Author: Julia Yakovich

New science writing course aims to make science accessible for all

Dr. Michael Willig gives a lecture at Oak Hall on Tuesday, November 29, about the various dimensions of biodiversity and how factors affect it, and how climate change may change the abundance and distribution of certain species. Dr. Willig is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn and is also the Director for the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering.  (Akshara Thejawsi/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut will offer a new science writing course designed to instruct undergraduate students of all majors on how to clearly communicate the contents of scientific papers to broad audiences.

“We’re just starting enrollment for [Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895],” ecology and evolutionary biology professor Dr. Margaret Rubega said. “Our intent is for the course to be as interdisciplinary as possible.”

According to Rubega, the course, which is taking place during the spring semester, is to teach undergraduate students how to analyze and write about scientific papers for general audiences.

“We want students to learn how to take very technical information and write about it in a clear, concise and maybe even a lively way,” Rubega said.

Another one of the course’s goals is to provide STEM majors with a way to apply and get a product from the information they learn in their STEM courses, according to physiology and neurobiology assistant professor in residence John Redden.

“Both Dr. Rubega and I had an interest in teaching a STEM W class, but looking at these courses for STEM undergrads, we saw they were all technical writing,” Redden said. “The majority of science undergrads won’t be doing technical writing on a daily basis. They’ll need to explain what they know to their mom, their dad [or] their patient.”

Rubega and Redden said in the future they hope to connect Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895 with a service learning course Redden is now teaching.

“We want them to be linked together somehow,” Redden said. “We’re still working out the details.”

Graduate-level science writing courses may become affiliated with Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895 over time, Rubega said.

“With my colleagues in [ecology and evolutionary biology] and journalism, we received a grant to teach grad students in science communication,” Rubega said. “The grant allows for alumni of the grad program to be TAs for the undergrads.”

According to Redden, making scientific research more accessible to wider audiences will allow scientists and non-scientists to better communicate with one another.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what’s generally accepted as true in the science community and the general population,” Redden said. “Bridging this gap is the responsibility in part of people who understand science. [Scientists] have to put blame on ourselves for being poor teachers and communicators.”

“This new course is great for someone skeptical about key aspects of science. Scientists talk and convince each other about things…I would love to have some folks who feel skeptical about things,” Rubega added.

Further information about Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895 may be found in the course catalogue.


Alexandra Retter is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at

When the State Faces Financial Woes, Faculty, Students Can Make All the Difference Through Innovative Service Learning: A Call to Faculty

by Julia M. Yakovich

This may not be widely known, but the pedagogy of Service Learning can be a true catalyst for economic change. More and more faculty are investigating how they can make a difference in our communities through course efforts because Service Learning 1) efficiently offers a way for faculty to utilize an effective and innovative pedagogy where students become active learners while collaborating with communities (local or global), 2) engages students intentionally in critical reflection and social justice awareness, 3) helps prepare them for the job market, 4) bolsters on-the-ground research in collaboration with our community partners, 5) allows students to think critically about life after graduation and their place in the world, 6) connects students to local challenges and become local problem solvers and doers.

There is a place for all fields of study within Service Learning. Let’s take a closer look at business. Entrepreneurship is a sure way to increase economic activity and will be a reliable way to attract young professionals to smaller urban centers. Take for instance, our urban centers right here in CT: Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, New London and the like. Most of these cities are in or near our very own UConn Campuses and that is one of the many reasons we have our regional campuses; to have our faculty and students in the action. It is imperative for us to develop student entrepreneurs, because yes, they will be the ones to take chances in their early careers. Through Service Learning we create safe spaces for students to test their strengths in the open air of society. Our students have the ideas, they have the answers; we must be listening and able to assist them in their journey to creating a strong, vibrant society.

Let’s talk feasibility and implementation. Faculty have a course. Reflect on how how it can be tied to society and the challenges we face. What is the connection? Is it food? Environment? Social Services? Government? Health? Education? Business? How does it connect to your course goals and objectives? Is there an agency, non profit, small business that you have an existing relationship? If so, ask questions about how your class can align with their mission or greater objectives. There is a place for you in this pedagogy of Service Learning. The Office of Public Engagement is here and ready to help you brainstorm to take your course to the next level. Let us create a plan to connect the dots between theory and practice, content and action. You and your students could be the facilitator of the next great ‘thing’ for our fair state of Connecticut.

For instance, David Noble in the School of Business taught his Strategic Analysis course (MGMT 4209) and teamed up with Main Street Waterbury and the City of Waterbury where students researched and then proposed usable ideas for business incubators to increase the local urban economy. The next time this course is taught the students will build on to those ideas and further investigate HOW to get these ideas off the ground. Service Learning courses have pragmatic elements if planned accordingly and one semester can be a building block for those to follow. Conversely, if a faculty member teams up with a coordinating course, those courses can act collaboratively in alternating semesters. There are many ways to make service learning courses work for you.

Oskar Harmon, at the Stamford Campus has his students working on research and evaluation of tax implications, tolls, and transportation for different governmental agencies. Phil Birge-Liberman from the Waterbury Campus had students research the food desert(s) for GEOG 4200 Geographical Analysis of Urban Social Issues.

Why are these courses increasingly important to the state economy?  There is untapped potential for these intentionally linked educational and community focused initiatives (projects, research studies, internships, independent studies, programs, and grants) to address the state’s perpetual ‘brain drain’ as cited in this article from CBIA (Connecticut Business and Industry Association).

The goal of today’s universities and colleges involve filling the needs of community partners while simultaneously remedying the inefficiencies historically plaguing our urban centers and the state as a whole.

Potential General Outcomes:
-Gain the attention of the millennial generation to explore our localized urban communities
-Expose students to city opportunities and develop the workforce prepared to work at or before graduation
-Support economic development efforts and create the innovation required to bolster human capital
-Integrate student intelligence into new urban initiatives
-Encourage students to stay and live in the city
-Create sustainable partnerships with universities and generate grant money for innovative projects and programs
-Develop innovative projects/entities for funders or other businesses looking to expand

What have our Service Learning Fellows been up to?

2016 Service Learning Exposition – Campus Details

Inaugural Service Learning Exposition, Wednesday, April 20th!



Times Vary at Each Campus (check links below) – Poster sessions and presentations

Faculty, staff, and students across UConn campuses have been engaging with the community through service learning for years now, and it is time to showcase their accomplishments and ongoing efforts! UConn has, through the Office of Public Engagement, fostered a mission of developing engaged citizens through coordination, advocacy, and capacity building for engagement activities. Many of these engagement activities are Service Learning.

Come to learn, share, and get inspired from Service Learning Courses, Outreach Programs, Potential Internships, Independent Studies, Teaching Opportunities, and Research – ALL are examples of Service Learning!

The Expo is where students, faculty, staff and community partners can learn of opportunities in accordance with UConn’s Academic Vision. Listen to students are making real difference in our communities while growing personally and professionally. Listen how our faculty and staff are teaching innovative and exciting courses and are fostering programs that benefit our communities!

Please share this information and encourage attendance.

Storrs Campus – South Reading Room, Wilbur Cross Building

Avery Point – Student Center

Hartford Campus – Zachs Room, School of Social Work

Stamford Campus – Concourse

Waterbury – Multipurpose Room

Health Center – Cafeteria

Service Learning Committee

IARSLCE: Call for Journal Submissions – Deadline Extended to May 27



Call for Submissions IJRSLCE

The International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IJRSLCE) invites manuscripts for consideration for the fourth issue of the journal to be published in fall 2016. As you know, IJRSLCE is the annual, peer-reviewed, online journal of IARSLCE. Its mission is to disseminate rigorous scholarship on service-learning and community engagement, including research, theory, research reviews and book reviews. We seek to represent the breadth of scholarship in the service-learning and community engagement field, with articles from different countries and disciplines and representing a range of methodologies including community-engaged scholarship. The deadline for submissions is May 27, 2016.

The fourth issue of IJRSLCE will be organized into Sections representing different areas of scholarship. Sections of the 2016 issue will include:

  • Advances in Theory and Methodology
  • Student Outcomes, K-12
  • Faculty Roles and Faculty-Related Issues
  • Institutional Issues
  • Community Partnerships/Impacts
  • International Service-Learning and Community Engagement
  • Works-in-Progress

The following types of manuscripts will be considered for each section.

  • Research Articles. Manuscripts reporting on findings from empirical studies of service-learning and community engagement. Submissions should be well-grounded in relevant research literature, based on rigorous methodology (either quantitative or qualitative) and present evidence-based findings. Manuscripts that report findings linked to questions of broad importance to the field are encouraged; those that are primarily program descriptions or descriptions of service-learning/community engagement practices will not be accepted.
  • Theoretical or Conceptual Articles. Manuscripts that examine and advance the theoretical or conceptual foundations of service-learning and civic engagement. Manuscripts can advance new theoretical frameworks or suggest new applications of constructs from cognate disciplines, such as psychology or sociology. Manuscripts can also elaborate on or critique well-established theoretical frameworks or constructs in service-learning and community engagement.
  • Review Articles. Manuscripts, including reports of meta-analyses, that discuss the state of knowledge about service-learning and community engagement. Manuscripts can reflect a broad lens or report on the knowledge base specific to a particular discipline, type of s-l or community engagement experience, nation, culture and/or grade range. Manuscripts should synthesize findings from prior research, as well as critically assess the quality of extant evidence.

IJRSLCE also welcomes book reviews (1500 words or less) of recent books of general importance to the field.


Author Guidelines are available on the IJRSLCE website. You must register on the site in order to submit a manuscript. Please see the third issue of the journal.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Andrew Furco (612-624-6876) or Dr. Susan Root (262-349-9339) if you would like additional information. We look forward to hearing from you!

Want your GIS students to excel as pros? Try service learning!


Want your GIS students to excel as pros? Try service learning!

By Wing Cheung

Students that participate in GIS-based community service learning projects have the opportunity to apply classroom learning to real-world problems, gaining valuable experience that can help them succeed as GIS professionals; at the same time, they can make significant contributions to their community. The benefits to the students and the community seem obvious, but service learning is not as common as one might expect, primarily because educators face a variety of challenges to implementation.

In an effort to explore the many challenges, as well as the motivations for initiating and sustaining service learning despite them, I conducted focus groups and individual interviews with educators who have implemented GIS-based service learning projects in their classes at secondary schools, community colleges and universities. I asked about the common issues they encountered when implementing their projects, as well as different practices they employed to overcome issues related to partner recruitment, institutional constraints and assessment. I hope that this brief review of the successes and challenges can help educators make informed decisions about whether to implement service learning, or how to best implement service learning considering their needs.

Why even consider community service learning?

According to the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University,“Community engagement pedagogies, often called “service learning,” are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good.”

Of the educators that I interviewed, many initially decided to implement service learning because they believe that “students need real-world projects,” or they see the “need for project-based instruction.” Although some educators are required by their districts, schools or departments to implement service learning, many of them eventually went above and beyond the requirement because they “want to have students do something meaningful.”

My own experience as a GIS educator at a community college resonates with the interviewees’ responses. Although my administrators did not require me to implement service learning, all of the GIS employers who advise the development of my institution’s GIS program emphasized the importance of field experience for students. Thus, service learning only makes sense, as it enables students to build professional connections and gain experiences that will be invaluable to their future careers.

The biggest challenge: partner recruitment

From speaking with educators, I learned that the recruitment of partners is by far the greatest barrier in the implementation of service learning. In part, instructors often have to donate personal time to search for projects and to evaluate partners and the proposed scope of work for students. In particular, one interviewee remarked that she wants to safeguard her students against partners that may perceive service learning as an opportunity to exploit students for free labor. In other cases, partners may be overly ambitious in the tasks that they assign to students given the length of the academic term. Thus, in a successful service learning partnership, it is vital for the instructor to act as a mediator between partners and students, establishing realistic expectations based on predefined learning objectives early in the partnership.

Within the area of partner recruitment, the strategies mentioned by my interviewees can be classified into three categories. These strategies have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and one may be preferred over another depending on the project learning outcome(s). The three strategies are: instructor-initiated recruitment, student-initiated recruitment and hybrid recruitment.

In the instructor-initiated recruitment model, instructors seek out partners and assign them to students. While this model allows instructors to vet partners and standardize project scopes to ensure their appropriateness, most interviewees have found this model extremely time consuming. In addition, students are less receptive to a partner that is assigned to them compared to one that they have chosen on their own.

In the student-initiated recruitment model, students are asked to converse with members of the school or the local community in order to identify a cause that is of interest to them. Compared to the instructor-initiated model, instructors generally find higher completion rates when students choose their own partners, with the added benefit that students will have to practice their communication skills in order to seek out partners. However, due to the diversity of student interests and partner organizations, one interviewee cautioned that instructors will have to be flexible regarding project ideas. Moreover, the range of projects may also present unforeseen assessment challenges, which will be discussed in the next section.

In the hybrid recruitment model, students are asked to identify, deliberate and vote on a problem within their community. Once the problem is agreed upon by a student majority, instructors seek out partners for the students. This model encourages students to learn more about their community, as well as experience the process of framing viable research questions. As one interviewee pointed out, this opportunity to define a problem “is the first time for a lot of them [students]”. However, similar to the instructor-initiated model, it may require a lot of time and effort from instructors as they look for partners.

Institutional constraints

For the most part, many of my interviewees agreed that school administrators and the community are generally supportive of the idea of service learning. However, even for instructors who are enthusiastic about service learning and have institutional or external support, such as software donations, the limitation of time remains. Many instructors already are pressed for time to cover the required curriculum, which leaves little room to experiment with new practices like service learning. In addition, the latent benefits of service learning, such as civic engagement, empathy and social decorum, are often not explicitly required by state standards, nor quantifiable, thus making it especially difficult for instructors to justify service learning to school administrators or parents despite its long-term benefits.

One way to increase the visibility of service learning’s long-term benefits is to publicize the impact of student projects. This may take the form of organizing local conferences for students to present their works to school administrators or the local community, or initiating interdisciplinary collaborations with other disciplines that may be less inclined to initiate service learning on their own. One example of such collaboration, from my own experience, is the partnership established between the GIS program and the American Indian Studies program. Under the partnership, students enrolled in my GIS course help local tribes map out their cultural assets, thus learning not only technical skills in the process, but also the cultural and political issues that may arise in working with sensitive data. Many of the interviewees that I contacted collaborated with instructors from outside of their own disciplines, and hosted workshops and conferences for students to present their work to the community.

Evaluation issues

Unlike the standardized classroom environment, students are exposed to very different technical and logistical challenges in service learning, much like in the real world. Consequently, it is especially difficult to quantify or assess student efforts using a common metric. Thus, for instructors who are interested in service learning, it is crucial to keep their grading criteria broad and to focus on assessing higher level skills such as critical thinking, research, writing and reading, rather than focusing on specific competencies. This last point is particularly important, because it shows that service learning is not meant to be a replacement for standardized assessment or classroom instruction. Instead, service learning is meant to complement traditional modes of instruction and help students see the applicability of their classroom learning in the real world.


The author is grateful for the time, efforts and invaluable advice provided by the interview and focus groups participants in this study. This material is based upon work supported by the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence and the National Science Foundation under grant no. 1304591. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Stamford Students Team With UConn To Create Christmas For Families In Need

Newfield Elementary School students pose in front of holiday gifts that will be given to families in need through Stamford’s Neighbors Link program. Jay Polansky

by Jay Polansky

STAMFORD, Conn. — You’re never too young to make a difference.

That was the message from one well-spoken elementary school student in the Stamford Public Education Foundation’s mentoring program at Newfield Elementary School.

Students and mentors from the program presented Neighbors Link with gifts that the organization will give to three families in need.

Neighbors Link program manager Christian Mendoza said the gifts will allow families in need to have a “happier, brighter holiday season.”

He was impressed by the gifts — and decorations — that those in the program had on hand for Tuesday afternoon’s ceremony.

The presentation was a culmination of a 10-week mentoring program in which UConn students teamed with the elementary school students to inspire them to help others in the community.

UConn student Valentina Casanova told the youngsters she enjoyed her time in the program.

“I had an amazing time with you guys,” she said. Casanova said she enjoyed learning about the students’ traditions. Casanova also said she didn’t have the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program when she was in elementary school.

She was one of several UConn students who participated. Each student was enrolled in classes taught by Dr. Miller-Smith.

The university students mentored 170 elementary school students during weekly sessions to teach about civic engagement, community service, and leadership.

Several elementary school students, who were also moved by the program, stood in front of their classmates and shared their takeaways from the experience.

One student said community service not only helps people in need — it also helps you “feel good and make new friends.”

Another student said, “Some people need all the help you can give.” Those who can’t put food on the table particularly need help, she said.

A very well-articulated student said it best: Even though the students were young — some just 10 years old — they’re not too young to make a difference.

Cindy Newman, the foundation’s program manager, agreed.

“Without all of your hard work over the past 10 weeks, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing,” she said.


OPE’s Inaugural Alumni Event, Saturday, Oct. 10

Farm to Table Breakfast #HuskiesForeverWknd (2)The UConn Office of Public Engagement is excited to be hosting our first Alumni Event for students who were involved with community engagement or service learning courses while at UConn.

We will be hosting a Farm to Table Breakfast at UConn’s very own Spring Valley Student Farm. The Farm is a place that represents community engagement in every sense. We appreciate our partnership with the farm and look forward to many future endeavors together.

Please register below. Seating is limited to 20.



Newest Service Learning Fellows Begin

On a cold January winter day, the newly selected group of Service Learning Faculty Fellows walked into Oak Hall to embark on a new teaching experience. It was their first collective taste of the pedagogy of service learning. Unlike other pedagogies, Service Learning has the ability to unite a wide range of disciplines and find a common thread: the desire for students to come in contact with high impact Winter Sunset at Storrsexperiential learning and come away with knowledge to help solve today’s most pressing societal issues. This year’s cohort has ten members from across the University:  Agriculture and Resource Economics (2), Physiology and Neurobiology, Neag School of Education (2), Urban and Community Studies, Political Science, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Economics, and Community Medicine and Health Care. Faculty projects will involve criminal justice, rare diseases, air pollution, food policy, education power and privilege, community medicine and access to healthcare, and urban geographical analysis.

During January Training, Faculty Fellows spent two full days learning about components of the pedagogy through sessions on course development, designing goals, objectives, and activities, critical reflective practice, community partner development and sustainability, and engaged scholarship (how to turn your service learning into publishable work).  The group was highly engaged providing ideas,feedback, and questions to the facilitators.  Facilitators included Anne Gebelein, Jennifer Bruening, Beth Russell, Dan Mercier, Carol Polifroni from UConn and Carrie Williams Howe from Vermont Campus Compact.

The Service Learning Faculty Fellowship is an opportunity designed to intentionally and consistently align with OPE’s philosophy of Responsible, Relevant, Reciprocal community engagement. The fellowship began with this January immersion training and will continue with monthly two-hour workshops during the Spring and Fall semesters.  Faculty will incorporate service learning in courses planned for the 2015  Fall semester.

The Office of Public Engagement is excited to work with the Fellows and continue exploring innovative, high impact learning opportunities for students that will benefit both the community and the University.

We are pleased to introduce the 2015 Service Learning Faculty Fellows. For more on the fellows, click here.
  • Kimberly Bergendahl, Assistant Professor In Residence, Political Science, Storrs
  • Phil Birge-Liberman, Assistant Professor in Residence, Urban and Community Studies, Waterbury
  • Syma Ebbin, APIR, Agriculture and Resource Economics, Marine Science, Avery Point
  • Oskar Harmon, Associate Professor, Economics, Stamford
  • Mark Kohan and Susan Payne, Asst. Clinical Prof and Assoc. Clinical Prof, Neag School of Education, Storrs
  • Rasy Mar, Community Based Education Specialist, Medical School, Farmington
  • Adam Rabinowitz, Assistant Research Professor, Agriculture and Resource Economics, Storrs
  • John Redden, Visiting Assistant Professor, Physiology and Neurobiology, Storrs
  • Kristina Wagstrom, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Storrs

Service Learning High Impact Teaching Series

Do you want your students to help solve this century’s most pressing societal challenges? Do you have an interest in community inspired research initiatives? The Office of Public Engagement in collaboration with the Institute for Teaching and Learning are offering a sequential learning series on the pedagogy of Service Learning.

This series will provide faculty an opportunity to receive tools and guidance about the pedagogy of service learning. Faculty who attend all sessions will receive a certificate of participation.

Service Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.  (Carnegie Definition)


**NEW DATE!!** Friday, April 17 – 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (Bring your lunch if you wish)

Pedagogical Pillars of Service Learning, Rowe Building, Room 331E

Julia Yakovich, Service Learning and Anne Gebelein, El Instituto

This seminar will explore the fundamentals and characteristics of the pedagogy of service learning and will also uncover the research behind it. The presenters will review basic tools and tips of the trade for faculty to begin designing their service learning initiatives.



**NEW DATE!!** Monday, April 20, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (Bring your lunch if you wish)

How Sustainable Service Learning Community Partnerships can lead to Engaged Scholarship, Rowe Building, Room 331E

Jennifer Bruening, Neag School of Education

Those who utilize the pedagogy of service learning will have community partnerships to develop and nurture over time in order to create sustainable relationships. These partnerships can lead to engaged scholarship and other research and grant opportunities if framed as such.  You will learn from a faculty member who has ample experience through the Husky Sport program.



Monday, April 13, 11:15 am to 1:10 pm (lunch provided by ITL)

Service Learning and Effective Business Problem Solving in Entrepreneurial Settings, Rowe Building, Room 320

Zeki Simsek, School of Business

The pedagogy of service learning is effective in business settings and can be a driver for the local economy. Learn how this faculty member developed a senior capstone where students focus on consulting with local small businesses and put their accumulated business knowledge to work for the benefit of the business and to strengthen their own skills. This model can be adapted to any discipline.



Wednesday, April 15, 11:15 am to 1:10 pm (lunch provided by ITL)

Identifying Service Learning Community Partners Through the Non-Profit Platform, Rowe Building, Room 320

David Garvey, Department of Public Policy

Identifying community partners can sometimes be challenging. As a main pillar to the pedagogy of service learning, however, it is necessary to find a partner that is right for you, your class, and your research.  This session will help you navigate the local not-for-profit world through the Connecticut Nonprofit Strategy Platform.




Session completed:


Wednesday, February 25, 11:15 am to 1:10 pm

Developing Effective Service Learning Framework, Rowe Building, Room 320

Beth Russell, HDFS

Service learning is a pedagogical strategy necessitating proper planning and framework.  This seminar will highlight one faculty’s perspective and experience on how to go about developing an effective framework for your service learning course.


Contact Julia Yakovich with any questions at