Thursday, December 22, 2011

Promoting child literacy through transformational learning

Students in Tammy Oberg De La Garza's READ 320 collaborated with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association during Fall 2012 to promote child literacy through transformational learning.

Her students document how much they learned in compelling videos. These undergraduates describe how they not only helped others, but also how the experience affected their personal development.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Transformational Learning Update for 2011

Transformational learning anchors the university's social justice mission in the classroom, allows students to reach out into the community as part of their coursework, and helps students become engaged citizens who have the tools to promote social change.  The unique and innovative model of service learning that we have developed at Roosevelt University actively involves students in addressing social problems as it allows them to help individuals in our neighborhoods.

We are happy to share that the use of transformational learning has dramatically expanded at Roosevelt over the past two years.  Many instructors have started to use service learning as part of the Mansfield Institute's work in interrupting the "cradle to prison pipeline."  Others faculty have embraced service learning through new partnerships between the MISJT and other units at the university.

Consider this quick comparison that reflects the growth in transformational learning.  In Fall 2009, instructors offered 16 classes that included transformational learning, with a total enrollment of 169 students.  In Fall 2011, this number is now 42 sections, enrolling 623 students.

Transformational learning has been infused as an option within the general educational curriculum.  Jan Bone's section of LIBS 201 (Writing Social Justice) is one innovative illustration.  This growth has encompassed virtually all sectors of the university.

We are pleased to expand our support of social justice-oriented courses and programs within the Heller College of Business, including their social entrepreneurship undergraduate business major and MBA concentration, internship programming, and applied opportunities to address chronic social issues (such as poverty and food security) through firm-level solutions.  We are similarly happy to report that transformational learning has become emblematic of particular departments at Roosevelt: 18% of undergraduate classes offered by the Department of Psychology during Spring 2012 will have a transformational learning component.

The Mansfield Institute has been able to support this work by providing grants, teaching assistants, and guidance about how to include service learning into coursework.  We have deepened partnerships with community organizations that address social inequality to facilitate the placement process for students.  These successes reflect the dedication of Roosevelt University faculty to the social justice mission and illustrate their commitment to using effective teaching methods that help transform students into socially-conscious individuals.

Teaching Assistant Grant Recipients

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the Mansfield Institute's Teaching Assistant Grant Program for Spring 2012.  Each of these faculty members will be able to hire an undergraduate or graduate level teaching assistant to help them implement transformational service learning during the upcoming semester.

This is the second year of this highly successful program, and we are happy to support innovative uses of service learning that will allow students to develop a deeper understanding of class concepts by their outreach in the community.  Roosevelt University students in these classes, for example, will conduct background research for Occupy Chicago, analyze the effectiveness of programs offered by the Young Men's Educational Network in North Lawndale, help a community organization develop assisted housing facilities, and assist in the afterschool programs at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen.

Congratulations to this year's awardees:

Jan Bone (English Composition)
LIBS 201 - Writing Social Justice

Jennifer Clark (Economics)
ECON 102 - Introduction to Microeconomics

Tammy Oberg De La Garza (Education)
READ 323- Teaching Reading through Children's Literature

Melissa Sisco (Psychology)
PSYC 387 - Child Abuse and Family Violence

Fabricio Prado (History)
HIST 112 - The World since 1500

Lisa Lu (Psychology)
PSYC 310/BIOL 310 - Fundamentals of Behavioral Neuroscience

Sofia Dermisi and Jon DeVries (Finance and Real Estate)
REES 441 - Real Estate Design and Feasibility

John McDonald and Jon DeVries (Finance and Real Estate)
REES 451 - Public/Private Development

Alfred DeFreece (Sociology)
SOC 290 - The Research Process
SOC 480 - Sociological Theory and Methods

Erik Gellman (History)
HIST/SOCJ 201 - Introduction to Social Justice Studies

Tana McCoy (Criminal Justice)
CJL 220 - Juvenile Justice

George Seyk (Heller College of Business)
BADM 398, MGMT 492, ACCT 492 - Internships

Tom Farmer (Psychology)
PSYC 381 - Children and Families

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Transformational learning in LIBS 201: Writing Social Justice

On the first day of class in September, students in Jan Bone’s Fall 2011 Writing Social Justice course in Schaumburg (Liberal Studies 201) did not know they had signed up for a course that could include transformational learning. However, more than two thirds of them opted to take part in the transformational project on domestic violence. The rest of the class studied an alternative curriculum on immigration issues. Those that chose to be a part of transformational learning were paired with contacts provided by Agnes Masnik, Illinois State Senator Matt Murphy’s district director and secretary of the Northwest Suburban Alliance on Domestic Violence, headquartered in Palatine and near the Roosevelt/Schamburg campus. The contacts Masnik provided to students were all members of the Alliance and are committed to promoting prevention of domestic violence.

Over the 2011 summer, Bone and Masnik met several times to coordinate how to make the partnership between Roosevelt University students and the Alliance work effectively for everyone involved. Together they hatched the idea of creating blog postings where student authors would write-up their interviews with participating members of the Alliance. Bone and Masnik both spoke highly of their experiences working together on the transformational learning portion of the course; each wanted to give the other lots of credit for her work.

The 16 students who chose to partner with an Alliance member or agency went through a process of choosing a partner, requesting an interview with them, interviewing them, preparing questions, and actually interviewing. Interview questions were prepped as a class assignment and reviewed by Bone before the students met their individual contacts.

Students learned a great deal about interviewing skills as well as skills geared toward writing up an acceptable short interview report for their blogs on the Alliance website. Bone talked with her students about audience and purpose and the need to consider both when interviewing and writing up the material. Each interview piece went through multiple revisions with the help of Bone and Masnik before being published on the blog. Besides the end goal of posting their work on the Alliance’s blog, the students also were working to finish their pieces as a promotional timed to run concurrently and shortly after the Domestic Violence awareness event co-sponsored by Roosevelt and the Alliance called “Break the Silence on Relationship Violence” held on October 27th at the Schaumburg campus.

The partnership between Bone’s students and the members of the Alliance was at times complicated, but it was also valuable. It took a lot of coordination between the students and their designated contacts to find a time where they could even talk about setting up a meeting, much less actually meet. Bone also reported that she liked the challenge and will run a similar transformational learning course in Spring 2012 with the help of a teaching assistant using a $2000 grant from the Mansfield Institute of Social Justice and Transformational Learning for the course. The $2000 scholarship will be applied to the student’s Spring 2012 tuition.

Masnik elaborated that in a time where nonprofits are struggling to provide a service, the organizations were able to have the students help spread their message of social justice. The students’ blog entries were a new medium whereby attention was being drawn to something that needed attention: the cycle of domestic violence. The students also got a lot out of the experiences in the class as well. Not only did they learn interviewing strategies and improve their writing skills, but also they had the chance to learn by experiencing and being able to work with someone in the field. They enjoyed seeing their bylines published with their blogs, as well as the credit line for Roosevelt’s Social Justice classes.

The students were able to go to the sources to learn -- taking their learning a step farther than a textbook is able. Transformational learning also made the students feel involved, powerful, and as if they were actually doing something meaningful. After all, how many college sophomores get to interview a mayor or police chief and have their work published?

Bone’s transformational learning course gave them those opportunities. Her Spring 2012 class in Writing Social Justice will work closely with staffers from CEDA Northwest Self-Help Center, a non-profit agency that works in partnership with 14 communities to achieve self-sufficiency and improve their quality of life. CEDA Northwest serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Buffalo Grove, Des Plaines, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg and Wheeling.

Check out the students' blog posting on the Northwest Suburban Alliance on Domestic Violence page at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Alternative Break Immersion 2012 applications available

Please inform your students of a wonderful opportunity to impact a community in need and be part of an amazing team!  During Spring Break 2012, Katie Mason will be taking a group of up to ten students to Goshen, IN where we will provide service for an organization called La Casa, Inc.  La Casa, among many things, provides affordable housing for rent and to purchase for individuals who are considered in the low-to-moderate income status.  They will spend the week doing housing repairs and learning about the community.  Trip dates are March 10th-March 17th.  Applications are available in the Center for Student Involvement (AUD 344) and are due by December 5th at 5pm.  Questions?  Contact Katie Mason at (Career Counselor in the Office of Career Development).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Social action in transformational learning classes

What is our "brand" of service learning?

One of the most important ways in which service learning at Roosevelt differs from other universities is our frequent emphasis of creating social change through students' community work.  For instance, many service learning placements across the country involve tutoring children who experience adversity, but fewer encourage their students to question and act on why those inequalities exist in the first place.  This is where our social justice mission directs our work in a unique way for transformational service learning.

I recently read an example of this broader focus in an issue of the Diversity and Democracy newsletter published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.   Here's an excerpt below.  You'll find other examples from some of the previous posts on this blog.

Perspective-Taking and Community
In my classes, I connect assigned readings directly to challenges facing our local and global economies. These challenges affect both students' lives and the lives of the community members with whom they come in contact. I use the course readings as media for enhancing critical dialogue on the possibilities for new models of democratic engagement and collaboration. To make the readings concrete, I give my students the opportunity to work alongside new immigrants in a Pomona day labor center, day laborers on the street corners of Rancho Cucamonga, farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley, and labor and community organizers in diverse coalitions throughout the region. The readings and our class discussions become "real" when students meet with these day laborers and community organizers to work on common projects that emerge from their dialogue. Just as in the classroom, students advance to new levels of collaboration and civic engagement by practicing democratic exchange.

Having identified problems that are relevant to the workers, students use participatory community-based research and action to locate solutions. Drawing on their discussions with workers, students organize various projects that push for social change. Students and workers have collaborated to implement English classes, health workshops, and immigration rights research projects. Students have also organized petition drives, researched the constitutionality of checkpoints, marched to protest immigration raids, and campaigned to ensure continued funding for the local day labor center. To combat negative portrayals of new immigrants, students and day laborers have organized community-wide art and pictorial life history presentations. Thus the workers and students join in raising their voices and ensuring that they are heard. In all these projects, students come to accept the day laborers as teachers. With the help of the Center for Community Engagement and funding from alumna Susan Hanson, the college hosts weekly Encuentros (Encounters) lunches where day laborers share their life stories and converse in Spanish with students and faculty. Students also perform teatro (activist theater) in various communities during their spring break.

Through the projects and class readings, students become more equipped to understand contemporary debates over immigration, free trade, globalization, and the many myths that circulate about farm laborers, union organizers, and immigrant workers. By learning to respect each other's perspectives and by pursuing specific outcomes that benefit both campus constituents and workers, students and workers have developed a genuine trust over the years. In this way, the practice of perspective-taking becomes a useful tool in understanding the diverse experiences that intersect in the "border culture" between academia and the world beyond. Students learn to value the perspective of the "other": the poor, the worker, the oppressed, the immigrant, or the person of another color, class, gender, or sexuality. Similarly, workers and community organizers grow to respect classrooms as places where ideas can become deeds that advance their efforts to be heard.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mansfield Institutes Welcomes our New Fellow from AmeriCorps VISTA – ILCC

My name is Nikita Stange and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA – ILCC with the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation.  I am the community outreach and special projects coordinator here.

My undergraduate degree is in Sociology with a concentration in Health, Human Service, and Social Justice.  My primary focus up until this point academically has been on racial studies and education and I am excited to continue learning about these issues while working with the Mansfield Institute.  I believe that there are significant changes that need to be made in our education and penal systems so that individuals, young and old, can become productive members of society.

I am confident that Transformational Learning is one way that we can work together to create meaningful social change.   As a former Roosevelt student and a recent grad, I hope that I can be a useful resource for TL faculty and students.  Currently I am working with SOC 325/425 (a TL course) where students are going to Morrill Elementary to work with students and teachers to bring a Restorative Justice model to the school.  My role has been to support the professor and the students so that they can be successful at Morrill.  My hope is to do the same for our current TL faculty as well as those faculty considering this pedagogy.  Please consider me as a resource for TL course related work that may include helping to set up your community partnership, promoting your TL course, or helping you structure/organize your TL course projects.  I am located in AUD 670 and can be reached at

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grants for Teaching Assistants for Transformational Learning Classes

Are you thinking about using transformational service-learning in your class for Spring semester, but feel that you would need some extra help in incorporating it into your class?

The Mansfield Institute is happy to announce that we are able to provide faculty members with teaching assistants to give added support!  Full-time and part-time faculty from across Roosevelt University are invited to submit proposals to hire an undergraduate or graduate student who would be able to provide 8 hours of support each week during the semester.  Students receive a $2,000 scholarship to be applied toward their Spring 2012 tuition as compensation for their work.

Specifically, teaching assistants can help faculty members with the transformational service-learning component of their class by working with the Mansfield Institute to help students find community placements, coordinating with community partners, assisting with off-site travel of visits of community partners to campus, and evaluating students' service-learning assignments with appropriate guidance and supervision.

Click here to learn more and to download the brief application!  Applications are due no later than November 1, 2011.  Contact Steve Meyers at with any questions or for any assistance that you may need.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New e-Book Available on Service-Learning

The Roosevelt University library recently acquired a helpful e-book on service-learning, Experiencing Service-Learning, by Robert Kronick, Robert Cunningham, and Michele Gourley.

You can access and read it entirely online by clicking here.

Here's a synopsis:

"A unique resource for students and professors alike, this book reveals the important practical, educational, and emotional benefits provided by college programs that allow students to help others through service work in inner-city classrooms, clinics, and other challenging environments. Filled with vivid first-person reflections by students, Experiencing Service-Learning emphasizes learning by doing, getting into the field, sharing what one sees with colleagues, and interpreting what one learns.

As the authors make clear, service-learning is not a spectator sport. It takes students 'away from the routines and comfort zones of lecture, test, term paper, exam' and puts them into the world. Service-learning requires them to engage actively with cultures that may be unfamiliar to them and to be introspective about their successes and their mistakes. At the same time, it demands of their instructors 'something other than Power-Point slides or an eloquently delivered lecture,' as no teacher can predict in advance the questions their students’ experiences will raise. In service-learning, students and teacher must act together as a team of motivators, problem solvers, and change agents."

The Roosevelt University library has been purchasing a variety of additional books on service-learning that provide more information for faculty members.  Their complete set of holdings in this area can be accessed through the catalog.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art, Activism, and Transformational Learning

Roosevelt University undergraduates in Maggie Leininger’s Art as Activism (ART 360) class and the youth and young adults from La Casa Norte had the unique experience of collaborating in creating a public art project. Leininger had “always wanted to integrate art in public spaces and in a communal dialogical manner, but struggled with how to complete something of this nature.” The class started to take shape with the help of a book (The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena) and a partnership with La Casa Norte (LCN), a non-profit group that provides services to homeless youth. Leininger used transformational service learning so her undergraduates could work with youth to produce a mosaic mural for the center and allow them to experience the artistic process of collaboration.

Using the theme of self-identity and portraiture, Roosevelt students and LCN youth each completed individual squares of mosaics. As Leininger described, “RU students guided LCN clients through the visual art process of designing a mosaic tile that reflected their identity through form, shape, and color. They did this by talking directly with LCN clients, getting to know them and then directing them towards images or ideas that seemed suited to the project. Roosevelt undergraduates also assisted in constructing a felted portable art space called Commun-ique that was placed at the museum campus area of Grant Park in which public art workshops were offered.” The mosaics were then assembled together into a larger mural that was installed at a new housing site constructed in late 2010 at LCN.

Collaboration with community members initially presented several unknowns for Leininger and her students. Though they generally came from different backgrounds, the Roosevelt students and the youth were able to connect on age-related interests of music, tattoos, art, and movies. Leininger observed, “these valuable interactions removed so many barriers of participation for the LCN youth and proved to be a valuable asset to the successful outcome of the project as LCN clients felt that they could identify with RU students despite obvious sociological differences.”

This transformational learning class provided students with an educational experience that emphasized collaboration and societal engagement that extended beyond a typical academic setting. Students were individually responsible for achieving their own goals, but there was also a communal goal for all involved. The format of this class helped students develop the skills to work with others and to manage personal issues in the service of a positive outcome for the group.

Leininger found the class to be a real success. She described time as being her greatest obstacle. Both Roosevelt University students and LCN youth had set time restrictions that allowed for a limited window for interaction. Because both groups were excited about the experience, they were able to determine a time that worked for everyone. Leininger’s flexibility and creative problem solving were also helpful for her use of transformational learning. She recommends this teaching approach to any professor who has larger goals for students.

Celebration of Transformational Learning

At the end of the academic year, dozens of faculty members gathered to celebrate the success of transformational service learning at Roosevelt University. Over the past year, the number of classes involving community outreach has increased dramatically.

Professors shared their experiences, learned from each other, and developed a supportive network around their commitment to bridging the classroom with community needs.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Service-Learning Training Opportunity in Chicago for Teacher Educators

WHO:  An Educational Institute for Faculty and Pre-Service Teachers in Service-Learning Curriculum Development

WHAT:  As a member school of the Illinois Campus Compact, your registration cost is covered by a grant.

WHERE:  The University Center, 525 S. State St. (second floor conference room) Chicago, Illinois.

WHEN:   Training takes place 9 AM to 4 PM on Thursday, June, 9.  Deadline for registration is Friday, May 20th at

WHY:   This Educational Institute will provide the tools to: Integrate service-learning into the curriculum and teacher preparation programs; Work with Faculty Fellow Mentors to guide participants in building their teacher educational models; Help develop service-learning programs for K-16 disadvantaged youth, youth at risk and diverse populations of youth; Utilize opportunities for program reflection.

HOW:   A collaborative project with the Illinois Campus Compact and the Illinois State Board of Education

This training team will share ways in which service learning and community service partnerships, community based research, and community economic development are integrated into the mission K-12 school systems. They will also facilitate a session on curriculum development, with a focus on reflection and authentic learning in the context of community engagement and the civic purposes of education.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Transformational Learning through the Writing Center

Carrie Brecke's LIBS 201 course (Writing Social Justice) is about the politics of literacy and carries the requirement of tutoring in the Writing Center for two hours a week.  Students also have the opportunity to tutor at the Social Justice High School where they are currently organizing an in-house writing center.  In this class and through tutoring, students appreciate how essential having a voice that will be heard is for everyone in a democratic society.   Emphasis here on everyone.   Students in this class come to understand how writing is a political act, and through tutoring, students help others find agency through writing. Every semester, students in this section of LIBS 201 put in over 500 hours of tutoring, which is a truly transformational experience for them, from the help they offer struggling writers to the insights they get in terms of the inequality of educational institutions, they begin to understand how deep a social justice issue writing and learning to write is. Many of the students in this class go on to become staff tutors at the Writing Center.  Learn more through their recent newsletter.  The editors, Jeff Schaller and Katie Kelly, both began as transformational learning students.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Undergraduates Benefit from Transformational Learning: “You Learn So Much”

Undergraduates in Dr. Lisa Lu’s transformational learning class in Human Neuropsychology had the unique opportunity to take the information they were learning in the classroom and apply it in the community by helping people with brain injuries, such as strokes or as a result of accidents. Amina Avion and Melissa Trejo, both seniors at Roosevelt, completed their service learning projects for Psychology 350 at the Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse and Victory Center, a supportive living community.

Asked whether this service learning class was rewarding, Avion said, “Definitely.” She explained that she has taken a number of transformational service learning classes while at Roosevelt and she finds them to be a “really enjoyable experience.” She said that these courses not only give students the opportunity to integrate activity with knowledge, but they also offer students experiences that help them decide if a field holds promise for a career. Trejo added that transformational learning classes are, “a perfect opportunity to test the waters. It can help you decide what you really want to do.” The service learning component offered them more than the coursework alone; working with people showed them deeper levels of the subject matter and the applications of what they were learning.

This class was more time consuming than their others, but it did not keep Trejo or Avion from finding the experience worthwhile for a number of reasons. First, transformational learning gave them the opportunity to give back to others. Avion said she never would have interacted with the people at her site or those with such difficulties, but this transformational learning class provided her with the opportunity. Trejo found the experience to be eye-opening. She said, “This enhances you as a person.” Both students emphasized that transformational learning classes help develop time management skills, teach responsibility, and promote commitment because people depend on the students to be there. Service learning not only helped these students grow academically, but also professionally and personally.

Transformational learning classes are not without their difficulties, however. Psychology 350 involved a 20-hour service learning component in addition to classroom time. This process involved searching for a site, making sure it was appropriate for the class, and background checks. Despite these challenges, Trejo advises, “Go for it!” Trejo and Avion encouraged others should follow in their footsteps. These types of classes not only apply to psychology, but experience in the world is important regardless of the discipline. Avion closed with her sentiments about how transformational learning should be a part of every college’s curriculum. She did not just spend the semester learning neuropsychology; she learned much more about others and about herself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Grants to Support Transformational Service-Learning

The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation (MISJT) is pleased to announce its annual grant program to support the development, teaching, and administration of transformational service-learning courses at the university. There are two types of grants that will be awarded for Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 courses: (1) Grants for individual faculty members ($3,500 maximum value), and (2) Block grants for programs and departments ($500 fixed amount).

The brief application, along with an explanation of transformational service-learning and the grant program, can be downloaded as an MS Word document at

We at the Mansfield Institute are ready and able to help faculty as they prepare their grant proposals and use transformational learning. The MISJT has two web pages with useful information about transformational learning as well: and

Your application should be submitted as an attachment to Steven Meyers at by Monday, March 28, 2011. Applicants will be notified about the decisions regarding all proposals by Friday, April 8, 2011. This grant program is supported by funding from the McCormick Tribune Foundation.