New ASL courses partner student learning with civic engagement

September 5, 2012

College is right around the corner for millions of high school students nationwide.

Detroit is home to thousands of those students, yet some of them don’t see college on the horizon.

University of Michigan-Dearborn students hope to change that.

As part of Lara Rusch’s POL 323: Urban and Metropolitan Politics course, UM-Dearborn students plan to work closely this semester with those enrolled in Detroit Public Schools.

The goal? Encourage area high school students to climb the necessary hurdles that impede their path to college by working with Youth Voice, a grassroots organizing effort designed to give youth a greater voice in Detroit.

“It’s kind of a combination of leadership training and civic engagement,” said Rusch, assistant director of UM-Dearborn’s urban and regional studies program and assistant professor of political science.

UM-Dearborn’s Integrated Learning and Community Partnership Office (ILCPO) recently designated POL 323 as an “Academic Service Learning” (ASL) course. That designation allows Rusch’s students to host multiple events this semester geared toward area youth.

One event will encourage UM-Dearborn students to share stories with area high school students about how they overcame personal or financial obstacles on their path to college.

At another event, UM-Dearborn students are asked to introduce high school students to campus and guide them through the college application process.

The purpose of the course is two-fold: Urge high school students to think more broadly about college and their careers, while also exposing college students to youth-led organizing in Detroit.

“It should be educational for everyone involved and provide a real service,” she said. “It’s all about making connections and helping people think differently about their future.”

Rusch is one of 10 UM-Dearborn faculty members who received the ASL designation this semester, which represents a significant and substantive use of community-based pedagogy and comes with a $500 stipend. Other faculty members awarded include: Pam Aronson, Stein Brunvand, Chris Burke, Paul Draus, Jorge González del Pozo, Nancy Kursman, Gail Luera, P.F. Potvin and Jamie Ward.

Technology in the classroomBrunvand sees the ASL designation as a win-win.

His students gain firsthand experience in a classroom, while teachers in Farmington, Mich., receive technology support.

It’s all part of EDT 211/511: Technology in the Secondary Classroom, as taught this semester by Brunvand.

Throughout the course, Brunvand teaches students how to integrate technology into the classroom. But there was one problem.

“They were always designing for a hypothetical audience,” said Brunvand, associate professor of educational technology.

That all changes this semester, as the ASL designation allows Brunvand to place his students in Farmington schools, where they can help teachers integrate technology into the classroom.

“My students now will get a chance to integrate technology for an authentic audience,” he said. “My students will be more prepared in their use of technology for educational purposes, and the teachers that they work with, they’ll help open their eyes to things they might not be aware of.”

ASL Course Designation applications now are being accepted for Winter 2013, with a deadline of Oct. 1.

“This is all about supporting faculty to do what they do best,” said Ismael Ahmed, associate provost for integrated learning and community partnerships. “Teach about the real world, develop students’ skills and make this planet a better place.”

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