Saturday, April 14, 2012

Schaumburg celebration of transformational learning

The Mansfield Institute was proud to sponsor a celebration of transformational learning at the Schaumburg Campus on April 13.  Organized by Jennifer Tani (Director of Community Engagement) and Jill Coleman (Assistant Professor of Psychology), the event showcased how Roosevelt University students and faculty have used this teaching strategy to address challenges and needs present in the northwest suburbs.

Jill Coleman and her teaching assistant, Aliya Ghouse, described how transformational learning enriched her Psychology of Women class during the past semester.  Flanked by display boards showcasing community partners for the class, participants learned how students benefited from the first-hand experiences of working with agencies that assist women and how to overcome challenges involved in community placements.  She shared a poignant quote from Lisa Musialowicz, one of her students, about the placement:

“While I was working at the volunteer fair with Deena, she mentioned that the women and children at the crisis center are in charge of their own breakfast and lunch, but each night a few people are assigned to the chore of making dinner for all of the residents.  With the food pantry getting so low this is becoming an even harder task…I decided that since Monday night was my night off, I would make dinner.  I decided on cheese tortellini and sauce with salad and garlic bread.  I don’t have a huge kitchen at my apartment so this was not exactly easy, but I managed.  When everyone saw what I brought, their mouths about dropped to the floor.  They kept saying how nice and generous it was.  To me, pasta, salad, and garlic bread is not a gourmet meal but, when you have nothing, everything is a big deal.

I left the center after dinner feeling better than I could have imagined.  I cook dinner for family and friends all the time and have never felt the way I did that night.  It was more than volunteering for a class that night.  It was doing something kind for women and children that maybe haven’t had a lot of kindness recently except for at ECC.”

Other presenters focused on how to facilitate outreach opportunities more broadly at the Schaumburg Campus.  A panel of students from Melissa Sisco's course in Child Abuse and Family Violence not only performed the service learning hours as part of this class, they shared results from a survey of 79 Roosevelt students about their needs and preferences for becoming more engaged in the community.  Melissa Palmer, Gina Stawinoga, Alexandra Corbin, Christina Luburich, Tiana Sapienza, Christine Westercamp, and Amanda Brullo reported that Roosevelt University students often wish for more opportunities for service learning as well as weekly volunteering, particularly in the areas of at-risk youth and intimate partner violence.  This data will inform the creation of the Campus to Community Outreach Initiative (CCO) at Schaumburg to establish additional community partnerships and to facilitate the placement process.

Jan Bone elaborated on the innovative partnership that she formed with CEDA Northwest when teaching Writing Social Justice during the Spring semester.  This community agency focuses on the impact of economic inequality in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Students in Jan's class developed their writing as they learned about issues of affordable housing and the lived experiences of poor people in the suburbs.  Applying their skills, students provided assistance for the redevelopment of CEDA's website, Facebook page, and compiled a 94-page document to help the agency find options to sustain their funding needed for operation.

Sonia Ivanov and Jessica Elbe from CEDA attended the celebration and received these materials at the reception.  Expressing gratitude and excitement around this collaboration, they shared how challenging it can be for not-for-profit agencies to sustain their work as funding becomes more scarce throughout Illinois and how vital the students' assistance has been for their organization.  Several undergraduates in the class will continue to serve at CEDA even after the course ends.

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