Dr. Kimberly Vrudny, associate professor of systematic theology and project director for HIV/AIDS Initiatives, has been appointed interim director of Service-Learning for spring semester 2012.
Those familiar with Vrudny’s work will recognize her qualifications for this post. Beginning in 2004, she collaborated with Open Arms of Minnesota to introduce students to the thorny issue of the glorification of suffering in the Christian tradition in her course on theological aesthetics, “Theology and Beauty,” and published a juried article about the experience in God’s Grandeur: The Arts and Imagination in Theology, ed. David C. Robinson (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2007).
In 2005 she co-wrote and won a grant from Minnesota Campus Compact to support the creation of HIV/AIDS Initiatives at the University of St. Thomas – a cluster of courses responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the local community. To date, 21 faculty members have engaged in the initiatives with ongoing support from the University of St. Thomas. They offer 83 sections of classes in which more than 1,500 students have conducted discipline-specific work in partnership with Open Arms of Minnesota, Clare Housing, and Minnesota AIDS Project.
The initiatives have an international component as well. In collaboration with Dr. Barbara Gorski’s Business 200 program and Jacob Cunningham’s VISION program, students have raised a total of $24,000 to purchase groceries for 600 families living with HIV in the townships outside of Cape Town, South Africa. These food parcels are assembled and distributed by students enrolled in Vrudny’s international J-Term service-learning course “AIDS, Apartheid, and the Arts of Resistance.”
Vrudny has served as a member of the service-learning advisory board since she began implementing the pedagogy in her own courses in 2004. Colleagues granted her the Faculty Service-Learning Award in 2006. In addition to chairing the committee that will search for a permanent director throughout the semester, Vrudny will design programs to support faculty engaged in this potentially transformative pedagogy. She will conduct workshops to introduce faculty to the pedagogy and to assist them in publishing about their experiences using the pedagogy in their courses and oversee the activities of the advisory board with its ongoing focus on quality of engagement.
Vrudny brings a wide range of experiences and a deep passion and commitment to Service Learning and to this new position. She is a tremendous addition and resource to all of us. We look forward to a most successful and rewarding semester.