Monday, February 23, 2009

College Makes New Connections With Service-Learning Program

By Elyse Ashburn, The Chronicle of Higher Education Online

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Stuffing envelopes instills many qualities: humility, patience, tough fingers, and a pasty tongue. It is not, however, known for expanding the intellect. That's what college is supposed to do.

And there's the rub. It has been a persistent tension since the 1990s, when service learning became de rigueur on college campuses. At its most basic, service learning moves volunteer work from campus clubs into the classroom. How that actually plays out varies widely from place to place. Many colleges scatter students across dozens or even hundreds of community groups. Even within a single service-learning course, students might be working with a half-dozen different agencies.

The movement has gained new energy with the election of President Obama, who has made increasing service a central plank of his higher-education agenda. But across the board, colleges and universities struggle with service learning's twin goals of providing meaningful help to the community and academic rigor to students.

The challenge is to focus not only on the quantity of volunteers but also on the quality of the work they are doing. At Wagner College, on Staten Island, the provost dreamed up an idea to do just that.

The approach, dubbed Civic Innovations, connects entire academic departments with single agencies on the island. That setup enables the college to draw up a financing proposal for a soup kitchen rather than just serve meals. And faculty members and their partner agencies develop syllabi for courses together — ensuring a clear connection between the soup line and the sociology tome on poverty.

"That is a really powerful combination," says Julie Plaut, head of national academic initiatives for Campus Compact, the largest nonprofit group promoting service learning. The arrangement is also a model that the Corporation for National and Community Service supports.

So far, six academic departments at Wagner are participating in the program, and the college intends to bring on more over the next few years. At the same time, college leaders plan to concentrate their efforts in one neighborhood, Port Richmond, in an attempt to noticeably improve the quality of life on the island's north shore.

Richard Guarasci, the college's president, hopes that federal grant money will support the expansion — but says Wagner will bankroll the whole project if need be. "It's up to higher-education leaders," he says, "to make sure this is a core part of what we do and isn't just an additive or fad."

Persistent Link

Many fads came and went in the 1980s. But the idea of linking service and learning never went away.

The concept was kick-started in 1985, when several college presidents decided to counter the popular image of college students as disaffected, materialistic, and self-absorbed. That year the presidents of Brown, Georgetown, and Stanford Universities started Campus Compact to promote — and publicize — volunteer work on campuses.

The nonprofit group embraced the service-learning model, and by 2003 its membership had grown to include a quarter of all colleges in the United States. Students were logging millions of hours each year. But around that time, leaders in the field began to ask, "Service to what end?"

Robert Hackett, one of those leaders and vice president of the Bonner Foundation, says colleges began to take a closer look not only at learning outcomes but also at whether students' volunteer work was actually making a difference in their communities. On both counts, he says, many colleges were falling short.

That is something even colleges on the leading edge of service learning still worry about. California State University at Fresno was recently honored by the national service corporation at the American Council on Education's national meeting in Washington. The university sends more than 10,000 students into the community each year, and its president has set a goal of logging a million service hours annually by 2011. But sheer numbers aren't enough, says Chris Fiorentino, director of Fresno's Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning.

As at Wagner, the university plans to start directing those volunteers to one particular neighborhood, in West Fresno, to maximize their impact. It is a move more colleges need to consider, Mr. Fiorentino says.

"One of the risks is that a lot of schools think, 'Oh, well, we're just going to do something,'" he says. "My fear is that people rush into this stuff, as they see donations and press, and that they don't really think about, 'What are the needs in the community?'"


At Wagner, Civic Innovations was a collaborative effort from the beginning.

"Agencies keep telling us in higher education, over and over, 'We don't know if any students are coming to us next semester. We don't know the ability of the students,'" says Devorah Lieberman, the provost. Plenty of Wagner students were volunteering, she says, but the college needed a more coherent approach to service learning.

In 2005, early in the development process, Ms. Lieberman shared her idea with the leaders of United Activities Unlimited Inc., a Staten Island agency that provides educational, recreational, and social programs for residents. Kim McLaughlin, director of the In-School Youth program at United Activities, and Ms. Lieberman decided to apply for a three-year, $600,000 grant from the national service corporation's Learn and Serve America program.

When a technical glitch erased much of the application, they stayed up all night to finish it. Ms. McLaughlin would type furiously for a few hours, while Ms. Lieberman slept. Then the two would switch.

Once Wagner got the grant, in 2006, getting Civic Innovations up and running was a bit of a rush job, too. "I was called in a few weeks before classes started," says Patricia Tooker, an assistant professor of nursing. Administrators thought the three courses she taught were best positioned to try out the new service-learning approach. Ms. Tooker was game.

Now students in her freshman course mentor children on health and nutrition in schools that have formed partnerships with United Activities. Juniors work with school nurses to research and tackle systemic health problems, like childhood obesity and asthma. And seniors serve as health educators, developing lessons and working directly with kids. "School nurses are doing mostly triage," Ms. Tooker says. "They don't really have the opportunity to be creative."

As at most colleges, the nursing curriculum at Wagner is packed, and at first many students grumble about the extra time commitment, Ms. Tooker says. But most come to see the value. "I had a student who saw a kid whose teeth were rotting, and the student talked to the kid about the importance of brushing his teeth, and he'd never heard about brushing teeth before," she says. Moments like that, Ms. Tooker says, make for better lives, and for better nurses.

"If you care about what's going on in health care," she says, "you've got to get them out there in the community."

Outside the Comfort Zone

Wagner's approach is rooted in place.

From its perch atop Grymes Hill on Staten Island, the college has an expansive view of New York Harbor. The campus's previous occupant, a wealthy shipping magnate, built his manse on the spot so he could literally watch his ships come in. Other titans of industry, the Vanderbilts among them, also once called the hill home.

At the base of the hill today is an active but impoverished Liberian community. For years, few Wagner students ever made it down there.

Erica Vasaturo was downright frightened when she learned she'd be volunteering in the neighborhood, called Park Hill after the onetime housing projects of the same name. "I was scared, because I'm from Staten Island," she says. "You hear stories and they're like, 'Oh, God, don't go in there. You're gonna die.'"

What Ms. Vasaturo found in Park Hill, however, was a passion for teaching.

She had transferred from Sacred Heart University, in Connecticut, in her junior year, unsure of what career she wanted to pursue. "I'm a history major, and people kept asking me, 'What are you gonna do, teach?' And I was like, 'No, there's a lot of other things you can do.'"

Last spring, when she and two classmates first arrived at the neighborhood's Fox Hills Tutoring Center, they were confronted by chaos. The children, Ms. Vasaturo discovered, were eager to learn. They just needed more structure. To provide it, she and her classmates decided to have the students work on family-history projects — interviewing family members, writing their stories, and even creating poetry.

The Wagner students realized how little they knew about life beyond their own homes. "A lot of kids at Wagner are really privileged," Ms. Vasaturo says. "We're kind of sheltered."

For her, the contrast was particularly stark. The students she tutored attended elementary school at Public School 57, where fewer than half the students meet state standards for English and, in most grades, do only marginally better in math. The vast majority of the kids are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunches. The public schools Ms. Vasaturo had attended on the south side of the island "might as well be private."

She hopes to spend her career remedying such inequities and plans to teach on the island after she graduates.

Time in Park Hill has altered Lori R. Weintrob's career path, too. Ms. Weintrob, chair of the history department, trained at the University of California at Los Angeles as a historian of French civic culture.

But increasingly, she is interested in the history of Staten Island. A lot has been written about the ferry, Ms. Weintrob says, but not nearly as much about the people and the civic life of the place itself. She thinks her next book will be on the topic. In the meantime, she is living out an area of academic interest for her: intellectuals in civic life.

'Like Any Marriage'

At Wagner, faculty members and community groups meet several times before each semester begins to hammer out the syllabus. Not everything has gone smoothly, of course.

This year, for example, the sociology and anthropology department teamed up to work with a branch of New York's Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP, on the island. Faculty members wanted the organization to think big — dreaming up a survey or research project that could take it to the next level. The small agency felt a little overwhelmed by all the attention at first.

"It's like any marriage," says Julia Barchitta, dean of learning communities and experiential learning. "We have to find our comfort levels together."

The college hired Cassia Freedland to help facilitate those conversations. As director of the college's Center for Leadership and Service, she is also the go-to person for questions that are less academic. Can you send a few extra volunteers to this one-day event? Could Wagner students help round up 30 turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner? Is there temporary storage space available on the campus? It is all the little stuff that relationships are built on.

Over the next few years, Mr. Guarasci, the president, hopes that Wagner can strengthen its relationship with one neighborhood in particular. Port Richmond has a growing Hispanic immigrant community, and by concentrating its service in one area, Wagner hopes to reduce the poverty that has grown up in the neighborhood as well. "The next big challenge for us," he says, "is to ask the question, 'Are we really changing the coefficients of poverty in these communities?'"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Community Partner Profile: The Black Parent Initiative

Committed to addressing challenges facing black families and children in the Portland area, the Black Parent Initiative (BPI) establishes strategic community partnerships, providing parents with the resources needed to encourage growth and success for their children. Perhaps the most vital of these community connections is their relationship with Concordia University in Northeast Portland.

Since 2006, BPI and Concordia have worked together to identify barriers that affect local families and address these needs by developing resources and strengthening assets.

The Concordia Teacher Corps, a program connecting Concordia’s College of Education students with opportunities to tutor K-12 students through after school programs, is a direct result of this relationship. A need was identified and community impact that changes lives ensued.

During the 2007-08 school year, over 340 K-12 students received support from Teacher Corps tutors at 16 tutor sites throughout North and Northeast Portland neighborhoods. While the impact on K-12 students and families is obvious, Concordia students also benefit from the opportunity to serve as tutors by “moving ideas out of the classroom and into the world.”

According to Gary Withers, Concordia University Executive Vice President and BPI Board Co-Chair, creating the Concordia Teacher Corps, in response to the needs of BPI students and families, has laid the groundwork for a strong a meaningful relationship. “We want to identify the challenges, craft the solutions, and become a part of the solution… to respect, honor, and support this diverse community.”

Another BPI program launched at Concordia, the Moses Harris Math & Science Academy, emphasizes the hands-on exploration of math and science concepts while promoting creativity, teamwork, and parental engagement in education.  In the Summer of 2008 the Academy introduced 19 local High School students to career and educational opportunities, provided support around completing and understanding math and science assignments, and connected students with insightful on-campus guest speakers.

Concordia’s Dean of the College of Theology, Arts, and Sciences Dr. Chuck Kunert, along with other Concordia Faculty, Staff and Students helped to make this program a success.  In the Summer of 2009, the program will return and expand.

Other BPI initiatives include Homework Help, a program aimed at helping students stay engaged and raising their self-esteem through assistance with homework assignments and adult mentorship, and support for parents to become early childhood and school-based neighborhood advocates.

Additional Information:
Link to Gary Withers, Concordia University Executive Vice President, External Affairs and BPI Board Co-Chair, speaking at the October, 2008 BPI Fundraiser
Link to Oregonian article written by BPI Executive Director, Charles McGee.
To get involved, visit The Black Parent Initiative Online.

Campus Profile: Portland Community College

Serving as a “crossroads for people with many destinations,” Portland Community College provides a variety of educational opportunities to a diverse student body. Through credit and non-credit classes, transfer and continuing education programs as well as international studies programs, PCC students are encouraged to connect with their local and global community through discussion, education, and engagement.

An example of this commitment to engagement: over 100 PCC faculty “connect course learning objectives and reflection exercises with community service, thus allowing thousands of PCC students to volunteer with community agencies, learn about social issues, and make a difference.” In addition, PCC Rock Creek Campus student Yvonne Norman received the Faith Gabelnick Student Leadership Award, while Kim Smith, a Sylvania Campus Sociology professor, was honored with the Judith Ramaley Faculty Award for Service Learning at the Oregon Campus Compact Civic Engagement Awards in Spring, 2008.

This month, in honor of Black History Month, PCC campuses will be hosting several events to support thoughtful community dialogue, including a Black History Film Series, Student, Faculty & Staff of Color Luncheon, and free West-African drum lessons. Click here for event dates and locations.

Another PCC engagement effort, in partnership with Campus Comapct, is the Students4Giving Program.

In September 2007 Campus Compact and the Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund announced an alliance to educate and inspire a future generation of philanthropists in a new era of giving. Portland Community College was one of five academic institutions in the nation to receive $15,000 to create a donor advised fund to offer grants to non-profit organizations within their communities.

Last year the Portland Community College’s Students4Giving Project participants analyzed grant applications from 14 local non-profit organizations and selected four proposals for a total of $10,000 in grants. Students4Giving also advised the City of Portland’s Vision into Action Coalition with the awarding of $9,900 in Youth Action Grants. During last term 25 students from two accounting courses raised over $7,000 through an online auction and book drive to fund spring grants to local nonprofit organizations. This term the Youth Action Grant project is continuing through an Introduction to Accounting (BA111) course.

The newest and most exciting Students4Giving opportunity is the new Introduction to Nonprofits and Philanthropy (BA208) course in the spring. During this course students will learn how to become grant makers and actually give between $7,500-10,000 to nonprofits in our community. The course will also include many guest speakers from our nonprofit community and cover topics such as:

-Current issues and challenges in the nonprofit sector including access to health care, faith-based initiatives, and environmental sustainability
-Social entrepreneurship
-Modern & grassroots philanthropy
-Nonprofit employment
-Forming and operating a nonprofit

For more information on the Students4Giving Program at PCC, click here.

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Portland Community College Fast Facts

President: Preston Pulliams
Campus Presidents: Dr. Algie Gatewood (Cascade), David Rule (Rock Creek), Dr. Linda Gerber (Sylvania)
Formed: 1961 as the adult education program for the public school system
School Type: Public community college

Location: Portland Metro Area
Alternate Centers: Central Portland, Hillsboro Education Center, Portland Metropolitan, Southeast Portland, Washington County
Enrollment: 86,164 annually
Colors: Blue, yellow/gold
Mascot: Panthers

Mission statement: PCC provides access to an affordable, quality education in an atmosphere that encourages the full realization of each individual's potential.

PCC offers two-year transfer programs, community education classes, credit and non-credit classes and seminars, Associate of Arts transfer degree, international programs, and dual admission programs.

Oregon Campuses Compete in RecycleMania Competition

Sunday, January 18 marked the beginning of the national RecycleMania competition, during which participating colleges and universities will collect and report their recycling and trash weights throughout for a ten-week period. This year, ten Oregon schools are participating, including past winners Lane Community College, Oregon State University, and University of Oregon.

To learn more, visit RecycleMania Online

Portland State University Alum Follows King’s Path through Public Service

By Jake Thomas, The Portland Observer
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Fraternities are often associated with chauvinistic, alcohol-fueled would-be alpha males.  But try telling that to Antonio Jackson, who embodies another side of such organizations: public service.

As tributes are paid to Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of the Jan. 20 National Holiday, Jackson is a living example of King's inclusive approach and efforts to build bridges that make stronger communities. Although no longer a student, Jackson is still active in the alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi doing community service throughout the community.

But this is far from the only community-oriented work he does.

Jackson is tireless. Between work, family, and community service he ends up working 10 hour days mentoring teenagers, sparking an interest science and technology among school children, and getting African-American men to take better care of their health, among others.

"The most important thing is giving back to the community and setting that positive example," said Jackson.

Jackson clearly wants to strengthen communities, and one central way he's doing it is by encouraging future generations to step up and take a stake in it. On a recent Saturday, Jackson wasn't lounging about at home, but at a church in northeast Portland hunched over a laptop at a table surrounded by children. He explained an engineering lesson to the kids while goading one to sit up.

One of Kappa Alpha Psi's proudest projects is Lego Robotics. The program gets minority children interested in science and technology at an early age. Kids compete against other schools to build robots out of Legos and program them to perform tasks. "It's going to be something very special," said Jackson, who notes that similar programs tend to be aimed at more affluent children.

Another project Jackson is particularly proud of is the work mentoring young African-American men in the Perspective Gents Club. He and other members of the fraternity take time to meet with young people and discuss the issues they are facing and try to steer them on the right path.

"To see them as a senior going to college, and seeing that it's a reality -- that they can make it -- that drives me," said Jackson.

"He's motivating others to get us to do things we'd like to do," said Sean Murray, a Kappa alum and human resources manager for Portland Police, who has worked with Jackson on a number of initiatives. Murray said that he's been particularly impressed with Jackson's work mentoring young men, having made the extra effort to drop off and pick up a teenager with problems at home.

Jackson is also involved in health issues. He helped create a monthly men's health forum, where African-American men can meet to discuss health issues like eating right, cancer, and can get their blood pressure checked.

Jackson is affable and dapper. The baby-faced 28-year-old wears a neat and thin goatee. He was born and raised in Portland to Filipina mother and African-American father. Jackson attended David Douglas High School and went on attend Portland State University where he majored in business and played football and basketball. He was drawn to the predominantly African-American fraternity because of its emphasis on public service and the expectation that he would continue to serve after college.

"I wanted to be a part of an organization that was about doing positive things in the community," said Jackson.

On a typical day, he rises at 6 a.m. and rouses his 5 and 6 year old children to have a breakfast and talk about school. He then goes to work at the Banfield Pet Hospital. After work he attends to his various projects, getting home at about 8 or 9. But often times, Jackson tries to bring his kids to community service activities, just as his parents did with him. Jackson explained that because he grew up in a multicultural household he is able to immerse himself in a variety of human environments and can build partnerships.

After graduating he became increasingly involved in the local alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, and was recently elected to the position of polemarch, the equivalent of president. After taking over he's tried to reenergize the organization, which has drawn the praise of previously inactive members.

Ernest Hartzog joined the same fraternity in 1953, but had been inactive in the alumni chapter until Jackson came long.   The 80-year-old retired school administrator said he was impressed by Jackson's infectious drive, and reinvolved himself in the fraternity.

Salem-area Universities Support Community Focus on Service

By Jillian Daley, Statesman Journal
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The new year ushered in another season of giving, and about 30 people with Western Oregon University's Progressive Student Alliance marked that spirit by organizing a garbage cleanup effort Sunday along Highways 99W and 22.

President Clinton in 1994 declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national day of service — a day to help the community — and the Sunday cleanup was one of dozens of Mid-Valley events planned this week or last. This year, there will be more than 12,100 events nationwide, more than double last year, according to Polk County Democrats secretary and volunteer coordinator Beth Fleisher said there are more than 200 events planned in Oregon.

Sunday's effort along two state byways also is in keeping with the wisdom of President-elect Barack Obama, who will be inaugurated Tuesday, Fleisher said. "Obama has called on everyone in America to look at what we can do to improve the country," she said.

Progressive Student Alliance treasurer Alicia Davis thinks King would have approved of the day of service. "It's a way to get people to take pride in their community and bring the community together," Davis said.

A clothing drive for the Women's Crisis Service Shelter is planned for today. Clothing-drive organizer Gwen Grams said Obama also inspired the women's-shelter event — group members worked on his campaign. "It's just a bunch of Obama volunteers, and we're just trying to keep the energy going," Grams said. She wants to continue doing similar events throughout the year. "We don't want this to be a single-day thing," she said.

Willamette University, in partnership with many area nonprofits and community groups, has 10 events planned throughout the week, said Ben Clanton, a student and coordinator for the college's day of service events. The Willamette volunteers include faculty, students, staffers and alumni, Clanton said. Clanton said community members working together can unite the community, breaking down racial barriers — part of King's dream. "Having the day of service, we're working to keep that dream alive," he said.

Speakers Honor King, Gandhi, Chavez at Central Oregon Community College

By Kele Sammons, The Broadside
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Beginning January 22 and continuing over the coming weeks, Central Oregon Community College will be hosting a number of guest lectures and films to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez.

David Bacon, award-winning author and documentary photographer, was the first to speak at Hitchcock Hall, Jan. 22 to a standing room only crowd. Bacon is noted for his documentation of the plight of migrant workers. "Illegal People? Globalization, Migration and the Criminalization of Immigrants" showcased U.S. trade policy and its influence on the rest of the world’s workers.

According to Bacon, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect Jan. 1, 1994, is responsible for “uprooting and displacing Mexican people” by lowering the price of corn so low that Mexican farmers could not compete with the U.S. without subsidies. “When people lose their jobs, they have to do something to support their families,” said Bacon.

Bacon went on to discuss the criminalization of immigrants by focusing on their inability to obtain social security cards. Every employee in the Unites States is required to present a social security number to employers. However, there are an estimated twelve million workers that can’t get a social security number because they can’t show legal status. They “must have a social security to get jobs. No alternatives.” So many migrant workers are forced to make up, borrow or pay for social security numbers. Bacon said that immigrants have paid $56 billion into the social security fund and will “never collect benefits on that money.” Also, by using a fake number, migrant workers are breaking federal law punishable by up to five years in prison and deportation. Bacon suggested that the U.S. give every worker a social security number and to stop criminalizing workers.

Sarah Zobrist, a social science major at COCC, said “we need to work together” and that being “treated like criminals is not right.”

Betsy Fontaine of Powell Butte said, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with immigrant folks and they are the hardest working people I’ve seen.”

So what can the U.S. do to fix the problem besides putting up fences that don’t keep people out? Bacon suggests “help those people who don’t want to migrate.” To do this the U.S. must change trade agreements that push people’s incomes down. Make crossing the border easier for workers because the U.S. and Mexico are economically dependent on each other. The purpose of checkpoints is to “obstruct passage instead of facilitate…We are never going back to a world where people live their whole lives in the same place they were born,” said Bacon. “As citizens of the world everyone should have the right to move around the world.”

Amongst the attendees were a group of middle-schoolers from Westside Village Magnet school. Rebecca Easton, a teacher, said that the students were part of the Spanish Club and had been focusing on issues relative to the Latino community. Last year the club travelled around Oregon and had the opportunity to speak with migrant workers and discuss their concerns. “They’re really learning the language,” said Eston.

Betsy Lamb, an activist in Bend, will be participating in the Migrant Trail Walk, May 20-31. Here, interested parties can trace the migrant journey from Oaxaca to southern Arizona. For more information go to Lamb participates in a weekly peace vigil every Friday night between 4:30 and 5:30 on the corner of Wall and Greenwood. Lamb works diligently to help immigrants who have been rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and removed from their families. “Living conditions at these privately owned federal detention centers are horrible” and mothers of small children have no idea where their husbands have been taken and are “too afraid to ask.”

Sponsors of the King – Gandhi – Chavez Season of Nonviolence include COCC’s Multicultural Center, Office of Student Life, Diversity Committee, Native American Program, Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholar Program and ASCOCC; Jobs with Justice and Central Oregon Labor Council AFL-CIO.   The next lecture will be held Tuesday, Feb. 3, 6:30 pm at Hitchcock Auditorium. The speaker will be Agnes Baker Pilgrim, a Takelma Siletz spokesperson for the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

Linn-Benton Students & Local Youth Give Back to the Community

By Alex Paul, Gazette-Times
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Alex Humphrey was an active campaigner for President-elect Barack Obama and took his words about the need for nationwide community service to heart. On Monday, January 19 Alex and some 80 to 100 other young people put those words into action throughout Corvallis.

The Crescent Valley High School junior and the others in the community tackled several projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Teams committed their day away from classwork to helping others at the Jackson Street Youth Shelter and Community Outreach, by picking up trash around town and collecting canned food at Richey’s Market and Albertsons. “President-elect Obama wants to emphasize greater community service for all,” Alex said. “The Obama family is doing community service work in Washington, D.C., today.”

Alex said the project list was compiled by researching how local civic groups and agencies serve the community. “I contacted several groups, and the Jackson Street Youth Shelter had at least six projects that needed done,” Alex said. Volunteers were busy Monday morning wheeling loads of dirt for raised flower beds, scraping gunk from a barbecue grill, clipping tree branches, fixing flat bicycle tires, building a covered bike shelter and varnishing wood inside the building. “We’re doing lots of fun stuff,” Alex said.

Alex said he spread the word about the project much like the Obama campaign —on Facebook. “Facebook was a huge help,” Alex said. “I also put it in the announcements at school. Friends told other friends. There are lots of people here today that I don’t know.” Alex said he was fronting the estimated $600 worth of lumber needed to construct the covered bicycle area, with hopes that he will be reimbursed by Obama supporters.

“I hope everyone goes home today with a feeling of accomplishment,” Alex said. “I hope they don’t feel like they wasted their day off school and they feel like they did good work.” Tony Wu, 17, a junior at Crescent Valley High, wielded long-handled shears to cut low-hanging limbs from a tall fir tree in the youth center’s back yard. Tony said he was glad other students took the time to “do something beneficial for the community. It builds character.”

Erynne van Zee, 13, and Elizabeth Humphrey, 13, both in the eighth grade at Ashbrook Independent School, used rakes to spread wheelbarrow loads of fresh dirt into raised flower beds. “It’s a great experience to help with these kinds of projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Elizabeth said. “I am also very excited about the inauguration tomorrow.”

Linn-Benton Community College students Justin Stoll, 21, and Phil Allen, 18, got their hands dirty scrubbing a barbecue grill while, a few feet away, Jonathon Brown, 15, and Ben Overman, 15, both Corvallis High students, repaired flat bicycle tires. The Jackson Street Youth Shelter is at 555 N.W. Jackson Ave. It houses boys and girls ages 10 to 17, according to development coordinator Hava Terry. “We provide a place to stay for emergency situations to help them through those hard teen years,” Terry said. The shelter can house up to nine young people at a time and is funded through grants and donations.

Linfield Students Participate in Homeless Count

Associated Press
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A late January survey of shelters in Yamhill County found more than 600 people considered homeless under federal guidelines, up from 364 a year earlier. Social service workers say one reason for the difference may be a more methodical and ambitious count this year.

The count used more than 75 volunteers including Linfield College students.

They found fewer than expected in known transient camps but said cold weather or recent flooding may have influenced that, causing some people to stay in cars or with friends. Previous counts in Yamhill County have ranged widely.

Marylhurst University Honors Distinguished Alumni

Marylhurst Online.
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The Alumni Association of Marylhurst University announces three Portland-area residents as recipients of the 2008 Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Sister Rita Rose Vistica, class of 1956, was recognized with the award for Outstanding Service to Society for her distinguished career as a liberal arts professor. Career honors include the French government's Academic Palms, the Ambassador Award from the Portland French School and recognition from the State of Oregon Foreign Language Honor Roll for outstanding contributions to the teaching and study of foreign language.

Diana Hughes Stegner, class of 1960, received the award for Outstanding Service to Marylhurst for her strong support of the university since the early 1970s. She held leadership positions with the alumni association, most notably as past president of the board. She is an active volunteer with the university's annual phonathon, golf tournament and alumni mentor program.

The Distinguished Professional Award was presented to Judith Barrington, class of 1968, for her significant contributions to the world of literature as an internationally recognized writer and poet. She is the co-founder of The Flight of Mind Writing Workshops, the Director of the Soapstone Writing Retreat in Oregon and a faculty member in the University of Alaska Master's in Fine Arts program. She has led writing workshops and conferences throughout the United States and England.

Portland State University Café Satisfies Hunger, Sustainably

By Christian Gaston, Portland Tribune
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At Portland State University, sustainability is a hot topic after scoring a $25 million grant aimed at turning the campus into a hub for sustainability studies. But at Food For Thought Cafe, the student-run co-op, sustainability has been the name of the game for years.

Yes, they have no bananas (they can’t be sourced locally), but they do have fresh-baked bread, vegan cookies and daily lunch specials ranging from vegan “cheesy” pasta to fresh (and plentiful) salads, all for under $5. “We make it a point to keep our prices low for students,” says Joel Eisenhower, who juggles his work at Food For Thought with studies in arts and letters and a trio of other jobs. Though prices are kept low with students in mind, anyone can eat at Food For Thought, located at Smith Memorial Student Union on 1825 S.W. Broadway.

“We see ourselves as a service to the student body, even as we try to connect with the broader community,” Eisenhower says. And pretty much anyone would appreciate the cafe’s prices. Two eggs and home fries cost $3.50. Stumptown coffee costs $1 if you bring your own cup. Those prices haven’t changed much since the cafe opened in 2003.

The cafe operates as a university-sanctioned student group. That helps reduce rent and gives the not-for-profit eatery access to $16,270 in student fee money each year to help balance the books. One goal this year is to increase income in order to become independent of student fee money, Eisenhower says. During the 2007-08 school year, the vegan/vegetarian cafe made $169,000 in food sales, and the students who run Food For Thought think they’ll be able to make more by increasing their catering business and doing more outreach.

One thing that will help sales, they hope, is the addition of a street-level entrance south of the student union, just west of Broadway. Since the cafe opened, it has been tucked away in the basement, with little outside signage. “There are so many people who don’t know this place exists,” says cafe employee Drew Danin. But early in November, university workers finished a construction project that gave the cafe a dedicated stairway leading up to the street.

Customers Find it Anyway
Considering how hard it has been to find, the place still is pretty busy. “Our business has showed continuing growth over the last several years, and does not show any signs of slowing,” Eisenhower says. Estimates peg daily sales at between 300 and 500 transactions during the school year. The cafe is closed during PSU vacation breaks.

While new PSU President Wim Wiewel hasn’t had a chance to eat lunch at Food For Thought yet, he says the spirit behind the cafe shows there’s a hunger for sustainability at Portland State. “It’s one of those wonderful things of being at a university where there’s entrepreneurship and innovation everywhere,” Wiewel says. “You have a student body that’s passionate and committed and just starts doing cool things.” And the fact that the cafe mixes well with Wiewel’s goal to make PSU a center for sustainable academics makes it even more relevant. “This particular one happens to fit very well with something that we see as a signature area for us. And that makes it all the more exciting,” Wiewel says.

Food For Thought was going green before Wiewel arrived in town last May. The cafe’s original organizers pushed the university to allow them to compost their food waste before the whole campus went compost-friendly. Vegetables are procured from local farmers and community gardens, and the cafe relies on local dairy items.

“It is conducting business in a way that doesn’t compromise future generations’ ability to do business,” Eisenhower says.

Hierarchy Scrapped
That’s not all that separates the cafe from other restaurants. There are no job titles at Food For Thought. Instead, decisions are made by consensus of the 30 student employees. That model encourages spontaneity and helps create a collective atmosphere. Every morning, two Food For Thought employees open up the kitchen at 6:30 and see what’s in the pantry. By the time the cafe opens at 7:30 a.m., the kitchen is slinging its standby for non-vegan customers: free-range eggs and home fries. When lunch rolls around, it’s a little more free form. “For lunch it’s pretty much whatever they’re inspired by,” Danin says.

For Ara Nelson, the vegan/vegetarian eatery was a welcome break from the pressures of the restaurant she worked at three years ago, before she left to join Food For Thought. The food’s better, and the people are, too, Nelson says. “I love working here; it’s the best job I could have,” she says.

Warner Pacific College to Host Climb to Conquer Cancer Kick-off Event

Climb to Conquer Cancer Online
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On Tuesday, February 17th at 6:30 PM, the Climb to Conquer Cancer volunteer planning committee will host a Climb KICK-OFF at Warner Pacific College. The public is welcome to attend the Kick-Off, where they'll enjoy live music - The Harry Weirdos (a local husband and wife act performing acoustic folk/indie music), food, REI prizes, great speakers, and discounted registration fees!

Climb volunteer and cancer survivor, Lauren Bowles will speak, telling her story about her personal uphill battle with cancer. As a non-smoker diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, Lauren isn't letting cancer get in the way of living life to its fullest. Lauren has just recently completed the Disney World half and full two days she ran nearly forty miles! An American Cancer Society representative will also speak about how fundraising dollars are being spent to support both local and national initiatives.

Teams and individuals, including residents and businesses of SE Portland and the greater Portland Metro area and beyond, will gather on the campus of Warner Pacific College on May 2, 2009 at 8:00 AM for the Climb to Conquer Cancer rolling start. Teams of up to 15 members made up of co-workers, club members, family and friends will form gather donations prior to the event, and then take on the uphill Climb together. Teams with at least 10 members will have the option to customize their t-shirt backs, to represent a business or a loved one with cancer.

Funds raised at Climb to Conquer Cancer will enable the American Cancer Society to support local services and resources for cancer patients and their families. Funds also support critical cancer research and community education programs designed to teach people how to reduce their risk of developing cancer. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. For more event information or to volunteer, please contact Bonnie Ell, or call 503.795.3963.

Umpqua Community College Supports Shots for Tots Event

By Marissa Harshman, The News-Review
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Kids may not like feeling the poke of a needle in their arms, but that’s not stopping a couple dozen nurses from administering hundreds of free vaccines Saturday.

The annual Shots for Tots event is taking place this weekend in Roseburg. The clinic offers a slew of required and optional vaccines for children up to age 18 — all free of charge, regardless of a family’s income. This week, the Douglas County Health Department mailed 862 letters across the county to families with a child or children requiring certain vaccines, said Karen Vian, county communicable disease program coordinator. Children have until Feb. 18 to get the needed shots, or receive a religious exemption. Otherwise they will not be allowed to attend their respective child care centers, preschools, Head Start programs or schools, Vian said.

This year the Health Department sent out more letters than it has in past years, which probably can be attributed to the changes in vaccine requirements, Vian said. For the 2008-09 school year, kids in kindergarten, preschool, Head Start and day care centers are required to have two Hepatitis A vaccines. Children in seventh grade are also required to have a Tdap shot. The vaccines are required by state law to protect communities from communicable disease outbreaks. “The more people that are immune to diseases, the less likely you are to have a problem,” said Lynne Weaver, Shots for Tots organizer. “If you have a group of people not up to date, then they’re exposing the population to the disease.”

The Shots for Tots event began in February 2003. The clinic began as a twice-yearly event, but has since been cut back to one time each year. In 2001, Douglas County had one of the lowest immunization rates in the state, just 49 percent of children. The County Commissioners hired Weaver to find a way to bring the immunization rate up; her solution was Shots for Tots. Since the clinic began in 2003, more than 1,600 kids have been vaccinated through the program for a total of more than 4,100 vaccines. As of 2007, the county’s vaccination rate was up to 70 percent. This year, Weaver estimates the clinic will give out about $18,000 to $19,000 worth of vaccines to Douglas County children.

The shots will be administered by Umpqua Community College nursing students, who will be supervised by clinical nurses. In addition to the vaccines required by state law, the clinic will also offer a couple of optional vaccines.

This year, the Shots for Tots clinic will offer the Gardasil vaccine, which helps prevent against cervical cancer, said Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer, who is a local pediatrician and has been involved with Shots for Tots since its inception. It’s best for girls to receive that vaccine before becoming sexually active, Dannenhoffer said. The clinic will also offer a vaccine that is effective in preventing meningococcal disease, he said. While the clinic is only offered one day a year, Vian wants parents to know that vaccines are provided year-round at the Health Department and at pediatric offices, several of which offer free or low-cost vaccines for qualifying families.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Americans for the Arts Launches Program, Registration for 2009 Convention

Details for the 2009 Americans for the Arts convention program can now be found online. The event, Renewable Resources: Arts in Sustainable Communities will convene arts and cultural professionals from across the country in Seattle, Washington to network and participate in over 75 field-crafted sessions—plus the opportunity to see the Public Art Year in Review and hear from keynote speakers.

This year, Americans for the Arts will again present a Civic Engagement Track. Featured Innovator Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder and artistic director of Urban Bush Women, will offer an inside look on this ground-breaking dance company’s investment in fostering civic and community engagement in its own community of Brooklyn through programs and its summer institute. Sessions in the Civic Engagement Track will present innovative practices, new research, and evolving models to help position artists and arts organizations as leaders and partners in advancing civic participation and a culture of engagement.

Further information about additional program tracks—including the Diverse Cultures and Public Art Program Tracks—convention schedule, and registration is available online. Deadline for early-bird registration is February 23, 2008.

Opinion Article: The Business of Business Education Is More than Business

By Tom Ehrlich, the author of this month’s Carnegie Perspectives and co-director for Carnegie’s project on Business, Entrepreneurship and Liberal Learning (BELL). This article is from Carnagie Conversations.
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John Maynard Keynes tells this story about the people of Rossel Island, southeast of New Guinea, who used stones for money. One of the largest and most valuable of these stones lay at the bottom of the sea, the boat which was importing it having capsized. But there being no doubt that the stone was there, these civilized islands saw no objection to including it as part of their stock of currency, its lawful owner at any time being, in fact, thereby established as the richest man in the island, or to changing its ownership.

Keynes’s point in telling the story was that as long as the islanders had confidence that the large stone was in the water, they had no problem including it in their money supply. But if they were to lose that confidence, they would refuse to recognize the stone as currency. Their monetary system, like ours, was built on faith.

Today, our economic waters are roiling and none of us is sure that our dollars are worth much more than stones on Rossel Island. No less troubling, we have no faith that the economic precepts preached by economic theorists and practitioners are valid. We had been taught that economic markets, left on their own, have built-in self-correction mechanisms to ensure against catastrophic melt-down. Most of us probably wanted to believe that and we did not spend much time thinking about whether it was really true. But we have learned to our regret and financial loss that this dogma is false. To the contrary, many of us feel that the invisible hand has been stuck deep in our pockets and has stolen our wallets.

No one can doubt that we need to be thinking through how we got into the economic mess in which we find ourselves and how we might best extricate ourselves. We have a new administration in Washington that is focused hard on just those issues. But it is also the responsibility of each of us to become wiser in these arenas.

During the economic boom, many in the academy expressed concern about the extent to which greed had become a dominant motive in American life. But few of us objected to increases in our retirement accounts or pressed very hard to find out why the steady rise in the value of our homes not only seemed too good to be true, but was.

In retrospect, the familiar academic strengths of skepticism and an insistence on viewing issues from multiple perspectives could have helped. Both of those qualities might have encouraged us to question the notion that the U.S. economy would keep on growing and with it the global economy. Both of those qualities are also at the heart of a strong liberal education. At its best, a liberal education fosters a deep sense of skepticism about accepted dogma. That sense means that one should not accept explanations for what is going on in the world without demanding the evidence to back up those explanations, weighing the evidence against possible competing claims, and then reaching considered judgments based on rational analysis rooted in the evidence. A liberal education should provide the intellectual tools for this process of deep inquiry. It should also provide multiple lenses through which to view the world and its problems. The ability to see issues from varying vantage points is critical to the exercise of good judgment in complex situations.

The application of critical analysis and good judgment to economic issues is important for all students, but surely it is essential for students majoring in business. Business leaders need to understand the  historical, cultural, scientific, organizational, and political contexts of their domain, and these are best gained through liberal education. This need raises for us a question: to what extent are undergraduates majoring in business on campuses across the country gaining these and the other attributes of a strong liberal education? My Carnegie Foundation colleagues and I are currently engaged in a project to study just that issue. We are undertaking this work because we think that unless the central goals of a liberal education are integrated with business education, students majoring in business will be deprived of a broad education that prepares them for leadership in their work, and they will not gain the intellectual, moral, and civic learning they need to be responsible individuals and members of their communities.

We think that the liberal arts have much to offer those training for careers in business to understand better how we arrived at the current economic crisis and how we might work our way out. We also believe that the liberal arts can benefit from business education, this learning street should be two-way, and we have some ideas for ways to promote this benefit. But my focus in this brief commentary is on bringing liberal arts sensibilities into the business curriculum. So, for example, business programs could help students consider a range of alternatives to assumptions that previously have been taken for granted. These include assumptions about the operations of the economy that have recently been called into question. And this intellectual broadening needs to be paired with judgment grounded in a concern for the wellbeing of all, another hallmark of liberal learning.

In his second inaugural, to a country reeling from a depression, Franklin Roosevelt said that, “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” We should not need a second depression to relearn that lesson. I hope that faculty who teach in colleges and universities can help us think through what good economics looks like.