May 15, 2003
Story idea for Chicago Tribune:
Thank you for considering covering our service-learning efforts at Purdue. The national conference here will be Monday through Wednesday (May 19-21). Ten universities will be represented, including several in your readership area, such as the University of Illinois, Notre Dame, Wisconsin-Madison.
Here's the concept: Service learning is sweeping the country. It's far more than college kids doing volunteer work. It's colleges and universities investing their academic muscle into turning out a new breed of college graduates: Those who know how to analyze a community's needs and develop programs to solve problems
The service-learning concept, already a national phenomenon, also has just captured the imagination of the National Science Foundation, which this month announced it is giving Purdue $2.5 million to continue growing the program nationally.
The grant, as well as the conference, are potential news pegs for a national trend story. If you or anyone else might be able to attend the conference, it also would be great one-stop shopping for interviews. (We're only two hours away, even closer than Champaign!)
Here's how service-learning works: The universities establish courses that focus on teaching the students service-learning. The students then talk to community groups and identify how they might work as a team to help. Some examples:
Most recently, under the leadership of Purdue, several have teamed together in a national effort to help Habitat for Humanity. One of the first projects is to develop multimedia training tools to help show volunteers the how-tos of building a house.
Students in a landscaping course at Purdue have plans to revitalize Chicago's Central Michigan Avenue, a two-mile stretch of the city's most prime real estate that has been a victim of urban decay over the past two decades. Course instructor Kim Wilson has added a slight twist to the project. Student teams were asked to incorporate a Segway personal transport system into their project design.
Early on, one group learned that the community service agencies were having a hard time tracking homeless people as they went from agency to agency. The students responded by creating a computerized tracking system.
Our president, Martin C. Jischke, is very dedicated to this concept. I mentioned on the phone, his commencement address is on that very theme. Ill send a copy of it to you under a separate e-mail tomorrow.