The following is from the Summer/Fall 2007 edition of The Dedman College Newsletter.

Hands-on education:
Reflections on service-learning

By Sarah Hanan
SMU News & Communications

From anthropology to religious studies, community service is part of the curriculum at Dedman College. Here’s what several faculty, students and Dallas agencies had to say about service-learning.

Related links:
 • In the community
 • Service-learning

Places to call home

As part of History Professor James Hopkins’ Good Society course, Caitlin Booker, a junior Corporate Communications and Public Affairs major, worked at Dallas’ Interfaith Housing Coalition, which provides transitional housing for the homeless:

“I came into contact with political émigrés. I came into contact with hardworking families who worked minimum-wage jobs but were knocked out of the water by someone becoming ill. In a country where rugged individualism has prevailed and everyone is expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, this class helped me understand that not everyone can even afford shoes.”

Testing Limits

Jill DeTemple, associate professor of religious studies, says her Latino/Latina Religions course has an emphasis on borders, identity and community. In addition to serving about 25 hours at area agencies, her students kept journals and wrote reflection papers:

“Almost all of the students mentioned their own experiences crossing borders into their service learning sites, and being aware of the borders the clients they served crossed every day. I was most proud when they tested the histories and theories presented in class, adding nuances or coming to new understandings.”

Role Models

Lara Gaither, director of outreach and community development at Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas, says the agency values its long-time relationship with SMU:

“SMU students have helped with donation and cell phone drives; they’ve researched and written articles on domestic violence; they’ve tagged and hung clothes at our resale shop; they’ve rocked babies. Many of our women have been told they can’t go to college; the students have told them they can.”

Coming to America

Nga Ho (’07), a finance major, tutored children from Somalia, Burma and Kenya through the International Rescue Committee as part of Associate History Professor Glenn Linden’s U.S. History Since 1865:

“The children are beautiful and bright and deserve a chance to have a good life. It is a great feeling to know that I am helping them assimilate to America just by driving them to tennis lessons, reading to them and teaching them English. Like many refugees the IRC helps resettle, my family also escaped from our home country because of political, economic, religious or cultural reasons. We came to America with very little, but now I am about to graduate from a great university. The American dream is still possible.”

The Human Connection

Rick Halperin, director of the new Human Rights Education Program, has taught America’s Dilemma:  The Struggle for Human Rights since 1990. He says he’s been most surprised by the many students who continue to serve at human rights agencies long after his course has ended:

“People don’t usually interact with torture survivors or people seeking political asylum. The students learn that we’re talking about real people with real issues. They tutor or take them to doctor’s appointments or the zoo or a Mavs game –– anything that reaffirms their humanity. For many students, it’s a profound or transformative experience, and it should be.”

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