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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Service-Learning restructured; Poteet named director

Service-Learning program is in the early stages of a transformation at UNC Pembroke.

Christie Poteet

Christie Poteet

Scott Hicks

Scott Hicks

   
Black Line

The much-heralded program, which incorporates civic engagement into the academic curriculum, will be jointly supported by the divisions of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.

Service-Learning is a key part of Chancellor Kyle R. Carter’s commitment to enhance the University’s service to the region.

“We’ve heard from the members of the communities we serve that we need and want UNCP to get more involved in our communities,” Carter said. “We are committed to Southeastern North Carolina, and we look forward to making the ties between the University and the communities we serve stronger, richer and deeper.”

Christie Poteet has been named director, effective January 1. She will continue to serve as associate director for the Office for Community and Civic Engagement (CCE).

“What I bring to the table for faculty are connections to community-based organizations to accomplish their teaching goals,” Poteet said. “My role is to serve as the liaison between campus and community.”

She will work with Dr. Scott Hicks, a faculty member in the English & Theatre Department, to roll the new program out over the next year.

“Christie and CCE have an amazing number of contacts in the community,” Dr. Hicks said. “She has a deep understanding of Service-Learning and the ability to communicate our objectives with community-based organizations.”

Poteet said she is ready to get UNCP and the community excited about forming partnerships.

“First, my role is not to tell faculty how to teach,” she said. “I would like to change the perception of CCE as more than just the office that organizes episodic service projects, like canned food drives and roadside trash pickups, for volunteers.

“Engaging students in their community is our mission, and when this type of engagement moves into the classroom, it becomes a powerful tool for experiential learning,” she said. “This is learning by doing, and it can be accomplished in all academic disciplines.”

Dr. Hicks agreed, saying the key to building a successful Service-Learning program is the involvement of every department.

“Service-Learning works best when it leverages the intellectual capital of the faculty and students to do good work in our community,” he said. “I am excited about the potential.”

Several faculty members are incorporating Service-Learning into their classes.

In Dr. Hicks’ class on the Harlem Renaissance this semester, students will build on examples of creative writing by African American writers to reach out to the community. They will lead writing workshops in a nursing home, a children’s home and a public housing project.

“Using a small grant from our Teaching and Learning Center, we will publish a literary journal with the writing we collect,” he said. “It will challenge my students to relate their ideas to the potential writers.”

Dr. Hicks took his idea for the class to Poteet, who helped him flesh it out. Then, she made community contacts and sold them on the project.

“Student Affairs and CCE have a wealth of knowledge and many partnerships that we don’t have in Academic Affairs,” he said. “Christie’s help is critical to my success.”

Service-Learning will ramp up its activities immediately:

  • Faculty workshops begin in February.
  • An interactive website will launch to connect faculty to Service-Learning and community organizations to the program.
  • Beginning in the fall, “Faculty Fellows” in Service-Learning will recruit and work with faculty.
  • A national Service-Learning symposium is planned to take place on campus in August 2011.
  • Recruitment of additional community service organizations will be continuous.

“A national conference is ambitious,” Dr. Hicks said. “It will provide a forum for our faculty to present their ideas as well as opportunities to network with scholars nationwide.”

“We will put out a national call for papers to the conference,” Poteet said. “The conference will be a place to exchange ideas and learn more about what others are doing.

Service-Learning resonates and enhances the mission of CCE and the University,” Poteet said.

 “CCE becomes a one-stop shop for community service, volunteering and Service-Learning,” she concluded. “It completes our mission to students, the University and community.”

For more information about Service-Learning at UNCP, call the Office for Community and Civic Engagement at 910.521.6163 or email christina.poteet@uncp.edu.

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