To gain hands-on experience in her field of study and at the same time explore her interest of working with children, Social Work student Lindsey Hathaway chose to take on a service-learning course this semester, securing a placement in the Early Child Care & Education program at the Development Center of the Ozarks (DCO). She recently spoke to a Citizenship and Service-Learning (CASL) staff about what it’s like to help teach and interact with a group of energetic toddlers.
Why did you choose to serve at the DCO? I was referred by someone from a previous job and I love working with children.
How has your service-learning experience been so far? It has been good. I’ve learned new things about teaching children.
What have you learned from doing service-learning? I’ve learned that teachers really do work hard on discipline with children. For example, the two-year-olds I work with have been taught how to sit and wait quietly before doing activities.
What kind of work do you do at the DCO? I help entertain the children while the teacher is getting things prepared. I also clean, assist with nap time and gather things from other classrooms.
What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve helped with / what do you enjoy most about working at the DCO? I really enjoy interacting with the children. It’s fun to see how they interact with one another. I also had the pleasure to help them with their art time. I worked with two children on their colors and numbers during the art project.
How have you managed to balance service-learning with your studies and part-time job? I set aside one day a week, sometimes two, to do my service-learning. It has worked out very well.
What advice would you have for students who are considering doing service-learning? Get involved with an organization that you would actually enjoy working in.
Each semester, Missouri State University’s service-learning students contribute hundreds of hours of service to a host of local non-profit organizations, schools and government agencies as part of their academic coursework while also addressing various social issues like poverty, homelessness, healthcare and education. Here’s what several of the students shared about their experiences:
I did service-learning because I wanted to get a better feel of what it was like to do actual scientific research. It was of great benefit to me for three reasons. First, I was able to befriend two wonderful scientists who were willing to answer all of my curious questions and inform me about the overall procedures and purpose of what we were doing. I’m still able contact them if I ever have questions. Second, I gained a plethora of knowledge about advanced lab techniques that are used ubiquitously in modern research. Rather than just reading about these procedures in a textbook, I was able to see them unfold right before my eyes. Lastly, I was able to step back and appreciate all of the interconnected steps and multiple people it takes to make a full research project come to fruition. Working in the animal surgery room was my favorite part of the experience as I got to help perform multiple live surgeries on rats. Evan Wilson, Jordan Valley Innovation Center, Fall 2014
I chose to do service-learning because it allowed me to be in the classroom and experience what being a teacher is like. I had no idea what Title I schools looked like and working at Robberson gave me that experience. I loved being able to be around kids almost every day of the week as I assisted them with Math. I also gained great friendships with the teachers I worked with and I felt like I was part of the school and could turn to them if I had questions. Brittney Hartman, Robberson Community School, Fall 2014
Service-learning has given me opportunities to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do or experience otherwise. My time at the Gillioz has taught me so much! Sitting in a classroom retaining enough knowledge to be able to pass a test is great, but going out and getting your hands dirty, actually doing the work, that is what you’ll remember. I’ve been exposed to the ins and outs of making a concert happen, and been able to help in the process of seeing it through. Audrey Mathis, Gillioz Theatre, Fall 2014
I chose to do service-learning because as a social work major, I believe it’s important to interact with and serve people in the community. Having a broader range of connections strengthens my ability to help my clients reach their needs in the future. The experience benefited me not only professionally and academically, but also personally. I got to gain first-hand exposure to some of the situations I may have to deal with as a social worker and advocate, as well as take what I had done at the Rare Breed and apply them to things being taught in the classroom. Johnathan Boddie, Rare Breed, Spring 2014
One of the most popular placement sites for Missouri State University (MSU) service-learning students each semester is the Discovery Center of Springfield (DCS). Biomedical Sciences major Cassie Donahue completed 40 hours of service there last fall semester and found it to be an enriching experience. She recently gave some insight into her time at the DCS and how undertaking service-learning has helped her.
Why did you decide to do service-learning?
I wanted to start getting involved in the “real-world” scene behind biomedical science. When I discovered I would have the opportunity to volunteer at the DCS, I was thrilled at the thought of being able to teach what I love to others.
How was your service-learning experience? Very rewarding! Working at the DCS is fun and fulfilling, and I love getting to share my passion about science with others.
What have you learned from doing service-learning? Teaching and guiding children and teens through science is rewarding, and a worthwhile investment of my time. In high school, I struggled with chemistry so I was turned off to all science for a long time. Looking back, I really regret that, considering how much I love and appreciate the field of chemistry now. Knowing I can help others discover their passion for whatever field of science it is makes me smile, and preventing them from going through the same negative experience as me gives me a huge sense of purpose.
What kind of work did you do at the Discovery Center? I assisted with experiments in the ChromoZone (the life sciences area), general lab set up and clean up, and various tasks, including mixing and making solutions for exhibits (chick wringer, buffer for gel electrophoresis, agar plates, etc).
What did you enjoy most about working at the Discovery Center? I enjoyed assisting visitors with the “DNA Extraction” experiment. Generally, people are very interested in what DNA is and why it matters, and watching them be able to extract it and have a tangible product of the experiment is insightful. Most of the visitors that partake in the experiment have good questions and are eager to learn more, and being able to answer their questions and ultimately explain why science matters is great.
What advice would you give students who are considering doing service-learning?
Do it! Now! Don’t wait. My supervisor has been so flexible with my schedule, and the benefits I reap from the service-learning experience far outweigh any academically-related accolade.
According to DCS ChromoZone Program Coordinator Sara Coffman, both MSU students and her organization benefit greatly from the Citizenship and Service-Learning (CASL) program.
“Our resources are very limited so having CASL students who are more than just “one-time volunteers” allows us to set aside time for training and develop program material that otherwise would not be able to be completed,” she explained. “They, in turn, are able to invest their time and talent into helping our organization reach our goals of providing creative, informative and hands-on discoveries about the sciences and the world around us.”
It’s not every day one gets to interact with wild animals up close and personal. But Wildlife Biology student Katlyn Gardner got to do just that this fall—thanks to her service-learning experience at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield. A Citizenship and Service-Learning (CASL) staff visited her recently during one of her shifts at the zoo to find out more about why she decided to do service-learning and how she has benefited from the exposure.
Why did you decide to do service-learning?
I knew service-learning would give me an opportunity to work at the Dickerson Park Zoo and I really wanted to do this. Visiting zoos when I was younger got me interested in wildlife biology and I saw this as a perfect way to get my feet wet in the field.
How did you secure your placement at Dickerson Park Zoo? I decided to do service-learning quite late in the semester so I spoke with a CASL staff to see if I could still do it. She said yes as long as the zoo was willing to accept me. I called the director and it all worked out.
How has your service-learning experience been? It’s been a good learning experience as I get to observe animal behavior first-hand and pick up on all the little facts about the different animals.
What have you learned from doing service-learning? I’ve learned a lot about the animals such as their needs and life expectancy, and how to communicate with them. It’s great to benefit from the knowledge the zookeepers have and I’ve realized there are no stupid questions when it comes to learning about animals.
On average, how often do you work at the zoo? One to two times a week for a few hours each day.
What kind of work do you do at the zoo? I prepare food for the animals and help to feed them, clean their stalls and enrich their environments to keep them active.
What do you enjoy most about working at the zoo? Working here has definitely solidified my choice to pursue this major and career pathway. Before, I was pretty sure this is what I wanted to do, but I had concerns if I was overglamourizing the job or if I was cut out for it as I’m more of a “girly” girl. Through this experience, I know I love doing this type of work and I want to be around animals and care for them.
How do you juggle your busy schedule as a student with doing service-learning? It’s tough as I’m pretty involved on campus, but I chose to make service-learning a priority this semester. I also have a support system that motivates me to stay busy and the zoo staff have been good about working with my schedule so I can get this done.
According to Sarah Dunham, the zoo’s assistant zookeeper, students like Katlyn benefit the zoo because they help to get a lot of stuff done in terms of caring for the animals.
“We also get to engage in knowledge exchange. We teach them about the animals and the zoo, but we also learn from them,” she said. “When their work with us is done and they leave us with so much more knowledge about the different animals, they become one of our best ambassadors for conservation and wildlife management.”
Every Thursday, after the school day ends at Robberson Community School, a group of about 16 kids gather excitedly in the school’s gymnasium to participate in a lively Opera Workshop made possible through Missouri State University’s (MSU) service-learning program.
The workshop began last year as part of the integrated service-learning element in the MUS 193: Opera Workshop course led by Dr. Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn, MSU’s director of opera and assistant professor of voice, and was held for the second time this fall. During the 45-minute workshop, Dr. Daehn and her 16 students engage the Robberson kids in singing, music, dancing and drama, as well as hands-on activities related to opera such as making puppets and designing costumes.
“It’s a perfect environment for the kids to release their energy after a long day in class, play with each other, make discoveries about the arts and explore their creativity,” Dr. Daehn explained. “We’re investing in the school because music and the arts help kids learn and become successful. We want to create a generation of kids who appreciate the arts and have the ability to see the heart of music as something timeless.”
Besides teaching the kids about opera in a fun and interactive way, the MUS 193 students get to build positive relationships with them and impart into their lives.
According to Mr. Christian Mechlin, community resource coordinator at Robberson, the connection established between the students and the kids is one of the main reasons why the kids love participating in the workshop each week.
“That relationship is huge for our kids and provides them with positive adult role models who care and are there for them on a consistent basis, and that is one of the biggest pieces of a child’s development,” Mr. Mechlin shared.
He added that extracurricular activities promoting the arts like the Opera Workshop are very important for the kids at Robberson as they offer a lot more exposure outside of what is provided through the school. Furthermore, the activities support education that happens during a normal school day, building literacy, oral communication, confidence and a host of other skills that drive student success in the classroom.
For Dr. Daehn’s students, over 85 percent of them indicated in a mid-term survey that they found the service-learning opportunity at Robberson to be worthwhile and extremely worthwhile, while 100 percent agreed it was important and extremely important to engage in the opera outreach.
One of those students is Ruthie Carter, a sophomore music major. What she enjoys most about the workshop is the creative freedom it provides and seeing the kids’ imagination.
“I’ve forgotten how wild their imaginations really are and it’s been a blast listening to their ideas,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to teach music, but I was unsure of what age group. Thanks to this program, I’ve found that I really like working with elementary school kids!”
While her MUS 193 class is made up of both education students and performance students who may not have a desire to teach music, Dr. Daehn is glad they all see the value of the experience at Robberson. The positive nature of their feedback surpassed her wildest expectations.
“Not only do they get to share their passion for music and drama with the kids, but they’re also building cultural competence—a desire and ability to understand and interact with people of different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and family dimensions,” Dr. Daehn said.
The smiles on the kids’ faces and the warm hugs they give out when they see their MSU big brothers and sisters at the weekly workshops are proof of the deep and lasting bonds that develop over a shared enjoyment of the arts—thanks to the Opera Workshop.
Communication student Bradley White took the opportunity to gain service-learning experience this fall through his Principles of Public Relations course. He got a placement at CoxHealth Foundation, a division of CoxHealth that is responsible for generating current and endowed support for the hospital and its affiliates. Bradley has been working in the Foundation office since September for an average of three hours, twice a week. He was happy to share his positive experience with the Citizenship and Service-Learning (CASL) office.
How did you secure your placement at CoxHealth?
I heard about the service-learning opportunity in my PR class and got more information about it from the CASL office, including a list of places communication majors have gone to before. I called CoxHealth Foundation, went through an interview and was accepted.
Why did you choose to do service-learning? I wanted to supplement my classroom learning and service-learning allowed me to get academic credit, valuable hands-on experience and an opportunity to give back to the community.
How has your experience been?
It’s been a great learning experience and the staff are nice and helpful. My direct boss, Laurie, has been nothing but kind. She gives me tasks to do and the independence to take them on. She’s also good about working with my schedule.
What are some of your responsibilities? Besides helping with day-to-day tasks in the office, I’m involved in events planning, primarily on sponsorships and fundraising. Right now, I’m working on a big philanthropic event called Wrap it Up on Dec. 4 at the Ramada Oasis, which includes dinner, entertainment, a gingerbread tower competition and a live auction. I’m in charge of getting prizes for the auction and calling local bakeries to participate in the competition.
How has service-learning enhanced your educational experience? From a communication aspect, I’ve learned a lot about building relationships and making connections with people in the community. I’ve also improved my organizational skills and got to be involved in helping meet healthcare needs in the community. It’s rewarding to work at an organization where you can see the direct impact of what you’re doing on people’s lives.
What’s your advice to students who are considering taking service-learning? Go for it and find a way to make it take precedence because you’ll gain hands-on experience that will help in the future rather than just sitting in the classroom. I’m a good example of a student who’s super busy, but I managed to do it so don’t be afraid to take the opportunity.
According to Laurie Solsby, CoxHealth Foundation senior development officer, her department has taken on many service-learning students like Bradley over the past few years and they are a big help.
“I find that service-learning students are more committed to the job and ready to be in a professional environment compared with student volunteers,” she said. “We only have three staff working on fundraising in this department so for every hour of work service-learning students do, there’s less work for us. Furthermore, because they’re younger, they help us be more open to fresh and innovative ideas.”
What an incredible spring 2014 semester it has been for Missouri State University and the Citizenship and Service-Learning Office! Students contributed at least 19,000 hours of service to the Springfield community, impacting multiple facets of our community, including children, environment, health care, homelessness, and many more.
Here’s what some service-learning students had to say about their experiences:
I would have to say that service learning was one of my favorite things I have done this entire school year. On top of helping others, I met so many amazing individuals. The director and I were extremely close and I found out how she started at Crosslines. Bambie called herself a trouble maker but is now a recovering meth addict who has been clean for many years now. I plan on volunteering there even though I am finished with my Service Learning hours. Taylor Prenger- Crosslines, Spring 2014
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with Cox South Food and Nutrition Services and I am also very glad that I took advantage of the opportunity. I have been able to network with a lot of great people and also learn the way a hospital functions not only with food service, but all around. During my service I worked to enter menus into the computer for patients, call patients to help them complete menus which are specific to their health, complete tray tickets for the kitchen noting allergies and anything special the patient might need as well as making sure all is correct for the patient. I have also worked to pass out menus to patients on the floor and help them with anything they might need from carb-counting to food group help or even just reading it and filling it out for those who could not. The floors I have worked on include maternity, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neuro-trauma/stroke . Like I said, I am so glad I took the chance to get involved in service learning and I would highly recommend it to others. I will also be looking into doing it again in future classes. Shelby Olson- Cox South Food and Nutrition Services, Spring 2014
I did service learning with the Blackman Water Treatment Plant through analytical chemistry. Service learning helped me to make connections between topics discussed in class. I was able to take some of the analytical methods I learned in class, and then apply them at the water treatment plant by analyzing water samples. Service learning helped to expand my knowledge of chemistry more than a typical classroom would have because I was working with people who understood chemistry. I was able to ask questions about machines or methods while I was working with the machine or method, which made it very easy to understand the answer. Jordan Isakson, Blackman Water Treatment Plant, Spring 2014
I enjoyed my Service Learning experience because I was able to make contacts and add something to my resume. Because of this experience, I gained more experience in the work environment and will hopefully advance on to do more work in the future.
Audrey Gaines- Wonders of Wildlife, Spring 2014
Stay tuned on @MOStateCASL for more student blurbs and updates!
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Jordan Fuhr, a Psychology student here at Missouri State. She is participating in service-learning through a Psychology course titled Human Diversity, taught by Dr. Adena Young-Jones. Jordan is completing her service-learning at the Rare Breed Youth Outreach Center, a program for homeless or at-risk youth that provides a clean, safe, drug-free environment. Youth at the Rare Breed may receive counseling, food and clothing. Also available are activities, GED classes, bathing and laundry facilities. I would like to thank Jordan in advance for sharing with us her experience:
What have you been doing thus far with the Rare Breed? So far I have been completing my training and I have even begun to communicate with the youth independently. I have been able to help in every area of the Rare Breed center including the kitchen, the clothing dispensary, and the front desk. I have worked as a greeter, as well as in the office and also I’ve been able to participate in an empowerment group for the youth.
What has been your favorite moment with the Rare Breed? My favorite moment so far has to be the conversation I had with a young man about his sobriety. I was simply asking how his day had gone so far, after some hesitation he informed me that he had been sober for approximately 12 hours (keep in mind it was around 6:30 pm). This broke my heart, but I knew I needed to be strong and supportive. I congratulated him and we continued chatting about the day’s events. This small conversation really opened my eyes to what some of the youth in our community are lacking, helping me realize that I chose the right place to volunteer.
What was the most challenging moment? The most challenging thing while at the Rare Breed is to not let myself get too friendly with the youth. Since many of them are the same age as me, we are able to converse about various things we have in common and it is sometimes difficult to keep myself from wanting to help them in all the possible ways I can. I just have to remind myself that what I am doing is helping and that I don’t need to give cash or rides to these young people in order to make a difference in their lives.
Did anything about your service-learning surprise you? I am surprised that I like volunteering as much as I do. I am also surprised that this experience has led me to consider working at a youth shelter in the future as a case worker.
How do you feel the Rare Breed contributes to the betterment of the Springfield community? The Rare Breed helps the community in so many different ways. Considering all the resources they offer youth, I couldn’t think of a better place to volunteer or support. They have helped hundreds of youth get jobs, homes, food, clothing, education, etc. Not to mention the personal support the youth are getting when spending their time at the Rare Breed; many of these youth have never had a warm and inviting atmosphere where positivity is all you feel. I am 100% in support of everything the Rare Breed has to offer the people of the community.
What led you to choose your community partner? I have a friend who was helped by the Rare Breed a few years ago when she was going through a tough time, so I knew a little bit about what the Rare Breed had to offer. I did a little more research on them and decided I wanted to contribute to everything they offer.
How has your service-learning experience related to your academic coursework? This volunteer opportunity relates impeccably to my coursework. In fact, since working at the Rare Breed I have developed a psychological study which is currently seeking IRB certification that involves the youth who attend the Rare Breed specifically. This project will be used as a capstone for one of my senior level courses and I am excited to see the data.
How did your academic coursework enhance your service-learning? My past and current coursework has helped me communicate with the youth. I have a few youth who are actually seeking my assistance in behavior change program development (quitting smoking, sobriety etc). I have also been able to relate to them as a whole with better ease because I am learning about diversity and how all of our qualifiers contribute to our experience as individuals in society.
Would you recommend service-learning to others? 150% YES, I would highly recommend doing service learning and I would recommend doing so at the Rare Breed specifically!
Jordan will be completing her 40 hours of service-learning this month. She is one of the many students who have the opportunity to engage her coursework with much needed service for our community agencies. A big thank you to Jordan, all our service-learning students and faculty(in this case Dr. Young-Jones) and the community partners that make this happen!
At the CASL Office we value our Service-Learning students very highly. After all, without interested students and committed faculty we would not have jobs. Thankfully, at Missouri State we have increasing numbers of students interested in and taking part in service-learning, and a very supportive faculty. Something new that CASL is endeavoring to do in an effort to give more support and opportunities to our service-learning students is hosting a Service-Learning Academy. This series of four events is aimed at coordinating more closely with our students and keeping them in touch with our office to help them get even more out of their servic
The kickoff event was a Service-Learning Networking Mixer sponsored in part by The New York Times. The gathering of students, CASL officials, pizza, pop, and various New York Times paraphernalia took place the Thursday before Spring Break in the PSU East Ballroom. All students present were able to grab some pizza, hear a few words about networking, and were able to then let loose and interact with each other to hone their skills and forge some valuable connections. It was the first event of its kind hosted by CASL and we at the office have three more great events in store for our students this semester!e-learning placements to assist them after they complete their placement and their schooling.
The next event we’re having is a “Market Your Service-Learning Workshop” which is to be held on Monday March 24thin Karls 102 from 3:15-5:00. If you are a current or former service-learning student and interested in learning some strategies and tips on how to best sell your service-learning during your job hunt, we invite you to come join us! There will be door prizes and free promo pieces courtesy of The New York Times to all attendees in addition to the helpful résumé writing hints provided. A good résumé is the most important asset you can have in securing a job interview, and a placement through service-learning can help you stand out from other applicants.
Our third event for our students this semester is a “Service-Learning Success Story Meet & Greet” featuring a former CASL student and current Missouri State Bear, Nicole DelGiudice. Nicole was a CASL student who had a service-learning placement with the Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield. After the successful completion of her 40-hour component she was offered and accepted an internship with the Gillioz and she now works there in a paid position that has many exciting and fun perks associated with it. CASL will be hosting the meet & greet with Nicole on Monday April 7th from 4:00-5:00 at a location TBA.
The final event of CASL’s Service-Learning Academy (SLA) will be an event titled “Service-Learning and Beyond”. This event, while still taking shape, will be a concluding combination of the three previous SLA events. Students will again have opportunities to network, to employ tactics on how to market their service-learning, and to meet and interact with not only other service-learning students but community partner representatives and area professionals from various fields. As the final event of the 2013-2014 Service-Learning Academy we hope that this will not only be an opportunity for us to thank and show appreciation for our students, but to also help them move onward and upward benefitting from their service-learning.
We hope that all students reading this can attend our Service-Learning Academy and provide our office with input as towhat we can do to better help you during the course of your placement and beyond. Feel free to contact your advisor or stop into PSU 131 anytime to talk with us. If no sooner, we hope you see you at one of our three remaining SLA events!
As a graduate assistant in Missouri State’s Office of Citizenship and Service Learning (CASL) I strongly believe in the merits of service learning. As a methodology, service learning has many inherent benefits. Students have access to opportunities through service learning typically not offered in traditional classes, such as hands on experience in the “real world”, active engagement in the surrounding community, the ability to test out a career path before graduating, and connecting with area professionals in related fields through networking.
That last point of networking is something that I’m coming to find is more and more important the further along I go, and knowing how to network is an extremely valuable asset. Figures vary but it’s estimated that approximately 40%-70% of jobs are filled through personal contacts. These numbers add credence to the old adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” Before dismissing this as mere cronyism or nepotism among industry insiders, it’s important to know that the majority of good hiring is done through referrals to managers from people that they trust and know personally. Networking is key to being one of these trusted contacts, and a placement through service learning with an area community partner can get your foot in the door of the field in which you wish to work. Being well connected increases your chances of being contacted regarding upcoming opportunities. Actively working to get your name out there and forge valuable relationships allows you to, much like Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, “make [your] own luck.”
One of the essentials to effective networking is developed relationships. A service learning placement can be where you start building these constructive relationships within the inner workings of your community partner, as well as any groups or people with which they regularly interact. Connections between related companies or groups can very well be what gets you an interview or job offer that you otherwise may never have encountered.
Social networking is something virtually all young people are familiar with, and this experience can actually be helpful to one’s networking in “real life.” Networking is inherently social and for those intimidated by that, the safety of service learning is a great way to start slowly by connecting with co-workers and supervisors at your community partner and then gradually building from there. Supplementing personal contact with digital contact through avenues like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is a good way to slowly build your presence and raise your profile in a comfortable way.
Many community partners that CASL works with will host or be a part of events in the community to benefit various causes or showcase their work. Being part of planning such an event or attending such an event will provide many beneficial opportunities to network. Networking at an event is more than just mixing and mingling with potential new professional contacts. Having meaningful conversations about your field of interest or the outfit someone works for is the first step that should be followed up through either direct exchanging of information or connecting with them online through social media outlets. These multiple methods of contact increase your name recognition and help to foster the type of professional relationships you want. This “following up” is what takes mere mingling and turns it into networking. Showing up often, maintaining and making connections, and having valuable face-time with professionals in your field, will help you to build a network of helpful and mutually-supportive contacts that can provide you with many opportunities and solutions to problems in the future.
As a critical skill for success, networking is something students should strive to cultivate and start practicing early. We all interact within networks daily and a service learning placement could be the first step in channeling that every day social interaction into a professional asset that will serve you the rest of your professional life.
By Asher Allman, Graduate Assistant for Citizenship and Service-Learning