Rogelio Garcia Contreras Named 2020-21 Service Learning Committee Member of the Year
In April 2021, the U of A Service Learning Initiative established the "Service Learning Initiative Committee Member of the Year" accolade to recognize outstanding contributions of one member each year. This year's first Committee Member of the Year awardee is Rogelio Garcia Contreras, a teaching assistant professor who has taught two service learning classes in the Sam M. Walton College of Business — Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Strategies — directed multiple service-learning-based honors theses and helped instructors across campus navigate service learning experiences during COVID.
Garcia Contreras and his students work with different partners each semester, which are mainly organizations, non-profits, businesses, corporations and government entities that lead, design or implement initiatives with a strong social or environmental mission. Some of the partners they have worked with are Seeds that Feed, Engage NWA and 7Hills Homeless Center.
Garcia Contreras says the benefits of his service learning classes are that they provide "a constant opportunity to learn, appreciate the creativity of students, look at things with a fresh and unique perspective, and connect the dots in our collective efforts to design viable, sustainable and scalable solutions to some of the challenges faced by our partners."
The students in these classes gain hands-on experience in the assessment, design and implementation of viable solutions that address the local manifestation of global challenges. While COVID-19 posed challenges for Garcia Contreras' classes, many benefits arose as well. Due to remote meetings, students were able to interact with a larger base of stakeholders and bring their experiences to the classroom, which enriched the diversity of experience and perspectives offered by the course. Additionally, students gained the opportunity to learn directly from the experience of other initiatives, specifically their best practices and procedures.
Adding to the benefits of service learning classes, Garcia Contreras mentions that "service learning offers students the opportunity to put in practice the theories and methodologies they learn in the classroom. In fact, it extends the classroom into the vital and challenging space of our local and global communities, and it allows us to build more active and stronger communities — fostering instances for students to actively engage and participate in the development of practical solutions to community challenges." Service learning also provides students with the chance to reflect on their experiences through the work they conduct over the semester.
If you are a faculty member who would like to learn more about service learning, please contact the Service Learning Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Service Learning Initiative: The Service Learning Initiative is a joint initiative of the University of Arkansas Provost Office and the Honors College with the purpose of formalizing and expanding Service Learning opportunities on campus. Since 2014, when the Initiative was launched, more than 150 courses have been designated as Service Learning. Each semester, faculty and course instructors are encouraged to apply for Service Learning course designation. More information regarding Service Learning Course Designation can be found on the Service Learning Initiative website.
Jennie Popp, co-chair of the Service Learning Initiative
Kendall Curlee, director of communications
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