Academic Service Abroad: Confronting our Limitations
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
Dr. Spencer S. Stober
Associate Professor, Department of Science and Math, Alvernia College