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March 7, 2008
Contact: Andi Witczak, Center for Service Learning, (785) 864-0965.

Faculty, community advocates meet to discuss service-learning partnerships

LAWRENCE — Nine University of Kansas faculty members connected with representatives of 10 community agencies during the Center for Service Learning’s second “cslMatchmakers” workshop, held Feb. 29 at the Commons in Spooner Hall.

The format was a mock speed-dating activity in which community agency representatives and KU faculty met in pairs to brainstorm ways to collaborate through service-learning partnerships around the theme of social justice.

Andi Witczak, director of the Center for Service Learning, welcomed participants and spoke about the significance of service learning for students, faculty and the community.

Keynote speakers Brent Metz, assistant professor of anthropology, and Lydia León, director of the Centro Hispano Resource Center in Lawrence, discussed their experiences working together in a service-learning partnership for Metz’s “Mexamerica” course. The two met and began their partnership at last year’s Matchmakers event. Metz’s students conducted a survey of Spanish-speaking individuals to identify unmet needs for the community. Centro Hispano Resource Center used this information to develop new programming.

When asked about the importance of service learning in academia, Ariana Wall, assistant professor of social welfare said, “Service learning gives students the opportunity to do; it is not just theoretical learning. In addition, they are making a contribution to the community. And, when all is said and done, this is what we hope they’ll do when they graduate.”

In addition to Wall, KU faculty attendants were: Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, associate professor of theatre and film and women, gender, and sexuality studies; Patrick Dooley, professor of design; Glenn Adams, assistant professor of psychology; Cima Katz, professor of art; Delores Ringer, assistant professor of theatre and film; Daniel Serda, lecturer in architecture and urban planning; Cheryl Lester, director and associate professor of American studies; and Jeremy Shellhorn, assistant professor of design.

Community agency representatives from Lawrence attending were: Mitzi McFatrich, Kansas Advocates for Better Care; Heather Krase-Minnick, Douglas County District Court Citizen Review Board; Carrie Lindsey, Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority; Beth McKenzie, Douglas County Visitation and Exchange Services; Kelly Evans, Trinity In-Home Care; Mary Joslyn, Douglas County Visiting Nurses, Rehabilitation and Hospice Care; Nicholas Learner and Jenny O’Driscoll, the Social Service League of Lawrence; Thad Holcomb, Shannon Gorres and Ashley Depenbusch, Ecumenical Christian Ministries; and Eva Vlach, Women’s Transitional Care Services.

Also attending were Jacqueline Bostic and Melissa Mackey of the Girl Scouts Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri Council.

KU’s Center for Service Learning was established in 2005 and strives to link people, ideas and resources to promote the interconnectedness of teaching, research and service. By doing so, the center hopes to increase the value of service learning and challenge the prevailing conceptions of teacher, learner, classroom and community. The mission of the Matchmakers event was to transform attitudes and inspire action by creating innovative service learning initiatives that connect, advocate, elevate and challenge.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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