Bridging Practice to Theory

Bridging Practice to Theory: Providing Academic Scaffolding to Student Organizations Working in International Contexts

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) and the Center for Engaged Academic Learning (CEAL) propose to design a new model of instruction to support the growing phenomenon of project-based learning initiated by student organizations in international contexts. The proposed program aims to support these student-led efforts by providing the type of training that has heretofore been lacking: (1) the linguistic and cultural preparation needed for entering specific communities abroad, (2) a framework and proper scaffolding to facilitate substantive reflection and program assessment, and (3) the academic framework required to understand the ethical, historical and theoretical implications of their work. This type of training will be accomplished through a multi-prong approach involving mini courses, workshops, site visits, year-round programming, and one-on-one mentoring as well as the use of learning technologies. This program is one we believe can be developed to serve as a model for other universities and colleges in which student organizations are conducting community-centered, service- or project-based learning.

The idea of this collaboration is to create specific, immediate, and measurable changes in the quality of student learning experiences derived from participation in student-led overseas projects in Latin America.  Student leaders have been candid in expressing the limits and challenges of their current engagement models, which involve brief and intermittent work in the community. They acknowledge that their approach to community-based projects is not as grounded or culturally informed as they could be. This proposal aims to address these shortcomings by connecting students to resources for language instruction, cultural competency, and critical reflection on the historical contexts and ethical dimensions of international partnerships with overseas communities. Furthermore, by offering this type of academic, administrative and financial support we stand to increase the number of students that currently participates in the international work that their organizations undertake. This proposal is an effort to reshape the way we treat co-curricular initiatives and to better address the needs and growth of student-led initiatives.  We see this as a new model of area studies instruction, as a necessary and important evolution in our approach to our mission of supporting innovative approaches to learning.

Project Team:

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, Associate Professor of History and American Culture and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, College of Literature, Science and the Arts
Lenny Ureña Valerio, Assistant Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, College of Literature, Science and the Arts
Denise Galarza Sepúlveda, Director of the Center for Engaged Academic Learning, College of Literature, Science and the Arts