Academic Service Abroad: Confronting our Limitations

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Academic institutions are uniquely qualified to engage students in educational experiences that improve the human condition at home and abroad. If these projects are to effectively sustain communities for the long term, then academic institutions must take steps to overcome the limitations imposed by the academic calendar and professors/students with worldviews that may not be conducive to fostering sustainable communities. The Bernardine Franciscan Sisters established a mission school in the barrio of Los Tres Brazos in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). Ten health care professionals earning their on-line Health Care MBA at Alvernia College (USA) selected the mission school and surrounding community for their service project course. This paper describes the on-line graduate level humanitarian service course created by this author, service projects developed by the students, and sustainable outcomes expected for the community. Their work began with an extensive review of web sources to consider the human condition (e.g., the Human Development Index) and on-line discussion of posted questions (e.g., What are the essential conditions for humans to thrive and have the opportunity for happiness?). Students and professors then traveled to Santo Domingo to better understand the community and to do the necessary “needs assessment” for development of an action plan. Sections of the plan are yielding immediate outcomes for immediate needs (e.g., fundraising for a second floor on the mission school). Other parts of the plan are designed to continue beyond the time frame of the course (e.g., adult vocational programs in the expanded mission school). This course may serve as a model for other colleges and universities interested in developing sustainable service projects.


Keywords: Humanitarian Service, Service Learning, Sustainable Communities, Social Sustainability
Stream: Social Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Academic Service Abroad


Dr. Spencer S. Stober

Associate Professor, Department of Science and Math, Alvernia College
Reading, PA, USA

Dr. Spencer S. Stober is Associate Professor of Biology at Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and a member of the Department of Science and Math. He has taught Biology for 30 years and regularly teaches courses in Cell Biology, Botany, and Genetics at the undergraduate level. Since receiving his Ed.D. at Temple University with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, he has additionally taught courses in education and leadership at the graduate level. In 2005 he received Alvernia’s Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Stober has also served in a number of key administrative positions at Alvernia College, including Department Chairperson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies. His research interests include the intersection between religion and science, and environmental sustainability. He often travels internationally with students to places such as Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, and the Dominican Republic. At a local level, Dr. Stober is engaged in land use and regional planning where he serves as Vice President of the Adamstown Borough Council.

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