*Content pulled from proposal materials
In spring 2023, Beloit College will launch Impact Beloit, an initiative aimed at promoting the college’s existing experiential learning programs and further developing new, high-impact learning opportunities for more sustained involvement with community organizations and businesses. This focus on promoting students’ career readiness through intentional and reflective community engagement is at the center of the college’s Duffy Community Partnerships program. Students who participate in the Duffy program take a course in the sociology department and engage in 90 hours of service to a local organization.
One of the goals of Impact Beloit is to expand the Duffy Program by developing new courses across different departments in order to offer more students the opportunity to gain this kind of valuable learning experience. We will also implement a fellowship program that offers more advanced students (Juniors and Seniors) an opportunity to be placed in a local organization for a longer period (an academic year or more) to conduct project-based work that provides both fuller immersion in the organization for the student and a more useful partnership for the organization.
We will use resources from the grant to pilot these two community-based curricular projects: an “enhanced” Duffy-type program that embeds students in community organizations as part of courses in multiple disciplines; and a fellowship program that provides a deeper experience for advanced students and a more beneficial outcome for community partners. The budget is structured to achieve equity of student and community partner access regardless of income constraints.
Our goal is to implement at least two new sections of Duffy courses in the 2023-24 academic year and to pilot the more advanced fellowship program with 2-3 community partners next year. Both of these projects will help students gain valuable experience in professional settings while also learning how organizations work, how they function as part of local communities, and what role they play in the community’s health. The college, in turn, helps those organizations fulfill their staffing needs and accomplish their goals through these placements. We will assess the success of both programs through indirect measures (student and partner responses), and we will track student career paths upon completion to gain more direct assessment data.
To offer at least two new sections of Duffy courses,the project team will recruit three faculty members from departments other than sociology to develop and implement courses with community-based placements for students in local organizations and businesses.
These courses will not be strictly disciplinary; instead we want to expand the number of available seats and provide different pedagogical lenses through which students can approach their experiences within these organizations.
We will also pilot the more advanced fellowship program with 2-3 community partners next year. This will involve developing the project management course, recruiting three advanced student participants, and working with partners to define their projects and the timeline for their completion and implementation.
We will build upon the dissemination of work done by colleagues in the Sociology Department (Carol Wickersham, Charles Westerberg, and Kate Linnenberg) by documenting the results of both the expanded Duffy-like courses and the fellowship program. Research on the Duffy Program conducted by team member Kate Linnenberg shows that in the years after graduating from Beloit, alumni of the Duffy Program still have a strong commitment to civic engagement-70% have engaged in at least one volunteer or civic engagement activity post-Beloit. In fact, many report feeling guilty when they aren’t an active part of their community, e.g., when they’ve recently moved to a new city. The current Duffy course also frames how alumni engage in their communities by structuring their learning stance. Alumni write about how they approach community work in a humble manner, seeing everyone as a potential teacher. Professor Linnenberg will expand her work to include a comparative analysis of students’ learning gains in the course-based community partnership program that will now incorporate different disciplinary lenses. We also hope to do longitudinal studies involving students who first do one of the course-based placements followed by a fellowship placement in their senior year.
We propose to share our efforts to build out robust, integrative, and sustainable community-based learning opportunities with ACM colleagues virtually or in person at a consortially-sponsored workshop or conference. In addition, we will document our findings in a white paper and explore sharing our work through participation in conferences sponsored by AAC&U and similar organizations.
Outcomes and Significance
By increasing the number of courses designed around community placements in disciplines other than sociology, we will also be giving more space within our curriculum to community-based learning itself. The more we can engage students in active learning in the community through structured curricular components (including through fellowship placements), the more success we will have in ensuring that a Beloit education prepares students for responsible, ethical, and humble citizenship in the communities they inhabit after Beloit. Integrating the “learning stance” more purposefully as a signature pedagogy across the disciplines signals the necessity of teaching students to look beyond themselves and to see themselves in all contexts in dialogue with the communities that surround them-in both micro and macro senses. The college’s investment in the Impact Beloit initiative demonstrates its commitment to incorporating outward-facing programming and curricular components into its institutional character.