The Office of Experiential Learning – Service Learning Program
2018 LAND Award for Excellence in Institutional Leadership
Mott Community College
Debra Gibes, Faculty Director of Experiential Learning
Experiential Learning Advisory Board
- Dean of Health Sciences Rebecca Myszenski
- Jeff Brandes, Technology
- Madonna Carpenter-Jackson Learning Center
- Carla Clark, Academic Affairs
- Tomika Cooper, Business
- Rod Reyes, Fine Arts & Social Sciences
- Sunni Samuels-Larry, Science & Mathematics
- Rebecca Gale-Gonzalez, Institutional Advancement
- Tyler Klaskow, Humanities
- Valerie Szyarto, Health Sciences
Rationale for Nomination
The Service Learning Program at Mott Community College is committed to serving as a campus resource for the support, coordination, and promotion of service learning, which has far-reaching benefits to students, faculty, staff, and community partners. The program has provided students the opportunity to apply skill sets learned in their liberal arts courses and occupational programs to the real world that enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. The program also provides opportunities for faculty to improve student engagement and build faculty-student relationships. Faculty also have opportunities to engage in networking within the community and acquire increased awareness of community issues. The college also benefits through the Service Learning program by increasing student engagement and developing partnerships within the community. The community benefits through increased human resources, more involved citizenry, and the synergy that is built through shared common goals.
The impact of the Service Learning Program at Mott for students has been profound. Through student surveys, self-reflection, and faculty assessment of course outcomes, students have demonstrated improved critical thinking and problem-solving skills, increased understanding of diversity and culture, enhanced teamwork and interpersonal skills, improved understanding of course concepts, and an increased understanding of the needs of their community.
Each academic year, the Service Learning Program engages with dozens of faculty and hundreds of students to complete service learning projects. Service learning projects are implemented by individual faculty in their courses as well as teams of faculty for program-wide and cross-disciplinary applications. There are dozens of courses that include a service learning component across every campus division including a number of exemplary projects in the liberal arts education. One project that has been incorporated into an English 101 course is the “Phoenix Project.” With the symbol of the Phoenix rising from the ashes, students look at issues such as urban farming, access to safe water, and food insecurities through reading and writing while volunteering at community agencies that seek to eradicate these problems. Through research and interviews students write about the impact of these issues while considering viable solutions. A few other exemplary course projects include projects in psychology, chemistry, world languages and math. As Psychology students learn about the psychology of aging, they create hands-on memory boxes depicting common memorable experiences such as trips and holidays and visit assisted living centers to provide memory engaging activities. Chemistry students assist with a number of projects through the Flint River Watershed Coalition to help increase awareness of the effects of dumping on the water quality in the region. Spanish students provide after school opportunities at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint for children to learn Spanish. Both math and English faculty provide service learning components for students to serve at a local agency that provides tutoring for K-12 students whose parents are or were incarcerated.
Service Learning is also highly integrated into developmental and ESL courses that are designed to prepare students for the liberal arts education. One ongoing project includes students in integrated reading and writing courses who visit the elderly in senior or assisted living centers. Through several visits the students share picture books with universal themes and learn of the meaningful events in the lives of the residents. The students write about these memorable events and the stories are published into a professional book to give back to the residents at the center. English language learners in ESL courses also engage in service learning as “Student Ambassadors” at local elementary schools by sharing their experiences in their homeland to help increase global awareness and cultural understanding.
Faculty and students who engage in program-wide and cross-disciplinary projects provide the benefits of service learning at a much broader scale. Each year students in the Baking and Pastry Arts Program visit a local shelter to teach residents some basic baking skills and provide freshly baked breads and desserts to those residing in the shelter. Each spring the entire Science Division hosts the Science Olympiad for hundreds of local school children to engage in STEM related learning. One notable cross-disciplinary project is called “The Voices of Flint.” Music and Graphic Design students collaborate to bring stories of those who are underrepresented in the community to public awareness. Music students reach out to community agencies that serve these residents and engage in dialogues. They then create music scores that showcase these dialogues. Graphic Design students create slide shows that accompany the compositions with artistic interpretations of the words. Students share these interactive slideshows at a public event to increase awareness and understanding of the underprivileged.
Another cross-disciplinary project that brings liberal arts and occupational programs together is “The Facing Project.” The project included faculty and students from English, theater, photography, fine art, media arts, and ESL. The project engaged community partners that have a vested interested in supporting international and immigrant students who are facing college. English students interviewed international and immigrant students and wrote their experiences in first person narratives. Fine Arts students interpreted those stories through artistic expressions and photography students photographed the writers and the storytellers. These were published into a book which was released at a book launch open to the public. Community partners were on hand to share about their services in the community and the stories were presented on stage through dramatic readings and video productions.
Students and faculty alike have embraced the power of service learning and its impact. One student involved in the Phoenix Project stated that “in helping out with the Flint Water Crisis, I have learned a lot about my fellow community members. I loved dedicating my time to serving these deserving people.” Another service learning student learned that “we are responsible for our own actions, but once we have been educated on a certain topic, we also have the responsibility of sharing that knowledge with others.” Faculty who have experienced service learning are highly committed to this teaching and learning strategy. One member noted that “service learning is crucial to a quality education and preparation for the workforce.” It is the goal of MCC to enhance the Service Learning Program so that every student has the opportunity to experience service learning as part of their education.