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Experiential Learning Syllabus



College of Nursing/ College of Arts and Sciences                                                        Fall 2012

                         NUR 298/PSY 298 An Experiential Look at Mental Illness  

Credits:   1 Credit (Credit/No Credit)  (3 hours per week) Total of 45 hours per Compeer

  Placement in Curriculum: Sophomore Status    

Faculty: John K. Conboy, Psy.D. (x8442), Christine Frizzell, Ed.D. (x8649), Sharon A. Sousa, Ed.D., APRN,BC (x8249)
Pre-requisites: Students must complete and pass an application for a criminal background check (CORI) Students must possess a valid driver’s license or other government ID.   (You do not need access to a vehicle to participate.)    

Co-requisite:  None  

Course Description: An Experiential Look at Mental Illness is a team taught course designed to familiarize you with the day-to-day issues confronting people suffering from major mental illness.  The course is designed to fill the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth requirements for 1 credit of Experiential Learning and is offered in conjuntion with the local chapter of Compeer.  Compeer is a nationally recognized organization that matches trained, sensitive volunteer friends to adults, adolescents and children with mental illness.  The relationships do not have any purpose except to offer friendship.  You will not be in a psychotherapy relationship, social service relationship, nursing relationship or other professional helping relationship.  Your only task is to offer normalizing friendship to persons who probably have limited experience with friendship.   You will spend several hours in training and attend several classes with other volunteers.  You will be required to keep a weekly E-journal in which you will document your experiences as a Compeer volunteer.  The course is graded “Credit” or “No Credit”. 

 Student Compeer volunteers are assigned, generally in pairs, to programs that serve adults or adolescents with mental illnesss or cognitive disababilities.   You will visit your assigned program for at least 3 hours a week and engage in recreational and social activities.   You may elect to spend your time in a wide variety of recreational activities, as long as they are appropriate to the needs of both partners.  There are obvious specific limits to the choice of activity.  Alcohol or drug use and sexual or romantic relationships are prohibited.  Activities that exacerbate your friends' mental health problems or place them at risk for possible deterioration are also prohibited. 

In order to fulfill your 45-hour requirement for credit, you may view a List of films on mental illness and write a reaction paper.      

After at least one semester's experience with Compeer, student volunteers may be matched in a one-to-one relationship with a person of the same gender. Your Compeer friends will have serious mental illnesses.
 The most likely diagnosis of participants will be schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or major depression.  Compeer partners may have a variety of serious problems that could make the volunteer experience difficult.  They may have social or personal hygiene problems and they may have trouble maintaining a friendship relationship.  Most will be unemployed and have a long history of involvement with mental health and social service agencies.  In short, friendship with a Compeer partner will be personally challenging and very different from friendships on a college campus.  Volunteers must be prepared for this special challenge and respectful of the vulnerabilities of the Compeer partner. The Compeer director and the faculty members will conduct training concerning major mental illness, the problems of the seriously mentally ill and the Compeer
relationship.  They will also conduct the monthly discussion group.  If you have questions or concerns at other times, you are encouraged to contact the director or the faculty members as outlined on the syllabus.   

COURSE OBJECTIVES: At the completion of the course, the student will:     

  1. Describe the common serious problems of the people with major mental illness. 
  2. Identify the social service agencies most prominent in working with this population.   
  3. Develop personal skills in working with this population.   
  4. Develop a personal friendship relationship with an individual suffering from mental illness.  

SUPERVISION: The Compeer Coordinator and faculty members will offer training and supervision.  Attendance at training and discussion classes is required.  Students are encouraged to contact the director or faculty if questions or issues arise.    


  1. Documented visits of at least 3 hours per week with your assigned Compeer friend (35%) .   

  2. At least 50% attendance at class meetings (20%).  

  3. Weekly E-mail journal postings on Wiggio (35%). 

  4. A short final paper to be submitted at the last discussion class, summarizing your experience with Compeer (10%).

    The report should say what you learned about mental illness (or cognitive disabilities for those who visited SAIL, for example), the stigma of mental illness, the problems people with mental illness or cognitive disabilities face, the nature of friendship, what you have learned about yourself and what Compeer has meant to you.

    The printed paper should not be more than 2 pages long. You can do it in the form of a letter to the editor, if you wish. There is a sample on the Compeer website. If you use that format, you should explain what Compeer is all about for those who know nothing about it. Your reports may later be sent to local publications and/or grant sources, excerpts put on our website and used to spread the word about Compeer on Facebook and Twitter. 



Placements will be arranged to fit student's individual schedule.   Day, evening, and weekend slots are available.





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