International Service-Learning

International service-learning incorporates meaningful global community partnerships into coursework, allowing the students to contribute to the community while gaining relevant knowledge to their academic and professional lives.  It is a link between the classroom and community through required academically-based experiences.

Service-learning courses at the University of St. Thomas are offered from various colleges and disciplines to engage students, faculty, and community partners on issues relating to poverty, literacy, education, access, health care, immigration, hunger, affordable housing, environment, and others. Service-learning courses are academically rigorous and offer students opportunities to link theory and practice through structured public service activities in collaboration with local communities, and thus gain further understanding and appreciation of the discipline, while achieving an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.

Below are example international service-learning classes that are offered on campus. To learn more, please visit the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement's website.

Diversity Issues in Counseling in Singapore – Dr. Len Jennings

During J-Term 2010, 2012, and 2013, MA students from the Graduate School of Professional Psychology program participated in a month-long international study course on Diversity Issues in Counseling in Singapore.  The course, led by Professor Len Jennings, was intensely experiential and included traveling, living, and learning in the highly diverse, Southeast Asian country of Singapore as well as an excursion into Malaysia. The course will continue to be offered every other year, and consists of joint experiential learning exercises with Singaporean MA counseling students as well as site visits illuminating the various ways mental health needs are addressed in Singapore (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shamans, Western trained psychotherapists, etc.).  In addition, the course has a service-learning component in which UST students conduct psycho-educational presentations and group work with abused teen girls living in a residential treatment center.  The opportunity to plunge into a highly diverse cultural setting with multiple languages (Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, and English), multiple religions (Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism), and multiple ethnicities (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Euro-Asian, ex-pat) make for an unbelievable backdrop for this international service-learning course on diversity.

Organizational Development: Team Practicum in the Ukraine – Dr. Alla Heorhiadi and Dr. John Conbere

Organization, Learning, & Development has offered free consulting projects in Organization Development to Ukrainian organizations since 2005 and which were conducted within the scope of the international practicum (ODOC 942 - Team Practicum), and which is part of the required series of three 3-credit practica for doctoral students in OD. The international service learning course was developed and is conducted by Dr. Alla Heorhiadi and Dr. John Conbere has provided consulting services to over 45 companies in the Ukraine. 

Dr. Heorhiadi finds companies in need of OD and negotiates a project that would fit the requirements of the practicum but also fits students' backgrounds, expertise, and interests. In teams of two or individually, the students' work consists of 1) learning needs of a company and negotiating a contract with the scope of work (online phase of work, including emails, skype conversations, etc.-10-25 hours); 2) face-to-face work with the client on site, actual intervention (40-50 hours); 3) analysis and report writing phase, on-line, (25-50 hours); 4) sometimes follow-up work within the following 6-12 months that includes answering the client's questions, suggesting literature to read, and so forth (5-15 hours). All projects are pro-bono and help Ukrainian organizations sustain and develop. Many of the doctoral students have taken the trip two and three times and have spoken about the transformative influence on their lives.

The Church in Latin America – Dr. Gerald Schlabach

Study Christian theology and practice in a context of the great struggle for human dignity. From on-location in the Guatemalan highlands, students will study the experiences of Guatemalan churches in the twentieth century. These churches serve as a lens for analyzing the various forms that Christianity has taken in Latin American history since the Spanish Conquest.  Students will study the politics, history, culture and economy of Guatemala in order to join with Latin Americans in reflecting theologically on the meaning of the gospel in its historical context. Theological topics explored may include evangelization, Christology, sin, martyrdom, poverty, the nature of the Church, the Eucharist and the Church’s role in Guatemala’s peace process. Practical service activities will be combined with academic study.

While on location in Guatemala, most of the time will be spent in the Guatemalan highlands at the San Lucas Toliman Catholic mission, on scenic Lake Atitlán. Practical service activities will be combined with traditional course work, featured speakers and field trips in order to bring students into close contact with the local community and to enhance the learning goals of the course. Service activities include light construction, coffee picking, reforestation and childcare. Spanish is desirable but not necessary

The Breadfruit Project: Peace Engineering in the Caribbean - Dr. Camille George

For the past decade, the School of Engineering has been involved in service-learning engineering projects aimed at providing sustainable technical solutions for people found at the base of the Pyramid.  Dr. George has been leading one of the projects which is aimed at transforming surplus fresh breadfruit in Haiti and other Caribbean nations into flour.  Over the years she has engaged undergraduate engineering students through a service learning option in the two semester engineering capstone course, Senior Design, to design low tech devices that are adapted to the culture and environment in which they are deployed.  She strongly believes that a community partner is the focus of the service learning effort and it is the ethical responsibility for our teams to design a device or process that is truly useful for the community.  Even if a student team receives an A for their work, a project is not successful until a community actually adopts and embraces the technology and this may take several student teams.  The breadfruit processing service learning effort has designed a manual shredder and drier that can be used to make the flour.  Dr. George now has received funding to open up a small bakery in Haiti with her Haitian partners to begin processing breadfruit flour for use in baking.