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Closing the Loop
Some students take their community-based learning beyond their time at Santa Clara University.
As a student at Santa Clara, Laura Nichols '90 was involved in community-based learning. And now, as a professor of sociology, she has found a way to bring those experiences to the Santa Clara students she teaches.
"When I was a student, that's when school really made sense to me—when I was out in the community learning and then talking about what I experienced back in the classroom," she says.
In her classes, students learn to do rigorous quantitative and qualitative research and analysis, and use these tools to understand the ethical implications of people's choices and decisions. As part of a team and under the supervision of a faculty member, students explore their own research skills in relation to a topic. In the Applied Sociology course, students learn how their quantitative and qualitative data collection and analytical skills can be used to benefit the community by doing actual projects for nonprofit organizations.
And reactions have been positive. "The students take this seriously and do a good job," Nichols says. "They hear directly from the organizations why they need this research done and how it's going to be helpful to them."
She continues: "More and more undergraduate programs include applied sociology classes, and whoever developed the program here in Santa Clara was really on the cutting edge. Then I was hired to help enact that vision."
The Other Side
Randy Reyes '03 says the emphasis on community-based learning is what drew him to Santa Clara in the first place. "I went in knowing what Santa Clara had to offer," he says. "I wanted to make sure my college experience was something I was really developing myself. I went to SCU knowing that was what the premise of my education was going to be."
Being the first intern in the Arrupe Partnerships, Reyes played a pivotal role in shaping the new program, says Laurie Laird, the associate director of the Ignatian Center.
Reyes is now the academic program manager at BUILD in East Palo Alto, an educational nonprofit organization for college-bound high school students. He then helped make BUILD an Arrupe partnership; SCU students help out at BUILD, connecting with and tutoring the high-schoolers.
"Every night before the students leave, I ask them how everything is," he says. "Based on the early placement reports, it's been very positive. I feel like it's a win-win situation for both SCU and BUILD students.
Education, he says, serves everyone best when it exposes people to unfamiliar environments. "People are coming from different paradigms, different capacities, coming with a particular mindset and way of looking at particular placement," he says. "Education trends are moving toward an interdisciplinary mindset. Adding more to the pot will make the experiences more fruitful."