A Unique Partnership

by Catherine Wolff |

Catherine Wolff is director of the Arrupe Center.

In the fall of 2003, Santa Clara University President Paul Locatelli, S.J., iden- tified faculty mentoring and development as a key area of challenge to the SCU Centers of Distinction in carrying out the mission of the University an incorporating the vision and the function of the Centers into campus culture. This dovetailed with a strategic priority of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) to develop partnerships with the University’s Centers of Distinction. With the goal of supporting and advancing the mission of the Centers while raising overall academic quality both within CAS and across the University, CAS partnered with the Centers to establish an Arts and Sciences “Scholar of Distinction” Program. Through this partnership, faculty scholars are provided with the opportunity to use the resources of the Centers of Distinction to advance their own scholarly activities. The first such partnership was formed this year with the Arrupe Center for Community-Based Learning.

The Arrupe Scholar will conduct research involving Arrupe Center community and student partners, assist with Arrupe Center faculty workshops on community-based learning, and produce a scholarly product such as an essay for publication. The award carries with it a course release granted by the dean and funded by gifts to the College, as well as a research fund, a stipend for a student research assistant, and the full support of the Arrupe Center staff, facili- ties, and resources.

A competition held in spring 2004 resulted in the choice of Mary Elaine Hegland, associate professor in SCU’s Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Her proposal, “Care and Activity Centers in the San Jose-Santa Clara Area: Coping with Aging, Change, and Emigration and Developing Meaning and Community,” is inspired by a concern regarding the changes occurring in the conceptions and practices regarding the place of immigrant elderly in families and communities. With the help of a research assistant and a class of students in the Spring 2005 Anthropology of Aging class, Hegland will investigate the role of day care and activity centers in the lives of elderly who are facing aging concerns, change, and sometimes emigration. She will address several issues, including home care for the elderly, participation in day centers, challenges and resources of elderly males versus elderly females, and the ways in which the elderly from various groups cope with their challenges and maintain a meaningful life.

To look into the role of day activity centers in the lives of the elderly, Hegland and her students will work with several Arrupe Center community partners, such as Alma Senior Center, John XXIII Neighborhood Center, Yu-Ai Kai, and the new Grace Center day activity center for elderly Iranians and Per- sian-speaking Afghans. A principal aim of the project will be to focus on Iranian aging and elderly in the American environment compared with elderly at the Arrupe Center community partners’ centers for the elderly. Utilizing a participant observation methodology and open-ended interviews with day center staff, clients, and family members, the researchers will investigate how elderly Iranian Americans cope with their lives here, how and why issues of aging and the elderly are moving into public spheres, and the role that the Iranian older adult activity centers play in the lives of Iranian elderly and their families.

This inaugural Arts and Sciences/Arrupe Center research project will advance the mission of the Arrupe Center in a variety of ways. The study will focus on the elderly, a marginalized group. The researchers will reach out to, focus attention on the lives of, and form relationships with elderly in various ethnic and non-ethnically identified groups. As they compare elder care centers at Arrupe Center community partner agencies with those of the Iranian community, they will learn from a group marginalized not only by age, but also by language, religion, and American politics. Students will be assisting with English conversation and reading, as well with classes in citizenship, computers, and the Internet. It is hoped that this project will lead to new partnerships between the Arrupe Center and local centers serving Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian elderly. Such partnerships will yield a broader spectrum of placement opportunities for students and more firmly root the University in the surrounding community.

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