Students Give a Long-waited “Face” to Health Coalition - Dec 17, 2012 - Center for Academic Service-Learning - UW-Superior News and Events

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Students Give a Long-waited “Face” to Health Coalition

Posted on Dec 17, 2012
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The core coordinating council, pictured above, is excited about a website, which will help them further their mission.

The core coordinating council, pictured above, is excited about a website, which will help them further their mission.

Dr. Shin-Ping Tucker, Associate Professor of Information Technology and Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, has been teaching an Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) course for several semesters on Web Page Authoring. It has been an instrumental part in spreading the word about non-profits and small businesses in the area. Her dedication to the community has given these organizations the "voice" and publicity they deserve. A website is something these organizations have often desired but were unable to have due to time and cost constraints.

This semester, 17 students in her Web Page Authoring class continued the tradition of giving to the community by offering their web page design skills. They designed websites for six non-profits in Duluth and Superior: Faith United Methodist Church, Friends of Lakewalk, Metamorphosis Project, Project Reach Out, and Superior Douglas County Senior Center. Tucker estimates that each student donates about 30 hours to this assignment-a true timesaver for community partners. Thanks to her class, the enthusiasm, passion and services of these organizations can be reached by a larger audience.

One partner that has been especially appreciative of Tucker's class is the Healthier Douglas County Coalition (HDCC).

"A Click Away" from Increased Visibility

HDCC's core group has the passion to support Douglas County's need for improved health. What they have been missing is community members who are aware of their existence. The core council members have backgrounds in community outreach, nutrition, and wellness promotion-and work with various organizations such as the Superior School District, UW-Extension, Northwest Community Services Agency (NWCSA), and UW-Superior. Together, they work to support, advocate, and connect community members to live healthier lifestyles by addressing policy-level changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice in Douglas County.

HDCC had been talking about a need for a website, but were unaware of where and how to begin. With Tucker's students, they now have a template to work off of. 

The students "did something that none of us have the expertise in," said coalition member Kristine Patterson, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Programs at UW-Superior. She believes that the advantage of a website is the ability to offer the most updated information about the coalition. Pamphlets can be outdated quickly, but a website offers the most current information, just a click away.

Websites Connect Group with Community

In an age where the internet is an important method of communication, a website gives organizations a way to communicate to a wider audience. The group has been searching for ways to involve the community, and is hopeful that a website will make it easier for anyone to learn about their efforts.

Grace Gee, co-chair of HDCC, is the UW-Extension Nutrition Education Program Coordinator. She is excited about the website increasing the coalition's visibility in the community. Gee knows that HDCC has been mentioned at various meetings and through quick, passing conversations, but those who are interested in learning more do not have an easy way to find out more. In the past, the group has supported various community events, but did not know where to direct interested community members who had questions.

With the help of a website, a simple "Google" search can help develop a deeper understanding and interest in HDCC.

Healthy lifestyles:  a shared passion

Coalition members shared that the website can be more than just for the community. In fact, it can serve as an "information hub" for the group. Healthy lifestyles are a shared passion amongst the group, but with full time jobs, family, and other obligations, it can be difficult to be on the same page.  As a group that works together primarily on a volunteer basis, face-to-face meetings with all members can sometimes be a challenge.

The website the students designed is a template that HDCC is excited about. In the future, Patterson hopes to use it "as a keep of information" to share meeting minutes, upcoming calendar events, and as an archive.

Real-world Experience

Tucker talked about her academic service-learning courses scoring high at end of the semester evaluations.  She is proud of how academic service-learning is highly regarded by her students. They give her a "big thanks" at the end of the semester. Previous students have secured jobs after graduation after showing potential employers their career preparation from the course. Tucker shared that her AS-L course evaluations always have the most positive feedback.

Coalition Inspires Students to Build Career Goals It seems easy to understand why-students benefit from real-world experience. Group members working with HDCC met a diverse group of professionals from the community. Kyle Leahly is a senior majoring in Transportation and Logistics in Tucker's class. He chose to work with HDCC because as a student athlete, he was interested in being involved in health-related issues. Partnering with the coalition helped him understand course objectives, a key component of Academic Service-Learning (AS-L). In this teaching pedagogy, meaningful community service is used to help students apply what they are learning in class in the real-world.

For Leahly, this experience is instrumental in building the skills he needs for future endeavors. He mentions that he may be interested in starting a business in the future.

AS-L Sparks a Community and Student Connection

As with other academic service-learning courses, the recipient of services equally benefits from the partnership. HDCC has enjoyed working with UW-Superior students. The class has given them a template to share their mission in a way that was not possible before. In addition, it gave them a chance to work with a younger population-further expanding their visibility. Mary Mahan, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Director, sees great value in sharing HDCC's work with students. Through Tucker's class, they have the chance to connect with community members they normally do not work with, such as the young adult population.  Through this course, they will have multiple opportunities for young adults to learn about their coalition. Students will be presenting the website to their classmates, and also presenting the finished product to the UW-Superior campus and community at the Fall Academic Service-Learning Showcase.

"We've wanted a website for so long….now we finally are able to take some action steps!" exclaims Patterson.

Academic Service-Learning is an innovative teaching and learning strategy that provides students with opportunities to deepen their knowledge and learn new skills by matching academic goals to the needs of community organizations. Students apply concepts and skills they learn in the classroom and give that knowledge back to the community. In return, they gain practical experience while serving others.


News Contact: Sandy Liang | 715-394-8317 | sliang{atuws}
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