Written by Kaitlyn Alkass
Rollins College has always dedicated itself to civic engagement and the past year proved to be no different. For the seventh consecutive year Rollins faculty members received the Florida Campus Compact award, which acknowledges commitment to academic service-learning in their fields of expertise. Florida Campus Compact (FL|CC) is a federally funded organization dedicated to increasing student involvement in civic engagement and social change. “What makes this truly phenomenal is that Rollins is the only school in Florida that has been recognized for academic service-learning for the past seven years,” says Michele Meyer, Lord Family Director of Community Engagement.
Rachel Newcomb, previous FL|CC winner and Associate Professor of Anthropology, shares this campus-wide passion for service-learning. “I think the courses in which I do service-learning have a certain kind of energy in them that comes from students encountering unpredictable real-life situations that resemble situations we’ve been reading about. I often learn a great deal from the students and their projects, which means that education becomes a two-way street. Service-learning has definitely led me to strive to include active assignments in all my classes in which students are required to engage with the world.”
Most recent winners of this prestigious award include Ashley Kistler, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, and Kimberly Dennis, Assistant Professor of Art History. Dennis was honored with the Engaged Scholarship Faculty Award in the Independent Colleges and Universities category. A member of the Rollins community since 2005, Dennis received recognition for her Introduction to Women’s Studies course, in which she paired students with nonprofit organizations including the Center for Drug Free Living and the Hope CommUnity Center. “The greatest success we’ve had is with the Center for Drug Free Living,” says Dennis. “The women living at the recovery center were able to identify with the various topics of feminism that the students prepared for discussion. They examined topics such as domestic violence and helped the women work through the recovery process.”
Ashley Kistler is the first Rollins faculty member to win the Engaged Scholarship Research Award. This category honors those who have completed exceptional research in the field of service-learning, leadership, and engaged scholarship. Kistler has engaged in ethnographic research in San Juan Chamelco, Guatemala for the past seven years. Her scholarship involves working alongside the local Mayan community after learning of their desire to know more about the story of Aj Pop B’atz’, the town’s 16th century founder and culture hero.
“My engaged scholarship in Guatemala has also led me to rethink the way in which I practice service-learning in my classes at Rollins College,” wrote Kistler in her application she submitted for the award. “In ‘The Maya’ class I delivered a lecture series on Maya culture at several local older adult community venues. This project helped students to deepen their knowledge of Maya culture and develop their presentation skills while providing continuing educational opportunities for the community.”
The faculty of Rollins acknowledges service-learning as an important educational tool. Previous winner, Julian Chambliss, Associate Professor of History, believes it is a “vital extension of the classroom that gives students a chance to clarify theory and test assumptions we read about in books.”
Chambliss believes that the key to making Rollins a seven time winner of the FL|CC award is the “emphasis on pragmatic application that pushes beyond volunteerism to a space of active learning and engagement. The result is a greater depth of learning for the students and improvement to the community.”
Newcomb is confident in Rollins’ success. “We have all the necessary ingredients to be successful including synergy among like-minded colleagues who want to do this work, an excellent director to help facilitate it, and the support of the administration. We continue to grow and learn together in a supportive environment, and I think this enables us to flourish in our teaching as well.”
Here’s to another seven years of excellence in community engagement as Rollins continues to be a leader in social change in Florida and beyond.
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