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Two SUUans Receive State Awards for Service-Learning

April 05, 2006
Category: Academics


The Utah Campus Compact organization held its Annual Recognitions and Awards program last night in Salt Lake City, and two individuals from Southern Utah University were honored.

Joleen Kremin, an accounting major from Vernal, Utah, along with Cindy Wright, Professor of Human Nutrition, were recognized as an Outstanding Student and Engaged Faculty, respectively, in light of their efforts toward promoting service-learning in Utah.

The Utah Campus Compact (UCC) is part of a national coalition of more than 950 college and university presidents representing some five million students who are committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education. “Utah is the only state in the country in which all institutions of higher education (public and private) are members of the Campus Compact,” Earl Mulderink, SUU’s Faculty Coordinator of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, reports. Pam Branin, Coordinator of SUU’s Service-Learning Center, says UCC “provides training and support for key people on each campus, like Earl and myself, so that we can then come back and help train other people.” Utah joined in 1996.

Service-Learning is a curricular-based educational experience in which students participate in organized service activities that meet community-identified needs. These curricular projects are designed to generate further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility. Service-Learning experiences always relate to course matter, provide a needed service, and most often, an education to individuals or entities in the community.

Kremin practices service-learning in most of her life’s endeavors. As a member of the Professional Accountancy Club, she has served as the political liaison in the last year. She has been the Student Leader in the program of service-learning at SUU. Her roots began while she attended the College of Eastern Utah where she worked at the student project coordinator in the college’s Service Center. Kremin implemented the Bread and Soup Nite program at SUU. This event is where students and community members can enjoy All-U-Can-Eat bread and soup one night for dinner, with a donation of cans of food to the community food pantry. “The Iron County Care and Share (has been) grateful for the donations, which amounted to almost 2,100 hundred pounds our first year,” Kremin reports. “(Bread and Soup Nite) has almost doubled in attendance, become a part of campus culture, and has seen an increase in the support of community partners.” Incidentally, the Iron County Care and Share is the first recipient from the southern Utah area of the new Committed Community Partner Award from UCC.

For the last two years, Kremin has been working diligently on incorporating a Service Learning Scholar program at SUU. In April of 2005, it passed the final review board and in May of that same year, SUU had its first Service Learning Scholar graduates. An honored Service-Learning Scholar would have completed 12 semester credit hours of service-learning coursework and 400 hours of community service. “I have worked very hard to ensure that there would be an academic factor in place for the Southern Utah University Service-Learning Center,” Kremin says. “I want to make the graduates of SUU more apt to think of others before acting. . .(and) to look outside themselves and assist the community through their education.”

Cynthia Wright executes service-learning in teaching her Community Nutrition senior-level course that is required of all nutrition majors and minors. “Community Nutrition was tailor-made for the incorporation of a service learning component,” Wright declares. “There are eight objectives for this course, four of which are enhanced by the inclusion of service-learning experiences.” In this class, Wright partners students with organizations in town, and the service-learning aspect acts much as a laboratory does in other science courses. Students assist the clients in fulfilling the organization’s nutrition-related by completing a contract, documenting the service, and writing a reflective paper about the experience. Integrating service-learning opportunities into Community Nutrition has not only promoted the development of partnerships with community agencies, but it provides realistic job experiences to students while incorporating multiple learning outcomes. Wright explains that students no longer ask “When will I ever use this information?” because they have discovered that they can immediately use what they are learning in a way that does make a difference.

The service-learning program at SUU has significantly expanded in the past year, and it well on its way to becoming institutionalized. Mulderink and the Service-Learning Committee that he chairs are taking steps to lay a foundation to a new culture at SUU. Two of the foremost priorities are to educate various audiences on what service-learning is and why it is an important, exciting and worthwhile program. Also, they seek to conduct formal inventories of the institution and of the community to assess the real needs from a service-learning perspective, and then to develop curricula and programs thereof.

He is excited and optimistic about what’s happening at SUU, in terms of service-learning. “Service-learning is most certainly interrelated into SUU’s Mission and Core Values Statements,” Mulderink says. “It is part of our philosophy and function, and on its way to becoming a vital part of our campus culture.”

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