Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Students spend their spring break fixing homes in Indiana community hit hard by recession

Instead of driving to Florida or jetting to Mexico, a group of Roosevelt University students spent spring break helping others in an unusual destination – Goshen, Ind. Dedicated to the University’s social justice mission, 10 students traveled to Goshen March 11-17 to fix up vacant homes with the not-for-profit group, La Casa, Inc. 

Undergraduates Mooni Abdus-Salam, Samantha Benduha, Molly Connor, Marius Cuciulan, Traci Gilbert, Chelsea Morrison, Hannah Pilla, Kevin Stefanowski, Bailey Swinney and Emilie Wilkie were busy every day of their break making repairs, including indoor remodeling, roofing and landscaping, on homes that La Casa makes available to low and moderate-income residents.
”Community service has always been important to me,” said Morrison, an undergraduate political science major who was part of the Center for Student Involvement ‘s third annual Alternative Break Immersion trip. “It’s particularly important when you help people who can’t make do for themselves,” she said.

In 2010, a group of Roosevelt students spent their spring break helping at a community center in a small West Virginia town.  In 2011, Roosevelt students went to work at Benton House, a community center in in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.  This year, volunteers chose to help in Elkhart County’s Goshen, Ind., which has been hard hit by the recession, including foreclosures and unemployment, due in large part to the collapse of its RV manufacturing industry.

“We took the trip to help out people who have fallen on hard times,” said Katherine Mason, the Roosevelt career counselor who led student volunteers in fixing three La Casa properties.  “It was an eye-opening experience to see how badly a small town like Goshen has suffered,” she said.

Hannah Pilla, an undergraduate English major who has participated in all three Alternative Break Immersion excursions and who helped organize the trip to Goshen, said the experience was labor intensive but very humbling.

“Every time I go on these trips, I realize I’m a lot more fortunate than many people,” said Pilla. “When you see someone who doesn’t have a place to live, it makes you feel lucky and good about yourself that you can do something to help,” she said.

Abdas-Salam, a Chicago resident who also was part of the Alternative Break Immersion trip last year, said the Indiana excursion was rewarding in part because it opened her eyes to problems that families face in semi-rural areas.

“I learned to get along with different types of people and it was great to help these families with painting, roofing, gardening and a lot of other things that needed to be done,” said Abdas-Salam, who wants to enter the not-for-profit field after graduating in 2013.

During the trip, students also spent time working at a home for recovering drug addicts and individuals with disabilities. They were assisted in their volunteer work by student volunteers from Boston University and by prison inmates doing community service. The group also had the opportunity to have dinner with members of the area’s Amish community.

Bailey Swinney, an undergraduate sociology major who went on the trip, said one of the best experiences was taking a tour after working hours in downtown Goshen where a guide from La Casa showed the group how volunteer efforts over time have helped Goshen regain its economic footing. “I loved having the opportunity to put social justice theories discussed in Roosevelt’s different classes into action,” said Swinney.

The trip gave Emily Wilkie, an undergraduate majoring in sociology and women’s and gender studies, a fresh, hands-on perspective on what it means to be homeless, addicted and/or disabled.

“I learned a lot from the open and honest discussion members of our group had.  It was truly an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about attending the Alternative Spring Break Immersion trip next year,” she said.

Friday, March 23, 2012

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.  Grants for faculty members have a $3,000 maximum amount, and will support transformational learning classes to be offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2013, and Summer 2013.

The brief application, along with an explanation of transformational service-learning and the grant program, can be downloaded as an MS Word document at http://tinyurl.com/misjt-2012rfp

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 related information: http://misjt.blogspot.com/ and http://roosevelt.edu/MISJT/TransformationalLearning.aspx.

Your application should be submitted as an attachment to Steven Meyers at smeyers@roosevelt.edu by Monday, April 16, 2012.  Applicants will be notified about decisions within two to three weeks of the deadline. This grant program is supported by funding from the McCormick Tribune Foundation.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What is all the buzz about transformational learning (TL), and what is TL anyway?

Students and faculty will be presenting the innovative work that connects teaching with outreach in the community.  Stop by our celebrations at both campuses in April.  Learn how social justice teaching and scholarship is leading to real change and how you can get involved next year.

Chicago Campus:

Thursday, April 18
5:00 p.m. Presentations about transformational service learning and the Scholar Activist Fellowship program in the Congress Lounge.
6:00 p.m. Reception and celebration in the Fainman Lounge.

RSVP: nstange@roosevelt.edu

Schaumburg Campus:

Friday, April 13
10:00 a.m. Presentations and discussion in Alumni Hall
11:00 a.m. Reception and celebration in Alumni Hall

RSVP: jtani@roosevelt.edu