What Is Community Engaged Learning?
Community Engaged Learning (CEL) is an academic program at Millsaps College that enables students to partner traditional classroom content with practical application in the community. Through mutually beneficial partnerships within the Jackson Metropolitan community, students cultivate their identity as lifelong learners and active citizens. While Millsaps has always fostered students’ involvement in the greater community, the CEL program officially became part of the academic program in 2002.
CEL projects range from traditional community service models to mentoring opportunities between our students and community leaders in the non-profit and private sector worlds. As an integral piece of the Millsaps experience, CEL encourages students to discern the ways in which their community serves them and to envision their own unique contributions as active, engaged citizens. CEL not only enhances student learning, but encourages awareness of our community partners and the crucial contribution that they make to the Jackson Metro area.
What makes CEL unique at Millsaps?
Millsaps College is located in the heart of the capital city, a crossroads for culture, public policy and education. This location provides unlimited opportunities in the midst of a thriving metropolitan area educating students on the complexities of urban issues. In 2013, the college prioritized community engagement as part of the strategic plan “Across the Street and Around the Globe.”
Who Does It?
Everyone! CEL classes are taught within all disciplines of the college including Biology, Education, Religious Studies, History, Psychology, English, Business and Communications. Students in CEL courses have earned regular credit hours while writing business plans for local businesses, working with elementary students on early literacy skills, and conducting science workshops for Jackson Public Schools.
Other CEL projects have given students the opportunity to tutor Sudanese refugees, work in afterschool programs, conduct market research, and contribute to public history events. CEL coursework at Millsaps underscores the critical connection between learning and doing, giving our students the knowledge and experience to be lifelong citizens, whether they are in their hometown or across the world.
Child Development in Context: Managing Classrooms to Support the Development of Self-regulation (EDUC 3280)--Dr. Stacy DeZutter & Dr. Julie Rust
Community Partner: Lester Elementary
Students design and implement strategies to foster child self-regulation in classrooms at Lester Elementary. The course examines the role of social context in child development with special attention to the ways in which classroom practices can reproduce or disrupt the inequities associated with poverty.
Human Development in Cross-Cultural Perspective (IDST 1000)--Dr. Stacy DeZutter
Community Partners: various organizations that serve human developmental needs
Human Development in Cross-Cultural Perspective examines continuity and change in individuals across the lifespan, including development in the physical, cognitive, and social domains. Emphasis is placed on development as a context-bound process: a process which examines how factors external to the individual interact with those within the individual to shape the course of development. Students will spend time volunteering at an organization or agency that serves human developmental needs in some way.
Clinical Practice (EDUC 4500)—Dr. Burson
Community Partner: various public and private K-12 classrooms
Clinical Practice is an intensive field-based semester designed to connect theory and pedagogical best practices with K-12 classroom teaching experiences.
Early Literacy Development I (EDUC 3100)—Dr. Burson
Community Partner: Spann Elementary
EDUC 3100 teaches students the foundations of literacy instruction. Importance is placed on research-based classroom instruction and assessment and targeted interventions for those reading below grade level. Literacy is multidimensional; it includes listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and visually representing in a variety of settings.
Senior Seminar/History and Systems II (PSYC 4912-01)—Dr. Kathryn Hahn
Community Partner: the students as a group will have to choose their specific engagement site
Connecting psychological concepts to the real world, students will therefore better understand psychological principles as they apply to everyday or extraordinary human interactions while serving the community. Students will create a proposal for service placement outlining the psychological principle they are investigating and the community partner with whom they will work.
Instructional Design, Implementation, and Management (EDUC 3200-01)—Dr. Julie Rust
In this course, students are introduced to research-based methods for the design, implementation, and management of instructional contexts. Students will design goals and objectives, explore various models of teaching, and interact with numerous templates for managing large and small groups. Students will be learning “in the field” by observing and assisting in K-12 school classrooms.
Field Research in Reading (EDUC 3850)—Dr. Marlys Vaughn
Community Partner: Brown Elementary School
Field Research in Reading offers licensure candidates the opportunity to explore the field of Education with emphasis on at risk readers in K-3 classrooms. Candidates provide literacy enrichment for students with low reading/language skills. Students enrolled in this course provide literacy skills enrichment at Brown Elementary School.
Crime and Prisons (SOAN 2750-02)—Dr. Louwanda Evans
Community Partner: Henley-Young Detention Center, various speakers
Using a sociological perspective to examine the nature of crime, the creation of crime and criminals, and our past and contemporary penal system, students will develop a mentoring program. They will make direct connections with juveniles currently in the system, the legal aspects of crime, and crime and mental health. Through these connections and discussions, students will have the opportunity to understand crime and prisons as situated in the larger economic and political contexts.
Campaigns and Election (PLSC 3000)—Dr. Nathan Shrader
Community Partner: various campaign organizations
The course allows students to examine campaign organization, fundraising and communication, standard grassroots campaign techniques, and both new and emerging technologies during a critical election year. Students will examine the political campaigns and the electoral process from the perspectives of practitioners such as political professionals who manage and work on campaigns, the activists and donors who help power them, the candidates themselves, and the voters who are charged with making the final decisions at the ballot box.
American Art (IDST 2400-01/ARTH 2760)—Dr. Monica Jovanovich-Kelley
Community Partner: Lewis Art Gallery
This course examines important works of American art from the colonial period through the early 20th century paying close attention to social, political and cultural contexts. Through investigating the unique character and construction of the United States, we will address issues such as modernity, gender, capitalism, urbanism, identity, and class.
“Ko’ox Boon”—Let’s Paint! (ENGL/COMM/SOAN)—Dr. Eric Griffin and Amanda Strickland
Community Partner: Ko’ox Boon
Part of the Millsaps Yucatan semester, students will work with the non-profit Ko’ox Boon in the pueblo of Yaxhachen, to create dialogue between community members across culture, race, age and language, which will manifest innovative, multicultural solutions to social problems. Ko’ox Boon suggests that these conversations are best had when communicating through art and community betterment. Students will work with the community to carry out projects in the newly developing community center, Casa YAXHA.
Environmental Ethics (PHIL 2120/PEAC 2750)—Dr. Kristen Brown Golden
Community Partner: Two Run Farms and Garden Farmacy
In this class students will study approaches to the idea of “environment” and will be introduced to debates surrounding ecological issues. These include: climate change, food ethics, animal issues, ethics of sports hunting and environmental-scarcity triggered violence. Students shall have an opportunity to work at the Mississippi Food Network to engage with the issues covered in the course.
SPAN 1010—Dr. David Wood
Community Partner: Latin Fest
This course continues to introduce students to basic Spanish grammar and vocabulary with emphasis on oral proficiency. Students will practice all semester, including hosting a weekly Spanish film series. In addition, students will engage with the local Latina community at Jackson’s annual Latin Fest.
“Can We Promote Literacy Through Artistic Means?” (FYCS 1010-11)—Dr. Sandra Murchison
Community Partner: The Purple Word Center for Book & Paper Arts, Brown Elementary
Through the art and content of book arts, this course will serve as a cross section between studio art, community engaged practices and literature. This is considered a studio art course, with a broader interest and attachment to the community. The class will meet every Thursday afternoon at Purple Word Center for Book & Paper Arts to print letterpress, print relief blocks, bind books and to work with the children in Midtown. As we discuss readings, collaborate with one another and with residents of Midtown, and create artistic works, we will ask such questions as: Can relatively small gestures have a lasting impact on a child’s desire to read? How do we know what works in Midtown? Our ultimate problem to be solved is: how do we promote literacy through artistic means in Midtown? ,
Is Peace Possible? (FYCS 1010-06)—Dr. Lola Williamson
Community Partner: MS Department of Archives and History, International Museum of Muslim Culture, Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center
The goal of this course is not to solve the problem of violence, but to have students clarify their views about the extent to which peace is possible. The course will explore incidents of violence as well as methods for replacing violent means of solving conflicts with peaceful means.
Why Do Americans Hate Politics and What Can Be Done About it? (FYCS-1010-09)—Dr. Nathan Shrader
This course examines the factors leading to the rapid deterioration of trust for our governing institutions and the growing reluctance among citizens to participate in the political process. These factors include ideological polarization and hyper-partisanship, statutory efforts to make voter registration and participation gratuitously difficult, and the implementation of policies that undermine the economic mobility and long-term security for an increasingly large number of citizens.
What Does Heritage Have to Do with History? (FYCS 1010-12)—Dr. Stephanie Rolph
This course will explore the relationship between heritage and history as those terms apply to current debates surrounding the Confederate battle flag, Confederate memorials and other symbols that represent heritage to some and hate to others.
For Dr. Williamson, teaching in the Community Engaged Learning Program means connecting the campus to the wider community. “Sharing what we know and who we are with others provides a win-win opportunity” she explains, “not only to others gain from our knowledge, but we learn best what we share with others.” This spring, her “Religion, Peace and Justice” class benefitted not only her students, but the Millsaps campus community and the Jackson-Metro area.
In addition to spending time in the classroom, students went out into the community and participated in the Campaign for Southern Equality’s WE DO March, listened to an immigrants’ rights speaker and talked with a Palestinian student to hear a firsthand experience about living in Gaza. Dr. Williamson secured multiple speakers to visit campus to talk about issues surrounding LGBT and immigrant justice issues.
The knowledge and experience Dr. Williamson provides the program are unique and critical to the program. Millsaps Alumna Chelsey Overstreet Hedglin (B.A. 2013) experienced firsthand how these experiences can help focus a student’s vision of vocation. Dr. Williamson’s passion for peacebuilding, “Influenced my passion for peacebuilding and social justice, which is now the main focus of my future in ministry.”
Dr. Williamson recognizes that the CEL teaching process is a learning experience in and of itself. She has tried various approaches when teaching CEL courses and those approaches have evolved over time. “I used to let students create their own projects, and have had amazing results with this approach. For example, one group of students worked with a Murrah High School history class on the Civil Rights Movement. After teaching two classes on the movement, they asked students to interview an older family member who lived through the era. They then turned the interviews into monologues, which my students videotaped and compiled. As a way of bringing the community outside of Millsaps onto campus, we had a program in the Leggett Center, which we called “Partners in Peace,” and sent invitations to the families of the Murrah students.
Ultimately, Dr. Williamson recognizes that the CEL journey is just as important as the end results. “I’ve come to realize that getting students off campus and interacting with people they would otherwise not have a chance to meet is valuable in itself.”
Mississippi Department of Archives and History