January 29 , 2007
Preparing Engaged Scholars
BY beverly clark
Emory College seniors Badri Modi and Cameron Schlegel are headed to medical school next year, but it was a religion course this past fall that helped shape the path they plan to take as doctors.
Majoring in biology and chemistry respectively, they took part in a religion internship course that seeks to create a connection between classroom work and hands-on experience. In addition to examining community service and partnership theories in the classroom, Modi and Schlegel worked as interns at St. Joseph’s Mercy Care in Atlanta in its Community Homeless Outreach Program.
“It was fantastic to take a course that actively engaged me in something besides theory,” Modi said. “The experience shaped my outlook on how to approach health and medical care, that it is more than just curing diseases. Everything is connected: health is related to employment and the ability to hold a job, which is related to addiction issues, which is related to homelessness. The approach has to be holistic.”
The religion internship course was taught by senior lecturer Bobbi Patterson, founder of the Theory-Practice-Learning Program at Emory and a longtime advocate of TPL and its capacity to create engaged scholars. The course is “one of the defining experiences of my time at Emory,” said Schlegel, who is now looking into medical schools that offer community internships as part of the coursework.
“Engaged service learning gives new life to the liberal arts,” Patterson said. “It makes the classroom a very vibrant place where the real world can be explored, studied and reflected upon.”
Several professors already use some aspects of service learning in their courses, she said. Service learning is a vital aspect of Emory’s goal to create a community of engaged scholars and reach the strategic goal “to provide a rich intellectual experience that fosters academic growth and community engagement.”
The TPL program at Emory is one of many existing initiatives closely aligned with Emory’s Office of University-Community Partnership’s work to increase and improve the University’s work with the greater Atlanta community and beyond. The first phase of the “engaged scholars” initiative to be implemented is a plan developed by OUCP, led by director Michael Rich, associate professor of political science. A $2 million investment from Emory’s strategic plan fund — plus a university commitment to raise $10 million more over the next five years — leverages and jumpstarts the expansion of activities sponsored by OUCP.
Programs such as Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders or SHINE, the Emory Community Building Fellowship and faculty mini-grants are now expanding. The Community Partnership Faculty Fellows program — which helps faculty learn about the pedagogy of community-based learning and research — has been reestablished. The funding also helps fill a critical need for more staff.
The OUCP’s Emory Community Building Fellowship, after a year off, is now entering its fifth year and is a national model for such programs. The fellowship provides undergraduate students an intensive year of training, research and experience, and so far has prepared 61 undergraduates to become, in the words of the university’s strategic plan, “socially conscious leaders with a portfolio of skills proven and values tested in community involvement.” The new class of 11 fellows begins its work this semester.
Last month, Emory’s commitment to engaged scholarship earned recognition from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which named Emory one of the first schools in the country to receive the foundation’s new “Community Engagement” designation.
In the coming months, an advisory board of students, faculty and staff will continue to examine the best strategies for advancing engaged learning and scholarship at Emory as it relates to the OUCP’s strategic initiative. The board, led by Emory law professor Frank Alexander, founding director for the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, also will help define the future of OUCP, particularly in regard to its role, function and governance structure. The group will report its recommendations to Provost Earl Lewis this spring.
Emory Advantage helps students
“Emory Earns A for Aid” is how the Jan. 17 Atlanta Journal-Constitution lead editorial greeted news of the University’s efforts to reduce costs for lower- and middle-income students. The Emory Advantage program will cap student loans for families making $50,001 to $100,000 a year, and grants will replace need-based loans for students whose parents make $50,000 and under.
The editorial noted that Emory’s initiative will increase economic diversity among its students and make education more affordable at a time when higher education is increasingly out of reach for many.
The program received broad local and national coverage. Emory was prominently featured in a Jan. 16 Business Week article about efforts Emory, Yale, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania are making to increase their affordability.
For more information on Emory Advantage, see the Jan. 16 issue of Emory Report or visit the Web site at www.emory.edu/FINANCIAL_AID/emory_advantage.