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Editor's Introduction

Laurie Grobman

Pennsylvania State University, Berks

Research generates not merely independence of thought, but also the spirit of self-reliance, zeal for truth, and love of patient, disinterested, conscientious labor. . . . What can be more elevating to the spirit of the student than the consciousness that he [and she] is advancing. . . farther along an unexplored path or by-way than any of his predecessors? (Harvard medievalist Charles Gross, 1893 address at Williams College, quoted in Veysey, 139)

It is in the spirit of intellectual inquiry that I am pleased to present the first volume of Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research. As stated in the journal’s mission statement,

Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research is a refereed, multi-disciplinary, online undergraduate journal dedicated to publishing exceptional intellectual and reflective work by undergraduates on service learning and community-based research. Published work will advance knowledge in these subject areas. The editorial team of Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research encourages undergraduates to pursue their own intellectual projects and to join the academic conversation.

In the pages of the journal, you will find a great diversity of topics from students across the disciplines. What binds the essays and other projects in the journal are both the spirit of intellectual inquiry cited above and the commitment to creating “more socially equitable and sustainable communities as part of healthy, functioning democratic societies” (Cress and Donahue 2011, 2).

The founding editorial team intentionally chose the terms “service learning” and “community-based research” in the title of the journal. In our view, these terms best describe the pedagogies that partner students, faculty, and community organizations and members in ways that will enhance students’ meaningful academic learning and will positively impact the community in response to needs identified by community partners. Thus we publish work that emerges from curriculum- and/or research-based community partnerships. All contributors, whether explicitly or implicitly, will help to develop and refine these pedagogies. Given the integral role of students in service learning and community-based research, students’ scholarly voices are absolutely necessary to advancing this complex but meaningful work.

Like all scholarly journals, Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research advances theory and practice and offers new insights about service learning and community-based research. One of our goals is that instructors will use these articles in their teaching and that they will initiate meaningful classroom conversations.  We hope the undergraduate scholarship in the journal becomes a basis for further research and inquiry. To this end, we invite “Comments & Responses” beginning with Volume 2. Finally, we hope the excellent student work published here motivates other students to pursue engaged inquiry.

Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research received 88 submissions from students in higher education institutions across the U.S. Of these, 32 essays and one poster from undergraduates in 27 colleges and universities and a wide range of disciplines are published in Volume 1. All authors revised their original submissions (with the exception of research done in partnership with community organization; see below), some quite substantially. These undergraduates set a high bar for future volumes of the journal. I am incredibly pleased with the enthusiasm and dedication with which so many of these authors approached the entire publication process.

That same enthusiasm and dedication was evident in the faculty mentors’ work with student submitters throughout the review and revision process. 40 faculty mentors from disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts and from institutions in the US and across the globe worked with at least one submission and student author(s). Several agreed to work with two or three. I appreciate the emails I received from these colleagues expressing how rewarding it was to work with the undergraduate authors on their revisions and the emails from the authors about how exciting it was to work with the mentors.

The essays and poster are published in the following five categories. The editorial board selected these categories to cast a wide net for the kinds of intellectual and creative work being done by undergraduates participating in service learning and community-based research.

Reflective essays exhibit deep pondering and critical thinking and intrigue readers with their insights, questions, and ideas. They may or may not integrate secondary research.

Analytical essays draw on the intellectual work of the course but are not extensively researched. These are most likely essays written for the class in which the service learning or CBR took place, and are grounded in readings from the course.

Research done in partnership with a community organization in the form given to that organization, accompanied by a reflective essay, exhibit the kinds of community-based research being conducted by students and community partners as well as students’ deep pondering and critical thinking about that work. None of the research projects in this category were edited or revised for this journal; they are printed here in the form given to the organization. The reflective essays were revised.

Research articles about service learning or community-based research, or another related curriculum- and/or research-based public/community engagement activity go beyond an essay done for a specific class and include a through literature review and implement one specific methodology or several methodologies (e.g. case study, empirical research, extensive theoretical investigation, textual analysis, etc.). Some students may have done this kind of research project as an honors or senior thesis. Other students may have written research articles for classes.

Open category includes intellectual and creative work not anticipated by the editorial team but that fits within the journal’s scope. Some of these manuscripts include extensive research about topics that emerge from service learning and community-based research experiences, but they are not about service learning and community-based research.
I invite you to read the undergraduate research and writing in each of these categories. I anticipate that you will be proud of the community-engaged teaching, learning, and research being done by students across the U.S.

Finally, I want to acknowledge everyone who helped to launch Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research:

  • All students who submitted their writing to the journal: Regrettably, a journal cannot publish all or even most of its submissions. It is par the course in scholarly publishing that we all feel the sting of rejection. It is also a motivating and critical part of maturation and growth as scholars and writers. The editorial team worked diligently to fulfill our goal of a professional, efficient, and fair review process.
  • The founding editorial team from Penn State Berks’s Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research: Jill Burk, Randall Fegley, Jui-Chi “Rocky” Huang, Mahsa Kazempour, Andrea Kolb, Cesar Martinez-Garza. It’s been amazing to work with all of you.
  • Founding editorial team members Shannon Carter and Deborah Mutnick: These friends and colleagues in writing studies, dedicated to community-based research, gave me great support and advice.
  • The editorial board and faculty mentors: Most of you didn’t know me, nor I you. Yet we put our trust in one another, and here we have an amazing product to unveil to the public.
  • Editorial assistants Elizabeth Neail and Ashley Marie Stahle: Your work played a huge role in getting out the Call for Submissions, laying the foundation for Volume 1.
  • Editorial assistant Jessica Didow: Your work to design and create the journal website was crucial to the journal’s founding, and your work uploading all student work to the website meant the journal was able to “go live” now rather than months and months from now. I also appreciate your careful editing.
  • Editorial assistant Cassandra Yatron: Your work keeping track of authors’ bios, acknowledgements, higher education institutions, citation information, and all additional editing duties were fundamental to the journal’s publication.
  • Peer reviewers Samuel de Paula Borowik (Penn State University, Berks), Chris Brendel (Penn State University, Berks), Annie Gallagher (Penn State University, Brandywine), Kristie Kalvin (Penn State University, University Park), and Michael S. Lewis (Penn State University, Berks): Thank you for jumping in to something completely new! You all took this work seriously, and the feedback you provided was appreciated by me and the faculty mentors.  
  • Faculty who encouraged their students to submit their work: Thank you for your email notes supporting the students’ submission, for working with students on their essays, and for your commitment to academic-community partnerships.
  • R. Keith Hillkirk, Chancellor, Penn State University, Berks, and Paul Esqueda, Sr. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Penn State University, Berks: Thank you for your financial support of the journal and your confidence in me to get it done.
  
References

Cress, Christine M., and David M. Donahue. 2011. Introduction.  Democratic Dilemmas of Teaching Service-Learning: Curricular Strategies for Success, edited by Christine M. Cress, David M. Donahue, and Associates, 1-13. Sterling, V.

Veysey, Laurence R. 1965. The Emergence of the American University. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.