*Content pulled from proposal materials
Two first-generation rising sophomore students will serve in several service-learning sites (current connections include the Lake County Courthouse, Waukegan to College, Waukegan Parks Foundation, Waukegan Historical Society, and Lake County Public Health) during our 8-week summer term in Waukegan, the county seat for Lake County, Illinois. Besides earning a course credit for a tutorial titled Public Policy Leadership, they Will be paid to develop a directory of service learning and community-based learning resources for incorporation in Lake Forest College courses for expansion of our current experiential requirement curricular offerings. The tutorial will build additional faculty/teaching resources to correspond with the community service sites. This tutorial will serve as a pilot for a potential partial-credit Public Policy Leadership Studio course to add to the Lake Forest College curriculum in the following year so that students can easily add on community-based learning onto their current majors/minors and graduation plans. As a studio course, it can be taken several times so that students can continue to develop as community leaders. As a partial credit course, faculty will get credit for developing these projects with students as part of their teaching loads. The directory and resources will be part of our ForesterNet website and available to all faculty for course development. Finally, we will conduct a case-based research project to build on the work of Pelco, Ball, and Lockeman’s (2014) large survey of the effects of community-based learning courses on first-generation student development. This research should guide other colleges in the ACM to improve first-generation students’ involvement in high-impact practices to improve graduation rates.
Many ACM campuses have an experiential requirement as part of their general education core curriculum. For the most part, these are usually fulfilled through internships later in students’ academic program. Service learning or community-based learning courses are usually not highly represented as possible ways to fulfill this requirement, yet we know this way of learning is related to retention, graduation-rates, and overall growth outcomes for students. Community-based learning courses have been found to positively impact writing skills, oral skills, confidence in professional goals, and awareness of implicit biases and stereotypical thinking (Pelco et al, 2014). More project-based case research is needed to determine the specific features of community-based learning that achieve these outcomes and the effect of various student characteristics (e.g., race, Pell-grant status, early in 4-year degree or later, first-generation status) on those outcomes. We do know that students who are financially vulnerable or who are first-generation do not have enough knowledge about the goals and benefits of community-based learning and service in general (Pelco et al, 2014). This project is designed to address these equity issues in availability and attractiveness of community-based learning.
Currently, at Lake Forest College, we do not have a service-learning curriculum, structured long-term service experiences, or even a culture of service learning that extends beyond our athletes or other groups volunteering for short-term projects (e.g., tutoring in after school programs, volunteering in soup kitchens, and the like). This program would add to these efforts by establishing an early career curriculum/ action research service project. Here, we want to introduce students to a high-need community next door to the College early in their careers so that they might continue to serve throughout their years at Lake Forest College.
We also hope to increase retention among our first-generation students by showing them and their families how a Lake Forest College education can serve their community. Families will see how their students are growing into professional contributors to community change and, we hope, be more likely to continue to support their students in attending Lake Forest College.
We will start with two students, rising sophomores, who could grow into leaders of this effort. As this project is designed for rising sophomores, we believe having more than one student collaborating in a research partnership model is best to support their development. Additionally, students will live on campus with our community of students working on research as part of our 8-week Richter Research Program. So, they will experience the support of other student researchers throughout the summer to maintain motivation and momentum.
The research project will be submitted for publication and will be available for dissemination through the ACM.
Outcomes and Significance
The project will result in a course in the curriculum, a directory of resources, and a research project that will document the features of successful community-based learning. Our Office of Marketing will assist with website development. Given our Office of Advancement’s current focus on Lake County, I imagine the Board of Trustees will also be interested in this project.
Community partnerships are important for all ACM campuses to develop for admissions recruitment, for internship development, and to meet our educational mission.
Today, students need to see tangible results and effects of a liberal arts education. The more ways we can make a liberal arts education relevant to students as they are completing their degrees, the more likely we are to stay marketable.