DALLAS—Calling it "critical that our faculty be engaged with our community" in order to fulfill the UNT Dallas strategic plan, Provost John Beehler welcomed faculty to a "Civic Engagement through Service Learning" workshop April 29.

Teaching faculty how to incorporate civic engagement into their course curriculums through service learning and getting students involved in the community will help UNT Dallas build "not just professionals but citizens," Beehler said. Furthermore, he noted that a large component of the university's strategic plan demands it.

"We're not here for any other reason than to try to help this community develop educationally, socially and economically." Getting faculty and students involved in the community will achieve part of the school's mission and also will help build a great university, he added.

Funded by the Texas Campus Compact, Education and Human Services Dean Sheryl Santos-Hatchett—a member of the Compact's advisory council—and a steering committee organized the workshop to introduce UNT Dallas faculty to service learning and community based organizations (CBOs). University President John Ellis Price, who serves on the Compact's board of directors, emphasized the importance of community engagement to faculty.

Fifteen CBOs—including Dallas-area Habitat for Humanity, the Dallas Urban League and Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas—were scheduled to share their needs and how students might help them.

"Basically we are trying to introduce our faculty members to best practices in service learning, how students can get experience in doing service learning as part of their course requirements and how it's different from internships and volunteerism," said steering committee member Iftekhar Amin.

Faculty heard from CBO leaders and from Shirley Theriot, director of the Center for Community Service Learning at UTA; Gilda Garcia, UNT vice president of institutional equity and diversity; Donna Emmanuel, coordinator of UNT's music education program; and Terry Hockenbrough, director of the Center for Scholarly and Civic Engagement at Collin College in Plano.

More than internships, service learning refers to class assignments where students work on a community issue to help the community solve that problem. Faculty were challenged to think about how to add service learning components into their class syllabi before leaving the workshop.

UNT Dallas is committed to developing service learning partnerships, and while only a small number of schools have done this successfully, Beehler said it is important that UNT Dallas does it successfully "because we are really here to serve our community. That's why our founders started UNT Dallas."

The steering committee included Santos-Hatchett, Daniel Friesen, Connie Lacy, Ruifeng Liu, Kay Forsythe, Gloria Bahamon, Iftekhar Amin, Jehad Yasin, Lindsay Knight and Jasmine Brand.

 

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