OSLCE Initiatives

OSLCE Initiatives

Although faculty members and community partners are free to work together on any mutually agreed upon project, OSLCE tries to provide faculty/community continuity by creating relationships within key initiatives. Faculty members are currently engaged in projects in city labs and sustainability, civil rights, educational access, the Phillips Scholarship, and public health.



Key OSLCE Initiatives

Although faculty members and community partners are free to work together on any mutually agreed upon project, OSLCE tries to provide faculty/community continuity by creating relationships within key initiatives. Faculty members are currently engaged in projects in city labs and sustainability, civil rights, educational access, the Phillips Scholarship, and public health.

City Labs and Sustainability Initiatives

Sustainable Food Systems is a new initiative focused on coordinating faculty, courses, and student community work to tackle big food-related issues in the community. Using the Triple Bottom Line model of people, planet, and prosperity, the initiative hopes to mimic the success of the UST HIV/AIDS initiatives by direct engagement with a critical social issue of our time. Faculty, staff, and student ideas are welcome.

For more information, contact Elise Amel, Director of Environmental Studies and Associate Professor, Industrial/Organizational Psychology at 651-962-5046 or envrstudies@stthomas.edu.

Civil Rights Initiatives

In June of 2010, the Community Justice Project of University of St. Thomas’ Law School and the St. Paul NAACP were awarded the prestigious Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award by Minnesota Campus Compact to honor their outstanding work and to highlight the work of effective campus-community partnerships that address critical public issues. Click here for to read more about this award in St. Thomas' Bulletin Today.

In 2006, the Community Justice Project and the St. Paul Chapter of the NAACP formed a partnership to work collaboratively on behalf of communities of color to challenge laws and policies that negatively impact these communities. Through collaborative efforts, the Community Justice Project and the St. Paul Chapter of the NAACP have engaged law students, local youth, and other community members in addressing current civil rights issues. They have increased dialogue and improved relations between law enforcement and communities of color. Together the CJP and NAACP have written key reports that have led to systemic changes. Three concrete changes that have resulted because of their collaboration:

  • One report laid the foundation for a partnership with Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation to develop Brotherhood, Inc., a comprehensive support system for young African-American males who’ve been involved in gangs or the criminal justice system modeled after the Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.
  • The partnership also prepared a memo to the St. Paul City Attorney regarding the over-use of the charge of Obstructing Legal Process among African-Americans. As a result, the City Attorney retrained city prosecutors which doubled the dismissal rate of cases being prosecuted and led to the creation of a restorative justice program.
  • Finally, the CJP and NAACP advocated for legislative change regarding Minnesota’s databases on gangs resulting in major changes in data collection procedures in Ramsey County, including a parental notification provision when children are added to the databases.

The Community Justice Project is part of Interprofessional Center for Counseling & Legal Services which provides counseling and legal clinics for underserved individuals and communities. It was established not only to meet community needs but also to help graduate law, psychology, and social work students understand the importance of working collaboratively across disciplines to provide more effective services. An asylum seeker who’s been tortured might need not only a lawyer to get legal immigration status, but a therapist to address psychological trauma as well as a social worker to help access other social and medical services.

The IPC is managed collaboratively by the UST’s School of Law, the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, and St. Thomas’/St. Catherine’s School of Social Work. For more information, contact Professor Nekima Levy Pounds, Director of the Community Justice Project at 651-962-4960 or nvlevypounds@stthomas.edu.

Educational Access Initiatives

St. Thomas partners with several schools in ways that enhance the academic learning of both sets of students. Information about these service-learning initiatives is available through the link below or CSLCE. Some of these long-standing and most active partnerships include working with:

  • College Prep Elementary
  • Cristo Rey Jesuit High School
  • Kekaha Ke Kula Ni’ihau O Kekaha Learning Center
  • Open Arms of Minnesota
  • Wellstone International High School

College Prep Elementary

College Prep Elementary (CPE) is a charter school that serves predominantly Hmong and Karen students in grades K-6. Two partnership programs included UST students working with 5th graders in a Critical Reading and Writing class and 6th graders to produce a play.

In the Critical Reading and Writing class UST students worked with 5th graders to document oral histories of their families’ journeys to Minnesota. UST and CPE students applied academic concepts in their writing and learned about one another. UST students learned more about Hmong culture and the difficult journeys many families took to come to the United States. CPE students learned not only more about their family history but also about college from the UST students with whom they worked. Many parents of CPE students also expressed gratitude for an opportunity to share more of their journeys to their new homes with their children.

A UST Drama and Poetry class and 6th graders from CPE jointly produced, directed, acted, and managed stage-craft for Stone Heart, a play written by local Native American playwright Diane Glancy. This term, CPE 6th graders and St. Thomas students will write and produce their own 3-act plays based on folks tales from around the world.

For more information about this partnership, please contact Michael Raimondi, Executive Director of College Prep Elementary and St. Thomas adjunct English faculty member at 651-605-2360 or info@cpe-k6.org.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School is a Catholic high school in the heart of the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis. Cristo Rey provides a college-preparatory education in the Jesuit tradition for students of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds who would not normally have access to such an education.

The school is a member of the national Cristo Rey Network, an association of similar urban high schools serving young people from families who are economically disadvantaged. A hallmark of a Cristo Rey education is the students' participation in their Hire4Ed Program. In addition to attending classes, students work in an office environment five days a month thereby earning up to 70% of the cost of their education. To accommodate this work schedule, the school has an extended school day and year. The school’s curriculum is designed to support the students’ work experience in addition to preparing students for university, college, or other post-secondary education.

Several St. Thomas faculty members teaching courses with service-learning components have worked collaboratively with Cristo Rey students and faculty in areas including communications and journalism, English, theology, statistics, and computer skills.

Largest of all of these courses is the introductory Communication and Citizenship class (COJO 111) a team taught course required of all Communication and Journalism majors involving approximately 200 St. Thomas students and the 9th grade Cristo Rey students each year. Several Cristo Rey staff and faculty members as well as St. Thomas faculty and staff have worked diligently to develop a collaborative, sustainable partnership that helps both their students and ours to achieve curricular goals as well as to encourage Cristo Rey students to think more about pursuing a college education.

Kekaha Ke Kula Ni’ihau O Kekaha Learning Center

The Kekaha Ke Kula Ni’ihau O Kekaha Learning Center on Kauai’i Hawai’i has been a partner with UST’s Communication and Journalism Department for over twelve years. During their January-term course, “Hawai’i: Multi-Cultural Communication in Diverse Organizations,” faculty and staff work with the students and staff of the Learning Center, a public charter school on Kauai’i. Approximately forty students, from pre-school to high school, attend this bi-lingual school. Younger students are taught exclusively in their Hawaiian dialect of Ni’ihau, with English introduced in upper-elementary classes. The school’s goal is for their graduates to be bi-lingual in English and in Ni’ihau. These students are part of the small native Hawaiian community of Ni’ihau that works tirelessly to preserve its culture against many odds.

Service-learning projects vary from year to year, depending on the school’s curriculum. Students have studied and worked together on projects regarding the Hawaiian Duck, an endangered indigenous species, studied the coral reef together, conducted research and given presentations, developed puppet shows, and performed instrumental music for a DVD students created together. Materials are shared with the students’ families and the wider Ni’ihau community as a significant resource for the community to keep their language alive.

Open Arms of Minnesota:

The University of St. Thomas has enjoyed a service-learning partnership with Open Arms of Minnesota since 2004. Open Arms is an organization that prepares meals for and delivers meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, MS, ALS, and breast cancer.

Each semester, faculty in disciplines as diverse as philosophy, communication studies, theology, art history, justice and peace studies, sociology, health and human performance, business, and psychology learn the content of their courses through application to the work of Open Arms. For example, students in sociological methods have developed skills in survey writing and analysis by conducting surveys for the benefit of Open Arms. Students in epidemiology learn about food-born pathogens by preparing food safety kits for distribution to new Open Arms’ clients. Students in business have applied their skills in marketing by raising funds for Open Arms’ projects in South Africa. And students in theology have learned about the theology of the Second Vatican Council and its concern for the innate dignity of the human person by delivering meals to Open Arms’ clients, and reflecting on these experiences in academic journals.

Wellstone International High School

Wellstone International High School in South Minneapolis provides English and content instruction to English Language Learners ages 14 to 21. St. Thomas students in English and Psychology classes have had an opportunity to assist students in classrooms and to interact with immigrant students from various backgrounds. The University of St. Thomas' Center for Writing also provides community-based consulting at Wellstone International High School.

Public Health

HIV/AIDS Initiatives

The Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement at the University of St. Thomas recognizes that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is one of the most pressing issues of our day. Having already killed 25 million people globally, HIV/AIDS affects the lives of another 33 million people still living, 96% of whom live in the developing world--the majority of whom live with the virus without access to life-saving treatments. Moreover, HIV/AIDS is a disease of young people; half of the 5 million new infections each year occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24, and is leaving in its wake millions of orphans (http://www.unaids.org/en/).

The Office of Service Learning is deeply concerned about the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and the destabilizing impact the disease is having on governmental, economic, and familial structures in our increasingly interdependent world. OSLCE is committed to educating its students about appropriate preventative measures, as well as effective, compassionate, and sustainable responses to this medical and cultural crisis of the modern age.

The project of HIV/AIDS Initiatives through the Office for Service-Learning offers service-learning opportunities for students in diverse disciplines, providing a chance to learn about public health through partnership with organizations in the local community, including work in affiliation with Clare Housing, Minnesota Aids Project, and Open Arms of Minnesota.

Faculty in disciplines as diverse as art history, biology, business, communication and journalism, health and human performance, justice and peace studies, music, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology, have developed projects in collaboration with these organizations to provide students with a unique opportunity to apply their coursework to real needs arising in the community.

In 2008, 2010, and 2011, the program offered overseas opportunities when University of St. Thomas students traveled to Guguletu and Cape Town, South Africa for an international experience interacting with those affected by the pandemic.