Monday, May 2, 2011

Students engaging within the community through classes

By Jenna Cook 
       Students are getting involved with civic engagement through various classes across the Washington State University campus.
            Christine Oakley, a sociology professor at WSU, has been working with the civic engagement for about seven years.
             “What students learn in the classroom can be translated into some social change,” said Oakley.
Every fall, Oakley teaches Sociology 433 a Tier III class. This class is focused on community and urban development. At the beginning of the semester students are assigned groups and given the goals of what the group should try to accomplish.
“Students learn and talk about community and then they are able to experience community,” said Oakley.
Oakley likes teaching the class. She has a variety of students enrolling who need to fulfill their Tier III requirement.
“We get students from every major and they each bring different perspectives to the class,” said Oakley. “Every semester is a little different.”
Oakley said the organizations she works with vary every year.
First she meets with Vernette Doty, Center for Civic Engagement Academic Program Coordinator, to see what organizations and civic engagement has available that need assistance. Oakley has worked with a variety of organizations such as WSU Green Bike, Horizon Communities and organizations in Spokane.
Oakley said if she could “have her way” the class wouldn’t be 100 students.
“There is only so much you can do here,” said Oakley. “If the class was smaller we could integrate the project more and it would be more meaningful to work toward a similar goal.”
Although it is a big class, Oakley has heard various responses from former students after taking the class who were glad they were able to experience community and some even questioned what community really was.
Courtney Salazar, junior psychology major, said “I liked how Professor Oakley taught the class and included the group projects.”
“I was able to experience what I was learning in class and it really put the concept of community in perspective,” said Salazar.
Oakley has had an overall good experience working with civic engagement and the group projects. Students have been able to make connections with communities and some groups have gone above and beyond what is asked of them.
Students working with Horizon have provided communities with information and the tools for them to be successful, Oakley said. Students who got enthusiastic about the project were able to connect with children and gave them a sense of hope of attending college. After the class the group worked with the school district and WSU to connect them together and bring children to the campus.
“The goal is to look at the world and contribute to it,” said Oakley.
Cindy Ola, junior human development major, enrolled in Oakley’s class last fall.
“I think it’s important for students to have classes that work with civic engagement,” said Ola. “More students should be experiencing what is going on around them in the community.”
Last year students worked with The Green Bike program and Jamie Bentley. The work the students did throughout the semester helped increase bike check outs and helped Bentley make some needed connections throughout campus, said Oakley. A variety of students researched bike lanes, helped the promotion of the program and researched biking safety.
“It enabled students to create bike awareness on campus,” said Oakley.
Ola and her group of classmates created a booth in the Compton Union Building to promote the Green Bike Program. Ola liked promoting the program and getting out of the classroom.
“Working with the Green Bike program made the class more interesting,” said Ola.
In fall 2011, Oakley will work with The City of Pullman and the city planner to continue the work of students in 2010 and the Green Bike project. 
The projects from last fall will be presented to the city planner and the City of Pullman.
“We want to connect the city with the WSU campus,” said Oakley.
These projects will present the possibilities of bike lanes from WSU into the city.
“I would like to see the project scaled down so students are able to see the impact they are making,” said Oakley. “Working with the city planner will make this possible.”

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