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January 17, 2007

College of Liberal Arts launches community engagement initiative

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's College of Liberal Arts is starting a program to increase its faculty's community engagement and help examine and solve social issues that affect citizens throughout the state.

Purdue Liberal Arts Community Engagement, to be known as PLACE, is designed to involve faculty and students in issues that reach past the boundaries of the classroom and campus.

"Faculty and students in the College of Liberal Arts have been engaged in service-learning, public presentations and voluntary involvement in community programs for several years, but many of these efforts have been unconnected from one another," said Susan Curtis, associate dean for interdisciplinary programs and engagement.

"The purpose of PLACE is to organize these activities and make them more beneficial to faculty, students and the community. When we take what is going on in our classrooms at Purdue and pair it with the input and ideas of citizens, we can better help solve problems that are a concern to all of us."

PLACE will be broken down into three components that utilize the expertise of College of Liberal Arts scholars, researchers and artists.

The first component is called Building Community, which will bring together scholars, students and community leaders in a two-phase, yearlong study of an issue in need of greater understanding by the public and policymakers. Examples of such topics are immigration, the poverty rate, land use, religious and cultural understanding, and correctional facilities.

Those involved in Building Community will study an issue from their particular disciplinary perspective. Faculty members involved in Building Community will guide students in their classes as they do research on subjects related to the annual theme. Students will be conducting some of the basic research on the problem and will be involved in cross-disciplinary discussions at the end of the semester.

The first phase will involve framing questions, gathering information and insight, studying the problem and working with community groups. In phase two, findings from all groups will be collected, discussions will be held and recommendations for a plan of action or policy will be made.

The second component of PLACE is the Public Square Forum, which will utilize public lectures, poster sessions, art, music and other performances, question-and-answer sessions, and videos to examine a subject of importance. Projects will be geared toward the general public and will often include opportunities for K-12 classes to participate.

The third component of PLACE is individual engagement, in which liberal arts faculty will be encouraged to publicly present their research findings, creative endeavors and expertise around the state.

For each program component, funds and travel reimbursements will be available to participating faculty. Students in classes involved in the Building Community component will be encouraged to apply for service-learning grants to implement recommended programs.

Faculty must have the approval of their department head and the associate dean for engagement to be involved in PLACE. Activities supported by the program will be complied for use as part of an annual report on engagement activities in the college, Curtis said. This report will serve as a resource for faculty and the community.

Funding for the program is being provided by the Office of the President.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu

Source: Susan Curtis, (765) 494-4159, curtis@purdue.edu

 Related Web sites:
Purdue Liberal Arts Community Engagement: http://www.cla.purdue.edu/place/

Purdue College of Liberal Arts: http://www.cla.purdue.edu/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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