Community Work and Learning builds on tradition of civic and community service

The programs challenge St. Catherine University students to step outside their comfort zone to build skills and benefit the community.
The Food Group

Debra Sheats, an assistant professor of Nutrition and Exercise Science, worked with CWL to have first year students conduct a service-learning project at The Food Group as part of their first year core curriculum course, The Reflective Woman.

St. Catherine University’s Center for Community Work and Learning (CWL) programs challenge students, faculty, and staff to deepen their understanding of social responsibility and refine their practice of ethical leadership in the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and the University's founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Through service-learning, students develop their leadership skills and build positive relationships between community organizations and the University. Over 125 non-profits partner with St. Kate’s in programs that support their work and also meet the learning goals of our students, faculty, and staff.

Announced fall 2016, St. Catherine University was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll that recognizes institutions of higher education for “exemplary community service programs and raise the visibility of effective practices in campus community partnerships.” The award is the highest federal recognition an institution can receive for a commitment to community, service-learning and civic engagement.

"The award is a testament to all we do as an institution to work towards social justice in partnership with the broader community,” said D'Ann Urbaniak Lesch, director for the Center for Community Work and Learning. “We are so thankful to be able to work with an amazing group of nonprofits, faculty, staff and students."

CWL Snapshot - Henrietta Schmoll School of Health programs

During the fall 2016 semester, 15 courses in the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health featured a service-learning component giving 325 students the opportunity to learn in group experiences and ongoing larger project-based efforts.

Students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program complete 12 hours of service learning in the second half of their first semester. They choose from seven service sites for an experience that challenges them while meeting their own interests and needs. Students use class time to provide this service. They complete personal guided journals (which remain private) on topics that are part of the curriculum content. They may also have specific learning assignments from their individual site supervisors that include leading a group or participating in direct client support. They also have an opportunity to prepare a presentation for the class with other students with whom they are serving. Site supervisors often attend to offer feedback.

Also during the fall semester, 133 students from four sections of the Interprofessional Education course, "Healthcare Teams and Aging," completed seven weeks of service learning experiences with eight community partners serving elders in the metropolitan area – from community agencies and independent living facilities to assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities.

The student teams participated in a variety of activities and programs that included music, art, exercise, baking, grooming, games, health and wellness, walking, quilting, dancing, knitting and assisting with holiday events. According to Jim Tift, assistant professor of Interprofessional Education who developed the aging course, “service learning provides students with the opportunity to process their thoughts and feelings about elders through their experiences with team members, while learning about aging in the classroom.”

Many students have not had an opportunity to interact with elders, according to feedback received following the service-learning experience. One student shared, “This experience meant a lot to me. I currently do not have anyone in my life who would be considered an elder, so this definitely changes my mindset about what it is like to work with elders."

Compiled by Julie Michener