John Stover, Department of Sociology
It was the second week of spring semester, and we were halfway through the day’s session of Sociology Capstone Seminar, the cumulative, upper division research and service-learning (SL) course required of all majors. Silena Layne, Program Director at Up on Top, and Jenna Casey, Volunteer & Development Manager at Mission Graduates, had just described their expectations for the students to generate and complete an original service project. The proverbial sweat formed on the students’ mental brows as they silently considered exactly what they would create. Our Q&A started out tentatively, and you could feel the hesitation as students struggled to articulate their thoughts.
“What are you passionate about? What brings you joy?” Silena interjected into the uncertainty. “Because if you don’t bring your passion to your service project, the kids will see right through you.” Jenna concurred, and students began brainstorming: art, dance, teaching, literacy, writing, intersectional critiques, and more. By the end of class, we had a board filled with project ideas to be explored in the subsequent weeks, and; by the following week, nine students were headed to Up On Top and eight had applied to Mission Graduates.
I start with this quick anecdote because this exchange never would have happened without the McCarthy Center’s Service-Learning Faculty Seminar. I was a grateful participant in the fall 2014 seminar cohort, and I gained an invaluable wealth of knowledge, resources, and connections in support of my service-learning pedagogies. This seminar is, without exaggeration, an intellectual treasure trove of readings, activities, discussions, peer connections, pedagogical tools, and community building.
McCarthy Center staff does an incredible job of guiding faculty in revising existing service- learning courses and developing new ones. In my particular session, USF faculty members from across disciplines and colleges supported one another in the development of our SL courses. The ideas and proposals of my peers were inspiring, and I drew many inter-disciplinary ideas from their creative
The seminar likewise introduced us to community-based organizations. Both Up On Top and Mission Graduates are innovative, local organizations dedicated to the educational advancement of communities of color. Jenna and Silena spoke to our seminar cohort about their service-learning partnership experiences and answered questions about best practices for integrated learning and collaborative relationship building. It was a crucial moment in the development of my Capstone.
I subsequently secured Jenna and Silena as my community partners, focused my capstone upon the intersection of educational attainment and poverty, and created a syllabus integrating seminar resources with my sociological perspective. In doing so, I ultimately created a synergistic, collaborative learning experience effectively linking in-class studies and community-based service. Thus far, the preparation and seminar resources are already manifesting in wonderful ways among my
In short, the McCarthy Center’s Service-Learning Faculty Seminar is an integral, essential resource for USF faculty interested in developing rich, collaborative, and engaging service-learning courses. The seminar is not to be missed, and I am a better sociologist, and professor, for it.