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Dickinson Announces Support for New Projects Connecting Learning to Community Engagement

Aisha Johnson '20 teaches Chinese to young learners at the Dickinson College Children's Center through the Russian department's internship program in 2019. The program is currently being expanded and formalized.

Aisha Johnson '20 teaches Chinese to young learners at the Dickinson College Children's Center through the Russian department's internship program in 2019. The program is currently being expanded and formalized.

Twelve civic-education projects move forward with CCLA funding

This spring, the Center for Civic Learning & Action (CCLA) is supporting 12 emerging and expanding faculty- and staff-led projects that empower students to work toward the common good in a variety of ways. 

The projects are funded through the college’s Civic Engagement Fund, supported by a generous Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, and they span the spectrum of subjects in the humanities, sciences and arts. Each provides a framework for students to apply what they’re learning in class to problems and projects in the local community.

“Most of these projects involve community partner organizations, and they all have the potential to make an impact,” says Gary Kirk, CCLA director. “They also highlight the good work of our engaged faculty members, which is an ongoing expectation of institutions with the Carnegie Engagement Classification.”

The programs are:

  • EcoJustice Education (educational studies) – Jamie Teeple, Visiting Assistant Professor of Educational Studies
  • From Babble to Babel: Becoming Bilingual First-Year Seminar (world languages, social justice) – Lucile Duperron, Associate Professor of French
  • Playing with Polygons (mathematics and educational studies) – Steve Erfle, Professor of International Business and Management
  • World Languages Internship at Dickinson College Children’s Center – Alyssa DeBlasio, Associate Professor of Russian
  • Perspectives on a Multilingual U.S. (writing, international studies, social justice) – John Katunich, Associate Director of the Writing Program
  • What’s Left Behind, What Lies Ahead (art & art history, history and sociology)  – Andrew Bale, Lecturer in Art & Art History
  • Box of Dickinson Art: a Temporary Public Art Display Structure (arts) –  Anthony Cervino, Associate Professor of Studio Art
  • Trauma-Informed Pedagogy in Postsecondary Education (educational studies, psychology) – Kirk Anderson, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies
  • Agricultural Workers Program Health Packages/Spanish in the Health Professions (world languages, health studies) – Asuncion Arnedo-Aldrich, Lecturer in Spanish, in partnership with Keystone Rural Health Center         
  • Documenting Innovations in Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement (environmental studies & environmental science) – Heather Bedi, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, in partnership with PA Department of Environmental Protection
  • Cumberland County Reentry Coalition Strategic Planning (multiple disciplines) – coordinated by Meta Bowman, CCLA Administrative Assistant, on behalf of multiple staff and community organizations, in partnership with Carlisle Reentry Coalition   
  • Community Engagement in Carlisle Borough’s Climate Action Plan (multiple disciplines) – Sarah Markowitz '13, along with multiple faculty and staff members in the Carlisle Climate Action Committee, Community Engagement Team             

Emerging and established

Some projects are already up and running and will use the funding to formalize and expand. Arnedo-Aldrich’s Spanish in the Health Professions project, which connects Spanish-language students with healthcare providers who serve the Spanish-language migrant-worker community in Adams County, Pennsylvania, is one of the oldest service-learning projects at Dickinson. Through the ARRIVALS: What’s Left Behind, What Lies Ahead project, co-led by Bale, students traveled to Southern Idaho in 2019 to interview and photograph refugees, immigrants, displaced Native Americans and the diaspora. Funding will formalize the Spanish in the Health Professions project and allow future students to continue the refugee-centered work.

The Department of Russian’s community-based early-language-learning internship also will expand, thanks to CCLA-awarded funding. For three years, the Russian department has helped young learners in the Dickinson Children’s Center kindergarten class to develop foreign-language skills while providing Dickinson language majors with a chance to write and present lessons. A modest grant award will support DeBlasio as she partners with world-languages colleagues to make this experience available to students studying different world languages at Dickinson.

The CCLA-assisted projects also include new initiatives, planned for launch during the 2021-22 academic year. Bedi’s students will partner with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to research environmental injustices in Pennsylvania, and Erfle’s students will develop educational materials to teach basic math concepts through fun, interactive art-filled sessions. Then they will deliver these lessons to young, local students.

Emerging funded projects also include Markowitz’s work with multiple faculty and staff members, Espoir Del Main ’21's (environmental studiesdance) and the Carlisle Borough Council's work on a local climate action planning process, and two projects exploring connections between language and social justice. Katunich’s upcoming class brings multilingual students together with multilingual learners at Vida Charter School, while students in Duperron’s 2021-22 First-Year Seminar (FYS) will interact with adult second-language learners at the Carlisle Employment Skills Center.

“One goal of my FYS is for our community to understand and literally hear what opportunities and challenges multilingual speakers encounter every day,” Duperron says.

Far-reaching benefits

Anderson will work with a Dana Fellow to research trauma-informed teaching practices in colleges and universities. The goal is to synthesize existing research and launch new research projects for the following academic year. In addition to contributing to research on the topic and enriching students’ experiences, Anderson envisions that the research could be used in professional-development offerings for Dickinson faculty.

As Kirk notes, that full-circle benefit is a hallmark of community-based and service-based learning and research at Dickinson. The college was recently honored with 2020 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for work connecting teaching and research that enriches the broader community.

“Dickinson is committed to providing students with tools, knowledge and experiences they need to collectively change the world,” Kirk says. “We believe that community-engaged learning and research, represented all across the curriculum, can be transformative for students, allowing them to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to people and organizations in the local community and beyond.”


Published March 3, 2021