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Looking Back Across the Years: Alumni Reflections on a Community Design Service Learning Experience

Leo Christopher Plein

Abstract


This paper examines the perceptions of alumni on a service learning experience they engaged in as graduate students. As students, they were enrolled in West Virginia University’s Master of Public Administration program and participated in the West Virginia Community Design Team. Since 1997, the Community Design Team (CDT) program has engaged the state’s rural communities through volunteer teams of faculty, professionals, and students who assist in community efforts to assess and envision their futures. Through a curricular-based approach of integration and reflection, students are able to incorporate their CDT experiences into their overall graduate education. After briefly describing how integration and reflection are pursued through portfolio and capstone requirements, the paper then focuses on alumni recollections of how they encountered small rural communities, their lasting lessons gained from the experience, their evaluations of the place of service learning in graduate education, and their advice to others seeking to engage communities through university outreach and service projects. Data was gathered for this paper through in-depth interviews with alumni who participated in the CDT program as students. The results also suggests that alumni perspective is important not only in assessing service learning experiences but in reinforcing lessons learned by revisiting the experience years later. The research also seeks to add to our understanding of service learning in graduate education.

 

KEYWORDS

service learning; graduate education; community engagement


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Partnerships is sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact, and hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. ISSN: 1944-1061
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