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Undergraduate Journal 

Editor’s Introduction

Laurie Grobman

Pennsylvania State University, Berks

I am pleased to present the second volume of Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research. Like Volume 1, Volume 2 advances theory and practice and offers new understandings about service learning and community-based research. In so doing, undergraduates offer their “insider” insights and perspectives so that we all may continue to refine the important work of curriculum-based community engagement.

Service learning and community-based research have transformative potential for communities, students, institutions of higher education, and faculty. These pedagogies have brought an entirely new dimension to my teaching, research, and overall professional life. As a professor of English and Women’s Studies, I have learned to be more creative and innovative in order to see and think about connecting literature, rhetoric, narratives, stories, and histories in new and multiple ways. Through this work, I have developed relationships with students, colleagues, and community members that have brought new levels of meaning and joy to my professional life. 

One of these community partners and good friends, Frank Gilyard, founder and former director of the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum (CPAAM) in Reading, Pennsylvania, died unexpectedly in January 2013 while we were embarking on two of many community-based research courses together. Gilyard was enthusiastic, passionate, and committed to CPAAM’s mission to uncover, recover, discover, preserve, and disseminate local African American history. He truly loved inviting college students into this work; he has taught me so much, and he has touched the lives of so many college students. 

During the spring semester of Frank’s death, students in the two courses rose to the challenge and added to Gilyard’s legacy. Throughout these and the many other projects working with Gilyard and CPAAM, students sensed they were involved in something with significant human consequences. They realized what it means to have one’s history hidden by those with the power to do so. Students began to understand what social and political injustice really means. Gilyard was dedicated to righting the horrible wrongs inflicted on African Americans and healing the wounds, rifts, and inequities that remain. Gilyard embodied kindness, knowledge, forgiveness, and perseverance; in the end, this is what my students and I gained from knowing him. 

The partnership with CPAAM continues and expands in the most exciting ways, despite Gilyard’s passing. Students and I continue to work with Mildred Gilyard, Frank’s wife and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors; Van Gilyard, one of Frank’s sons and CPAAM Administrative Assistant; and the entire Board of Directors. In October 2013, five students from my 2012-2013 first year writing courses presented their work from that year at CPAAM’S 15th Anniversary celebration and tribute to Gilyard. The audience asked questions both about content and method, and the students invited the audience members to remember and share their histories. In another project, I am co-authoring with three students a scholarly article about the collaborative oral history narrative they wrote from interviews about Gilyard’s life that he recorded before his death. There is no doubt that Gilyard’s life will continue to resonate in multiple ways in students’ and my lives. I share this story of the partnership between students and faculty at Penn State Berks and leaders at CPAAM to convey the passion and appreciation I have for pedagogies that engage students with the community in exciting and meaningful ways. The relationships that emerge from these partnerships are as important and lasting as the learning, research, and contributions to the public good that take place. 

Frank Gilyard’s influence on my students and me over this past decade is partly responsible for the establishment of Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research. Students’ published work exemplifies the intensity, commitment, learning, knowledge, and joy that emerge from university-community partnerships. I and my colleagues at the journal hope and intend for the students’ published scholarship to reverberate and resonate with instructors and students as all of us, collectively, develop and foster the kind of relationships, learning, and knowledge contributions to which Gilyard dedicated much of his time and energy. Toward that end, we encourage instructors to use these articles in their teaching and to initiate meaningful classroom conversations and curriculum-based community engagement. We also hope the undergraduate scholarship in the journal becomes a basis for further research and inquiry.

Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research received 55 submissions from students in higher education institutions across the U.S. Of these, 17 essays from undergraduates in 15 colleges and universities and a wide range of disciplines are published in Volume 2. All authors revised their original submissions (excluding research done in partnership with community organizations, which is published here in its original form). Students’ published essays cover a wide range of partnerships, service activities, research activities, and topics. For example, in the reflective category, Sophia De Quattro reflects on how her personal discomfort and resistance while placed in Marin County Community School (MCCS), an alternative education facility for students on probation or house arrest or who have general behavior issues deemed unfit for regular public school, evolved into a complex understanding of the need for the U.S. to address education inequity. In the open category, co-authors Darrell Haley Jr., Amirah Bohler, Jessica Watts, Attallah Muhammad, Mariam Nadri, Zelquaysha Hawkins, Ena Ampy, Latessa Miracle Allums, and Brea Mangrum write about an upper-level undergraduate psychology course on the helping relationship, with an emphasis on service-learning in a global setting and its effects on mental health workers in their practice with families, communities, and individuals; the class partnered with two service-learning and global education organizations: Lott Carey Foreign Mission Board and Grace International, Inc.  Andie Tucker, in her reflective essay to accompany the research report she wrote in partnership with Women’s Aid Organisation, an anti-domestic violence organization in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, reflects on how her expectations of her work with the organization were dramatically transformed when she realized she knew very little about domestic violence and, as a result, how she redefined for herself what she calls a “humbler” understanding of service-learning. Interestingly, both manuscripts in the research articles category—one by Annie Wendell and the other co-authored by Sarah Ducker, Katharine Hinman, Chika Kondo, and Danielle Ngo—address Alternative Breaks service-learning programs.  

More than 30 faculty mentors from disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts and from institutions in the U.S. and across the globe worked with at least one submission and student author(s). Sometimes they had to do the critical but difficult work of rejecting submissions, but in all cases they exhibited professionalism and concern for student learning. The mentors who worked with published authors put in a great deal of hours to assist the students in probing their ideas and their scholarship to attain the deeper and more substantive levels of insight you will read in these pages. I invite you to read the undergraduate research and writing to learn more about the community-engaged teaching, learning, and research being done by undergraduates in mutually-beneficial partnerships. 

Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who helped to produce and support Volume 2 of Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research:

All students who submitted their writing to the journal;

All published writers who revised their pieces at least once, some several times, to meet the journal’s high standard of scholarship;

Krista Aronson, Associate Professor of Psychology, Bates College, and Reflective Category Editor;

The editorial board and faculty mentors;

Editorial assistant Alexandria Yeager;

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; Paul Esqueda, Sr. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Penn State University, Berks; and Belen Rodriguez-Mourelo, Head of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Penn State University, Berks, for your financial and other support of the journal.