes of their students. What type of support and guidance would St. Olaf students need if they were volunteering for these organizations as part of a civic engagement project required for one of their classes?
|St. Olaf faculty members (from left) Karen Gervais, Mary Carlsen, Dana Gross, Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak and Dan Hofrenning take a tour of the Northfield Historical Society as part of the Civic Engagement Summer Institute.|
A renewed commitment to civic engagement
The workshop included discussions with leaders of local organizations and hands-on sessions, as well as site visits to organizations in the Northfield area and the Twin Cities. Each faculty member will integrate civic engagement opportunities into at least one course during the upcoming academic year and will discuss their progress with its implementation during monthly meetings that will be held throughout the year.
"I believe that faculty participants came away from the institute with renewed commitment to integrating academic civic engagement into their courses," says St. Olaf Assistant Director of Civic Engagement Nate Jacobi, who works in the college's Center for Experiential Learning and was the project director for the Civic Engagement Institute. "My hope is that the faculty will build upon the knowledge and partnerships that they gained during the institute by utilizing teaching strategies that empower students to learn with and in our local community."
|St. Olaf faculty member Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak (right) talks with Janet Lewis Muth, project coordinator for Rice County Growing Up Healthy, during the Civic Engagement Institute.|
Working with local leaders
One of the primary goals of the workshop was to strengthen partnerships between St. Olaf faculty and local organizations. Leaders from community organizations that have worked with St. Olaf students or would like to develop a stronger collaboration with the college participated in the workshop and shared their perspective with faculty members. The Northfield Community Action Center, HealthFinders Collaborative and the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative played a leadership role in helping plan the Civic Engagement Institute. Other community organizations that participated in the workshop include the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, Rice County Growing Up Healthy, Three Rivers Community Action, Centro Campesino and Wellstone Action. Organizers of the Civic Engagement Institute hope that faculty members provide opportunities for students to contribute to the local community through service-learning, community-based research or by producing scholarship for public audiences.
"The faculty participants and community partners had many opportunities to work together and to plan civic engagement projects that would mutually benefit students and their respective organizations," Jacobi says. "The community partners provided valuable information about the assets and needs of people in Northfield and the surrounding region."
|St. Olaf Assistant Professor of History Eric Fure-Slocum '79, who helped coordinate the workshop, talks to a group of faculty members as they take a tour of Northfield during the Civic Engagement Institute.|
Support for the Civic Engagement Institute is provided by the Post-Secondary Service Learning and Campus Community Collaboration Grant Program, which is funded by the State of Minnesota and coordinated by the Minnesota Campus Compact and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.