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Digest: Volume 2, Issue 6
November 2013


The Service-Learning Option:
Melding Academics and Community

This article originally appeared in
The Torch on
October 17, 2013
Author: Lauren Scharf

UMass Dartmouth offers a wide range of possibilities for students and faculty looking to get involved in the local community.

The Leduc Center for Civic Engagement currently sponsors 170 sections of service-learning courses, totaling over 98,000 hours of service-learning during the 2012-2013 academic year. Combined with nearly 200,000 hours of community service performed by students, this placed UMass Dartmouth in the nation's top 15 universities for civic engagement, recognized by President Obama's Higher Education Honor Roll.

Service-learning is a process that builds community-based projects into the regular curriculum. Many professors who teach these courses participate in the Faculty Fellows Program, run by the Leduc Center, which provides comprehensive training and an understanding of how the service-learning method works. "We don't just expect faculty to be able to use service-learning," said Matthew Roy, Director of the Leduc Center, explaining the rationale behind the program.

Art History Professor Pamela Karimi is currently teaching a course entitled "Development of Modern Architecture" (ARH 349), a new addition to her department's course offerings. Karimi stated that architecture courses had been taught in the past by other art history professors, each of whom focused on different topics. This semester, Karimi wanted to concentrate on something that was "more relevant to our time."

Last year, Karimi and a colleague, Professor Thomas Stubblefield, were awarded a prestigious grant from the UMass President's Creative Economy Initiatives Fund. This grant allowed them to produce a year-long lecture series, a conference, and an exhibition on the topic of creative economies in postindustrial "gateway cities." In particular, local communities such as Fall River or New Bedford that have fallen under hard economic times.

The grant project, combined with an increased interest in "courses that have practical outcomes," laid the groundwork for this semester's architecture class. The course focuses on "the recent past, present, and future of landmarks and architectural heritage of the American Post-Industrial city, illuminating the importance of its history and review the very many possible solutions for its continued survival," Karimi wrote. "While many of these cities are still struggling, some have been successful in microscale economic revival, especially as it relates to preserving, repurposing, and reinventing vacant spaces by members of the local community," she explained.

Working in groups of five, students in the course are instructed to choose a building complex or vacant lot in New Bedford and to provide sustainable means for renovation and repurposing. This project involves utilizing various research strategies, including oral history interviews, archival investigation, and library research.

Karimi described the course as a "collaborative effort" between UMass Dartmouth and the New Bedford Community. Certain class sessions consist of official meetings between New Bedford officials and institutions, such as the Whaling Museum, the office of the mayor, and local artists and architects.

Additionally, students engage in online discussion via Karimi's open source course website - www.pamelakarimi.wordpress.com - all of which are accessible to the public. Following the end of the semester, students' completed projects will be published on the website. "[Students] do this knowing that the knowledge they produce is going to be of use to somebody out there," said Karimi.

Professor Kellyann Berube Kowalski teaches the service-learning course "Project Team Management" (MGT 331). This course is a requirement for all management students in the Charlton College of Business. "The focus [of the course] is on developing students' knowledge and skills needed to effectively contribute to or manage a project team," stated Kowalski.

Kowalski's primary community partner is Marissa Perez-Dormitzer, District Recycling Coordinator for the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District. "Marissa's job, as she puts it, is to keep recyclables out of the landfill," Kowalski explained.

In groups of five, students in Kowalski's course complete a semester-long team project, which involves working with Marissa on a variety of recycling education, awareness, and behavior initiatives. These include: Promoting reuse, making recycling visible, promoting proper recycling (what can and cannot be recycled), and educating to ensure that all project participants are recycling everything that can be recycled.

For instance, four of the seven student teams are working with elementary and middle schools in New Bedford to increase recycling education and awareness. Projects include a clothing drive, puppet show, recycling contest, and poster contest. Another team is collaborating with New Bedford Cable Access to create a series of 30-60 second public service announcements. The primary aim is to educate the local community about proper recycling methods. They are also planning to partner with a local theatre group.

Ultimately, "projects must provide service to the Regional Refuse Management District and have an impact on the New Bedford community." said Kowalski.

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Honoring & Serving at the Farm: 9/11 Day of Service

by Ellen Selley, Volunteer Development Coordinator
Sharing the Harvest Community Farm

On Saturday September 7th, Southcoast Serves held a 9/11 National Day of Service & Remembrance event with Sharing the Harvest Community Farm at the Dartmouth YMCA. The day began with an accompaniment of drumming by Bob Bailey as volunteers from UMass Dartmouth, local businesses, community organizations and individuals, and families began arriving.

As the drumming faded, Amy King, one of the volunteers, sang a beautiful rendition of "God Bless America" and welcome speeches were made by Deirdre Healy, Director of Community Service and Partnerships at the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement; Derek Heim, Executive Director of the Dartmouth YMCA; and Cecil Hickman, Project Leader of Dogtags Navigators.

Following the ceremony, with the help of the more than 200 volunteers, we were able to harvest 1,800 pounds of crops, includingonions, beets, leeks, Swiss chard, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. We were also able to remove and discard more than 6,200 ft. of plastic mulch. Major Gilbert Parkhurst from the Salvation Army of New Bedford was on hand to distribute drinks, snacks, and meals for the volunteers.

While volunteers were harvesting vegetables, Michael Higgins, a local chainsaw artist, constructed a wooden bench dedicated to our veterans. Cecil Hickman, Project Leader for Dog Tags Navigators, also set up a veterans' benefit table to help returning veterans with their benefits. Dog Tags Navigators is a veterans benefits community health worker initiative that researches and writes computer assisted V.A. claims for struggling veterans and their civilian dependents.

At the day's end, the 9/11 National Day of Service & Remembrance was a tremendous success. Sharing the Harvest Community Farm would like to thank all who came out to the farm to make such a great event possible.   

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Peace Pole Dedication: A Tribute to the International Day of Peace

On Friday, September 20th, the Leduc Center re-dedicated our campus Peace Pole in the new rain garden located adjacent to the resident dining hall. The dedication ceremony was held in conjunction with the campus' celebration of the International Day of Peace on Saturday, September 21st. The ceremony was attended by students, faculty, and staff from Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, Leduc Center, Study Abroad, and Facilities.

Our UMass Dartmouth Peace Pole is a hand-crafted monument displaying the message and prayer "May Peace Prevail on Earth" on four sides in eight different languages, including Arabic, Chinese/Mandarin, English, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, and Wampanoag. Across the globe, there are currently tens of thousands of Peace Poles in 180 countries serve as monuments of peace. They act as constant reminders for humanity to visualize and pray for world peace. Inspired by the work of our community partner United Neighbors of Fall River to promote Peace Poles in our region, the Leduc Center is proud to support this project on our campus.     

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First Saturday of Service: Community Building in Fall River

On October 5th 2013, the first Saturday of the month, 44 UMass Dartmouth students joined Mayor Will Flanagan at the Mary Ann Wordell Urban Tree Farm on Bay Street in Fall River for an afternoon of service and community building, by maintaining the tree stock & sprucing up the area.

According to Perry Long, the Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator and Chief Service Officer for the City of Fall River, the event was a major success and job well done. SouthCoast Serves AmeriCorps member Gabrielle Montiero said she was "surprised by the amount of work that was accomplished in a relatively short time. Everyone had a job to do, young and old." UMass Dartmouth Medical Laboratory Science Freshman Michael Tran enjoyed the experience, commenting that his participation was "fun and interesting".

The Mary Ann Wordell Urban Tree Farm project is part of Fall River's City of Service initiative. For a video of this event, please click here

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Using Art to Help Build Community: A Student Reflection

by Leslie Macklin, UMass Dartmouth Graduate Student

Leslie Macklin is a Graduate Student in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMass Dartmouth. Over the summer, she was chosen to help with the 21st Century program in the Fall River Schools.

I would like to share with you the work my students created this summer. I was able to complete three large scale community service projects that reach the Fall River community through the arts. The first project engaged k-2 grades in the history of child labor in Fall River textile mills. It was a simple lesson to start a conversation about how one can have an impact in their community no matter how young. Students dipped their hands in blue paint and created 'textile threads' by stamping their paint coated hands on paper. They then wove these threads together to create a large textile. You would not be able to identify an individual's hand prints in the final piece, so the lesson also emphasized the importance of working with others and as a community to make the project successful. This textile, along with another textile piece and students paintings of Fall River mills will be on display on the Main St. UMass Campus in October. I am working with the exhibition coordinator to create an interactive and engaging display of the work and its message. Students will be able to take their families to see the work once it is up and the work will be seen by everyone attending and visiting the satellite campus.

With the older students, 6-7 grades, the projects were able to have a little more conceptual depth. We created two murals. One mural will be on display in the new Morton Middle School, the other is already up in a nearby skate park. My objective for this project was to allow the students more control over the subject matter. At the UMass leadership week, I had students draw or write their favorite or least favorite aspects of Fall River or their school community and place them on a map. With this information I was able to identify some key issues that would become the focus of both mural projects.

Students focused a lot on the negative aspects of both the city and school community. Their wasn't much they could say they particularly liked about Fall River. They identified several things they would like to change about the city so the theme for both murals became a message of empowerment, both to the students and the community. We discussed the various ways students could make a difference at school and in their neighborhood, emphasizing that making good decisions just for themselves and their future is a way of improving a community, as well as how art and personal expression can engage various types of communities. Their ideas came to life at the skate park using large stencils of their actual silhouettes. Some silhouettes expressed positive community behaviors and others were negative. We took the negative behaviors and put them behind a stencil of chain-link fence to create a simple but powerful message.

Finally, students carried the ideas from the skate park into a smaller mural made of ceramic tiles that will be installed in the new school. With this smaller project we were able to discuss the different sizes and types of communities that all students interact with on a daily basis. The students made sculptural relief ceramic tiles depicting the different ways in which they interact and could impact all the communities they interact with. This project is still in my studio being put together but I will have images as soon as possible.

I appreciate the opportunity to engage the community of Fall River. I enjoyed researching the Fall River area, advancing my teaching skills, and the opportunity to create more public art (my favorite). In the future, I hope other students will have the opportunity to utilize their skills for the benefit of our community. 

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