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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU embraces service learning

Creating a culture of service learning at New Mexico State University allows faculty and students to tackle difficult issues in partnership with community agencies, said Jeffrey Brandon, dean of the College of Health and Social Services.

"We have to work as teams and partners to meet our community's challenges," Brandon said. "Service learning has been available in many disciplines across campus, but we really want to bring everyone at NMSU together so there is a single interdisciplinary point of contact for the community to access potential university partnerships and student volunteers."

Training faculty, students and community leaders about opportunities in service learning is a first big step, Brandon said. In partnership with the university's Teaching Academy, the College of Health and Social Services is offering a training experience, "From Theory to Practice: Embedding Service Learning in Academic Courses," from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, in the Corbett Center Dona Ana Room.

The event is free and open to the public, especially representatives from community action agencies interested in partnering with the campus, Brandon said. To assure enough seating, registration is required at teaching.nmsu.edu or call (505) 646-2299.

Richard Eberst, former director of the office of Community-University Partnerships at California State University-San Bernardino (CSUSB), with be the keynote speaker at the training. Eberst was the founding director of the Office of Service Learning at CSUSB.

Following Eberst's presentation a panel of NMSU professors will share their own experiences with service learning. Panel participants include Lisa Bond-Maupin, an assistant professor in criminal justice; Mary Prentice, an assistant professor in educational management and development; Teresa Brandon, a professor in the Health Occupations Program at Dona Ana Branch Community College; and Paul Gutierrez, an associate dean with the Cooperative Extension Service.

The College of Health and Social Services has been leading the effort to broaden the university's use of service projects in course curriculum, but the university as a whole has embraced the idea, Brandon said.

This summer NMSU joined Campus Compact, a national coalition of college and university presidents committed to the civic purposes of higher education.

"It's really about living our mission," Brandon said.

Campus Compact members believe that by creating a supportive campus environment for engagement in community service, universities can best prepare students to be active, committed and informed citizens and leaders, Brandon said.

Planning for a new culture of service learning at NMSU has already seen the university enter into a partnership with the United Way of Southwest New Mexico and its Volunteer Center Program, which matches prospective volunteers with opportunities based on their interests.

Sandra Prelo, an advanced educational services facilitator with the Las Cruces Public Schools, has been attending the service learning committee meetings at NMSU and said she is excited to see the university embracing more opportunities to work with the community.

"I really want to see this get going, there are many opportunities to partner on service projects," Prelo said.

A service learning Web site has been developed that will keep the campus and community updated on new efforts at NMSU in service learning areas, including more training opportunities planned for later in the spring. The Web site is available at http://www.nmsu.edu/~servlrng/.