Center for Academic Service - Learning

University of Wisconsin-Superior

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Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880

ph. 715-394-8518

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Center for Academic Service - Learning

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Students unite with social work community by helping vulnerable populations

Posted on Nov 30, 2012
click to enlarge
Randi Hultman works with a young girl at the Boys and Girls Club of Superior on a  craft project.

Randi Hultman works with a young girl at the Boys and Girls Club of Superior on a craft project.

Thirty University of Wisconsin-Superior social work students are assisting more than 14 community agencies in the Twin Ports by offering 900 hours of their time to strengthen and embrace those who struggle in the community.

Academic Service-Learning is integral to Dr. Monica Roth Day's Introduction to Social Work course by giving students a taste of their future careers.  Each of her 30 students will be serving 30 hours at an agency sometime between September and December this Fall Semester.  Through an identified list of community partners, students initiated contact and scheduled their hours. 

Reinforcing course learning goals through practical experience

Course learning goals are reinforced when academic service-learning is incorporated. Students are equipped with new insight about how community agencies provide services for vulnerable populations and make bonds with local residents.  Roth Day's students learn to think critically by asking "how" and "why" to foster diversity. Students reflect on their service through several class discussions, reflective questions, and a final report. 

"It pulls practical experience into the classroom…the real-world experience is so beneficial.  [The course] cannot be taught without this experience," said Roth Day.

Randi Hultman, a social work major from Green Bay, WI, explained that this academic service-learning experience has connected her further with her course work because as she gains knowledge with Roth Day's course, she applies it to her service. 

Providing services for vulnerable populations

Introduction to Social Work prepares students to serve with different populations.  Students serve with the Boys and Girls Club of Superior, Boys and Girls Club of Duluth, North Country Independent Living, Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity, Family Forum, United Way of Superior-Douglas County, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), the Gender Equity Center, the Center for Nontraditional Students and Veterans, American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the GEARS Program, Bethany Crisis Nursery, and Safe Haven.

Hultman is serving with the Boys and Girls Club of Superior.  She said in class they learn how to assist at-risk youth through conversation, being a role model, and homework tutoring.

Katie Wilkes, a social work major from Baraboo, WI, said she and her classmates serve with a variety of people in the Twin Ports community; there are strategies when working with such a diverse group of people.  Cultural competency is extensively discussed throughout their course work. 

Networking within the social work community

Roth Day said her students benefit most from learning in-depth about human services and the expected challenges in the profession.  Each student, said Roth Day, has the opportunity to interact with other social workers and network for their future; this encourages students to reflect on how much schooling they want to pursue.

Wilkes described how she got to see and interact with a lot of the social work community while serving with the United Way of Superior-Douglas County.  She enjoyed making connections with leaders in the field while helping others and recognizing the impact of her assistance.  While serving with United Way, she truly realized how much just 2 hours can help nonprofits like the United Way. Wilkes said she will continue to volunteer in the future with United Way. 

 "It is important to give back because they [the community] give to you," said Wilkes. 

The rewards of service: confidence and the "wow" moment

Roth Day illustrated the powerful "wow" moment she often sees in her students as each of them gains confidence while serving in the community. 

Wilkes supported this statement.  She was able to step out of her comfort zone and learn more aspects about nonprofits. Furthermore, she found she is now able to open up more to help people.  Wilkes replied that she is comfortable and confident with the skills she has, and she appreciated the opportunity to confront personal challenges.

Hultman said she really enjoyed working with kids at the Boys and Girls Club.  Generally, she helps students with homework or plays games.  The most rewarding aspect of this partnership for Hultman was "seeing the kids understand and learn." 

A future career in social work

Through her academic service-learning experience, Wilkes realized there are many more career options in the social work community in which she is interested.   

For Hultman, this experience has reasserted and made clear her desire to work with kids and help them succeed in her future.  "The hands-on experience really helped," said Hultman. 

A connection to Superior

Originally from Green Bay, Hultman now feels better connected to the Superior community as she encounters and interacts with more people with her placement at the Boys and Girls Club.

"Every student," Wilkes said, "should take a service-learning course.  It can change
their view of things."  

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: Katelyn Baumann | 715-394-8429 | kbauman3{atuws}
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