Rising to the Challenge
The global COVID-19 pandemic left no one unaffected, whether it be your personal, professional, or student life. At the CCE, we’ve worked with our stakeholders to reassess and adapt community engagement at WSU and are inspired by the ingenuity and flexibility of faculty, students, and community partners semester, as you will read below. Without knowing for certain what the future holds, we are certain we will use what we’ve learned over the semester to prepare for multiple scenarios going forward into the fall 2020 semester in support of the WSU Strategic Plan.
One thing that COVID-19 pandemic has made clear is that we have the ability and responsibility to call to action our land-grant mission and strengthen efforts to address underlying inequities that exist in our society. Inequities in education, health, food security, voting, and the environment have exacerbated the terrible effects of the pandemic. In the spirit of WSU’s land-grant mission, the CCE is ready to expand efforts, implement and take the lead on convening our communities to find solutions.
Perhaps timely this semester, the CCE was honored to partner Todd Butler and Ana María Rodríguez-Vivaldi in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) to launch Community Engaged Scholars, a diverse cohort of Pullman-based CAS faculty who completed curriculum to enhance their teaching, research, and service through community engagement. This program is modeled after the 2017 Faculty Fellows cohort funded by the Provost’s Student Success Seed Grant. The 2020 Community Engaged Scholars are Puck Brecher (History), Jesse Brunner (Biology), Joe Hedges (Fine Arts), Hallie Meredith (Fine Arts), and Katy Whalen (History). These faculty are the first of two cohorts that will establish a community of practice within CAS and simultaneously increase student success while meeting the needs of the community.
Ben Calabretta & Tiffanie Braun - CCE Interim Co-Directors
Transformative Learning Experiences
Throughout the spring 2020 semester, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) at Washington State University facilitated academic service-learning experiences for nearly 2600 undergraduate and graduate students, taught by 47 faculty from 11 colleges across the Pullman, Global and Tri Cities campuses. Courses that collaborate with the CCE’s Academic Service-Learning Program proactively prepare the next generation of socially responsible and globally-minded civic leaders committed to positive change. Moving all campus classes to an online learning platform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop course-based service-learning! According to Guthrie & McCrackin (2010), service-learning in online courses provides the opportunity for students to investigate this new era of responsible citizenship, deepen their sense of belonging to their home communities, gain new insights into their personal values, and experience academic growth.
Raven Weaver, Human Development Assistant Professor, and her HD 405 Gerontology students, initially designed and were in the beginning stages of implementing intergenerational programming (IGP) with Bishop Place Senior Living and the YMCA Afterschool program at Franklin Elementary. IGP has been a goal of all three partners for some time, and this course project opportunity inspired them to act. IGP’s are designed to bring together old and young participants, promote individual and relationship development, improve health and wellbeing, and combat ageism.
After COVID-19 social restrictions were established, Raven and her students swiftly shifted gears to address the new immediate community needs among senior living communities and identified multiple ways to provide support. HD 405 students promptly organized into small groups and started developing a resource guide of stimulating activities, exercises, playlists, and media-lists to keep the residents engaged, as well as sustainable IGP plans for future use. These deliverables were shared with the Activity Coordinators at local senior living communities to promote cognitive, social, emotional, and physical stimulation. Kylie, Human Development senior and 405 student, stated she did not fully understand what it meant to be a student of a land-grant university and what responsibilities land-grant universities have to communities prior to taking this class and participating in the service-learning project. This type of classroom-based service-learning experience seamlessly transferred to an online learning environment despite the practical complexities and ethical implications to achieve what was once to meet the needs of older adults. Virtual service-learning course projects such as this have the capability to reach communities locally and on a global scale. This course project is an example of how reciprocity and shared visions for common goals lead to transformational student experience and deeper understanding of course content and the culture of the community served (Petri, 2015).
Students in Global Campus Human Development (HD) 403: Families in Poverty course witnessed and critically examined the complexities of socioeconomic inequalities and how COVID-19 widens the gap even more. Within the first six weeks of the semester, the Global HD 403 students completed nearly 160 hours of community service at local food banks, community action centers, senior centers, and youth shelters. Students are typically assigned to complete 15 hours of community engagement in their home communities working alongside, supporting, and learning from human services agencies that support families in crisis due to poverty or related circumstances. After stay-at-home orders were in place, and it was no longer safe for in-person service-learning participation, the instructor of the course, Mary Garcia, challenged the students with a critical reflection assignment to analyze the intersection of conditions related to living in poverty and how COVID-19 amplifies these conditions. According to Mitchell (2008), critical service learning challenges the students to connect their service to the concepts they are learning about in class and also provides the rich opportunity to use complex thinking and reasoning skills when analyzing and confronting the social inequities and privileges people face.
HD 403 Global Campus students gained a deeper understanding of the course concepts by what they were witnessing unfold with community agencies who take on the challenge of providing supports to individuals who otherwise would be left with insecure housing, food, or daily living supports while also battling COVID-19. Katy, senior and double major in Human Development and Psychology, participated in her service-learning experience at Friends of Youth, a homeless shelter in Kirkland, WA for young adults. She witnessed how the socioeconomic status of the youth heightened their risk factors more than other community members. Close sleeping and living conditions, strict program rules, lack of consistent nutrition and meals amplified the already chronic and persistent health inequities. Sam, Psychology major and senior, saw first-hand through service learning how families living in poverty may lack accessible health care, have lower health literacy, and experience complex mental health issues. Critical service-learning provides the opportunity for students to combine their education, action, and reflection resulting in a new awareness of social, physical, economic forces that shape communities (Mitchell, 2008).
The results of the CCE’s Student Success Seed Grant study (featured in the WSU Insider) reinforced existing national studies that a single service-learning experience is enough to increase grades, GPA, and retention in first-year students. In 2017, the CCE was awarded a Student Success Seed Grant by the Office of the Provost to conduct a controlled study of the effects of service learning on academic success. The CCE partnered with Michael Cleveland, Paul Verrell, and Lisa Carloye to design, implement, and analyze the data of the study. Biology 102 enrolls nearly 1200 students annually, mostly first-year students, thus providing opportunity for a controlled study of the effects of service-learning on academic success and retention. The Center for Civic Engagement partnered with Biology 102 in AY18 and AY19, with half of the lab sections incorporating service-learning experiences while the other half proceeded with the traditional curriculum.
The results of the study are very encouraging! Statistical analysis comparing overall grade earned in BIO 102, overall GPA, and retention to the subsequent academic year between the randomly assigned control and CCE groups showed a single service-learning experience improved both grades and retention. Service-learning students had significantly higher grades for BIO 102 among three of the four cohorts. The service-learning group also had significantly higher overall GPA during the semester they took the class among three of the four cohorts. Additionally, higher retention rates of students who completed service-learning projects were seen for the Fall 2017 (81% and 75%, respectively) and Spring 2019 (91% and 86%, respectively) cohorts. These differences were especially pronounced among vulnerable sub-populations of first-generation and students of color. Following these students longitudinally to graduation would provide insight into longer-term benefits of service-learning. Although plans for dissemination at upcoming conferences have been modified due to COVID-19 restrictions, the CCE will continue to seek outlets to disseminate these outstanding results and advocate for the support of systemwide service-learning initiatives.
As the WSU system and communities around the globe navigate these unprecedented times and underlying health, societal, and educational inequities are made more visible, these findings strongly confirm the importance of supporting students and communities through systemwide service-learning. The purposeful statewide social action that service-learning delivers is foundational for student success and reigniting the vibrancy of our communities.
WSU faculty, instructors, and community partners are stepping up their response efforts to assist those who are the most vulnerable and respond to the needs of the community while simultaneously moving classes to online learning environments, dealing with mass closures, and respecting stay-at-home orders, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heather Welsh-Griffin, Teaching and Learning 301 Instructor, and Beth Ficklin, Families Together Coordinator designed an innovative and collaborative virtual service-learning project called “Cougs Connect”. WSU students participating in “Cougs Connect” facilitated virtual video calls on Zoom including tutoring sessions, games, art club, story time, and other online enrichment classes like dance and cooking. Participation is open to families with children of all abilities, and the number of attendees grew weekly. Families Together hopes to expand project participation to youth living in rural communities outside of Pullman this summer when they partner 40 Global Human Development 306: Child Development students and faculty. “Cougs Connect” provided an avenue for youth and WSU students to honor physical distancing requirements, avoid social isolation, and cognitively thrive by seeking creative ways to address new challenges facing campus and the community at-large.
CCE Faculty Fellows Highlights
Michael Berger, WSU Vancouver: Continues to include service-learning in SOE 110. During the fall 2019 semester, the students completed 152 service-learning hours with 11 community partners in the Vancouver community.
Sammy Perone, WSU Pullman: Lab for the Developing Mind, Continues to include service-learning in HD 306 Pullman and Global courses. During the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, the HD 306 students completed over 1200 service-learning hours with community partners serving youth and families. Graduate students in HD 560 developed, “Play Home, Play Healthy” which includes 21 social media posts describing parent-child activities designed to promote development of seven life skills, identified by Ellen Galinsky in her 2010 book entitled, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, which the students read as part of their course work.
CCE Campus Connection February issue. Click here.
To Dream the Impossible Dream article in Washington State Magazine featured the partnership between the School of Design and Construction and Habitat for Humanity which was initiated by the Center for Civic Engagement. Click here.
Grant Provides Service-Learning Opportunities to First-Year Students article featured in the WSU Insider. The Center for Civic Engagement was awarded an Innovation Grant from NASPA to develop service-learning courses with programs in academic and student affairs that work with first generation, underrepresented students. Click here.
Residents Challenge Food Insecurity Head On article in the Daily Evergreen featuring Ryan Lazo and Ariel Medeiros. Click here.
WSU Pharmacy Students Volunteer to Help With COVID-19 Testing article in WSU Insider. Click here.
WSU Nursing Students Add Telephone Outreach to the Curriculum article in the WSU insider. Click here.
Dynamic Art Project Gives WSU Students Fitting, Real-Word Experience article in WSU Insider. Click here.
Addressing Complex Public Problems Through Coalition Based Approaches: Collective Impact and the CEP Competencies. Click here.
Extension, Engagement, and Education (E3): Group formed to support the land-grant mission of WSU by aligning efforts, energies and resources across the university system and attracting additional external funding in support of these efforts.
Rebecca Cooney shared her successes, challenges, and innovative service-learning course project design in a recent twitter post.
Beta Alpha Psi chapter wins service award. The in-person competition in Seattle was canceled because of COVID-19, but that didn’t stop a team of Carson Cougs from winning first place.
EPIC Webinar Series, April 13-June 30th. The EPIC-Network transitioned its 2020 EPIC-Network Conference to a free webinar series.
NASPA Webinar: Leveraging Best Practices in Supporting and Engaging Online During Campus Closures
Compact20 Virtual Gathering, May 11-13, 2020 will emphasize key questions facing us now, exploring topics such as online community-engaged learning, civic learning ecosystems, student voting participation, and more.
Community Engagement Institute (CEI) has been rescheduled due to COVID-19 to May 2021.
Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Virtual Meeting, CLDE brings together faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students and community partners to ensure that students graduate from our colleges and universities prepared to be the informed, engaged citizens that our communities and democracy need.
Zooniverse: Zooniverse.org gives people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to participate in real research with over 50 active online citizen science projects.
Campus Compact COVID-19 Response Network Resources
Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center is assembling links to accessible articles about COVID-19 and the public good that can be used for discussions and reflection. The articles highlight solidarity, mutual aid, and community resiliency and can be found here.
Calling All Coug Scholars: Researchers and scholars who can pivot their work to more directly address COVID‑19, pandemic responses and needs, and the aftermath are urged to do so if this can be done within the guidelines conveyed by Drs. Keane and Slinker.
Guthrie, K.L., McCracken, H. (2010) Making a difference online: Facilitating service-learning through distance education. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 153-157.
Mitchell, T. D. (2008). Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(2), 50–65.
Petri, A. (2015). Service-Learning from the Perspective of Community Organizations. Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education, 5, 93-108.