Our Work with the Community

Spotlight on Courses

FS 119 Horses & Healing: Our Bond with Nature

Partner: Champlain Adaptive Mounted Program (CHAMP)

This course puts into practice the truth that we are all together in striving for unity. The social life of a horse is all about seeking unity. As prey animals "joining up" with the herd, or with a trusted human, is a matter of survival. This may be why humans and horses have had such a close bond through history and also why the heart and language of horses can be so effective therapeutically for people with special needs. In this course, first-year students examine how humans connect with the natural world, especially through horses. Readings and seminar discussions combine with service work at Good Hope Farm in South Hero, a nonprofit which offers a riding program for individuals with special needs. Students performed hands-on barn chores related to the daily care of therapy horses, built a shelter for horses to use in the harsh winter months, and worked with CHAMP participants during their riding lessons.

PH 351 Otherness & Marginalization: Levinas and the Alienated

Partner: St. Joseph's Residential Care

"Knowledge, or understanding, of ethics requires the lived experience of ethical engagement." Prof. Katherine Kirby

It can easily be observed that, for some reason, human beings tend to react to the encounter with those who are "different" from them with fear, intolerance, or sometimes worse – indifference. We seem to have a tendency to categorize the world broadly into "us" and "them," familiar and "other." As a consequence of this tendency, those who are seen to be "different" or "other" are left on the outside. They are marginalized. They are alienated. Examples of this marginalization on the basis of "otherness" are all around us. In this upper-level philosophy course, students are challenged to consider the ethical theories of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and, more particularly, to examine the effects of marginalization on individuals on the basis of their "otherness". Through partnering with individuals in the community, students learn what it means to get to know others as they want to be known (not just as they may be perceived in their marginalized position). Students come to see their engagement with Others in the community as an additional critical "text" helping to illuminate and bring to life the abstract aspects of their study. Students also consider the ways the developing world might be marginalized or alienated by the developed world.

AN 433/MJD 319 Special Topics: Youth, Media, and Development

Partner: Bhutan Center for Media & Democracy

Bhutan, having only recently opened itself up to the West, struggles to maintain its identity as a small Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom in the face of increasing exposure to a globalized media. Bhutan was the last country on the planet to have access to television and, until 1999, television and the internet were illegal in Bhutan. The Bhutan Center for Media & Democracy works with youth and users of media to enhance critical thinking skills that will lead to a more media literate society as the foundation for a more vibrant public space in the newly founded Bhutanese democracy. In this interdisciplinary course, SMC students traveled to Bhutan and worked collaboratively in a youth-to-youth fashion with Bhutanese students in order to create media productions which critically assess the impact that media are having both locally and internationally. Students learned and put to use their cross-cultural research skills and documentary film production training to produce films and other digital productions. Additionally, they created and conducted media literacy workshops for Bhutanese students in high school media clubs in Thimphu, Bhutan, so the Bhutanese youth could, in turn, become "media nomads" and spread media literacy throughout the country.

Faculty Publications on Service Learning

Prof. Katherine Kirby: "Encountering and Understanding Suffering: The Need for Service Learning in Ethical Education" Teaching Philosophy June 2009

Prof. Vincent Bolduc: "Successful Research in Small Departments"ASA, September-October 2009 Issue.

Award-winning Faculty, Students, and Community Partners

2011 Vermont Campus Compact Awards

Award for Excellence in Community-Based Teaching
Katherine Kirby, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy and Global Studies

Professor Katherine Kirby teaches a 300-level course entitled "Otherness and Marginalization: Levinas and the Alienated." This course challenges students to consider the ethical theories of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and more particularly, it examines the effects of marginalization on individuals based on their "otherness." This includes broad categories such as the poor, the ill, and the elderly. Since this is a Global Studies course, it focuses on ways the developing world is often marginalized by more developed countries as well. Professor Kirby also teaches an extension course that takes place in an international context – in Guyana, South America – where students work with individuals at Palms Geriatric Institution, St. John Bosco Boys' Orphanage, and the Mahaica Leprosy Hospital. The experiential service components of her classes are rigorously integrated into the syllabus in multiple ways and used as a constant aid to learning the complex and often hard-to-grasp philosophical concepts of the class. These local and international experiences are transformative for students, and Professor Kirby helps them recognize the universality of suffering inherent in marginalized populations here and abroad. Professor Kirby also integrates teaching, scholarship and outreach. She has published, "Encountering and Understanding Suffering: The Need for Service Learning in Ethical Education" in Teaching Philosophy, and often shares her experience and expertise in community engaged learning by participating on faculty panels, in workshops, and on committees.

Madeleine M. Kunin Public Service Award

Rachael Sparks '11, Saint Michael's College

Rachael is engaged in a variety of activities, but it is her advocacy for at-risk individuals that perhaps defines her best.  She commits fully to whatever she does, and she offers an outstanding example of public service in our local and global communities. Rachael is the Director of Best Buddies and has been with the organization since 2007. This group pairs college students with people with intellectual disabilities. She has also been involved with the Little Brother/Little Sister Mentoring Program since 2007, currently mentoring a nine year old girl from Winooski. Rachael has helped rebuild houses in Kentucky, has served in Kolkata, India, is an intern in the Women's Rape Crisis Center, and has been a retreat leader for Campus Ministry. She is a representative of the Student Association and active in school programs. The list goes on, but the essential point is that Rachael is committed to "the betterment of the human condition." She is a change agent; her drive to do more and her desire to learn and understand the challenges and complexities of injustice will create a force that will change the world in a most profound way. Rachael's dedication, work ethic, passion, and integrity make the world a better place.

Commitment to Service and Engagement Award

Katherine Hackett '11, Saint Michael's College

Katherine is an outstanding student leader, serving the Saint Michael's collegiate community and our community at large. As a leader with the SMC Best Buddies program, Katherine has worked to pair 30 college students with people from our community with cognitive and physical disabilities.

She recruits, manages, and educates the College Buddies, and she has been active in the program for four years. Katherine has also raised $3500 in support of Vermont Special Olympics, an organization that involves many of the people in Best Buddies. This year Katherine single-handedly recruited more than 45 people to take part in the Penguin Plunge and also recruited some 20 volunteers for the event. Katherine has participated in SMC's Extended Service program, working in soup kitchens, shelters, and with Habitat for Humanity in Hartford, CT and New Orleans. This year she will travel to the Dominican Republic to continue that work.  In addition to her service outside the College, Katherine is active in the Student Government, the Admissions Office, Campus Ministry, and College Orientation. She assisted in the coordination of Pre-Orientation Weekends with the Student Life Office as well.  Katherine has participated on many panels and represented SMC students on numerous committees, most recently speaking at the 2010 Academic Convocation.  Katherine has demonstrated an extraordinary willingness to give of herself, and her steadfast commitment to community service has made a real difference in people's lives.

Engaged Community Partner Award - Underground Teen Center at the O'Brien Community Center

Engaged Community Partner Award

The Underground Teen Center is a program run by the Winooski Recreation & Community Wellness Department, (WRCW). The Teen Center promotes lifelong wellness by developing high quality, affordable programs for the public and providing facilities and open spaces for public use. The Center serves about 100 youth in the area, many from low-income families. The Teen Center offers a safe, supervised, and substance free environment for local high school aged youth outside of school hours. In spring 2010, the Teen Center partnered with an upper level anthropology class at Saint Michael's entitled "Community-Based Research." During the semester, the fifteen students in the class collaborated with UTC staff to implement a participatory needs assessment. The students completed over 300 hours of service at UTC, conducted 33 regular interviews completed 9 life history interviews, and filled out over 50 surveys with teens. The class then analyzed the results with UTC staff. A new class is now building on this earlier work, addressing a specific need articulated by the program's supervisors, namely to be more gender inclusive and promote the wider involvement of girls while continuing to provide mentorship to the teens. Two members of the original class created a weekly program, Teen Scene, that brings 4-6 SMC students to the center every Friday.

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