Conference news Reply

Me. Carike Claassen reports on her visit to the International Symposium on Service Learning at the University of Indianapolis:

The bus that took us to the conference

The conference bus

More than anything else, Indianapolis is probably known for the Indy 500 that takes place there annually. This year, the race was held on 24 May. I arrived in Indianapolis on 26 May, ever so fashionably late. But never mind, since all I really know about the Indy 500 is Danica Patrick, and some vague reference to it made in a Beach Boys song. I had other business to attend to.

My real purpose for visiting Indianapolis was to attend the International Symposium on Service Learning, hosted by the University of Indianapolis. Forget the Indy 500 – this is where the truly impressive things happen!

The Pack Away Hunger Project

The Pack Away Hunger Project

For those not familiar with the term, “service learning” refers to a method of teaching in which students learn about their chosen subjects, while doing community service. So, for instance, students who are studying nursing get some hands-on experience by volunteering at local clinics. The University of Indianapolis has done impressive work in this area. In fact, their very motto is: Education for Service.

I spent the week learning from international colleagues about how they approach service learning and incorporate it into their teaching. I presented a seminar on encouraging community engagement in Development Economics, a topic that Prof. Derick Blaauw and I worked on together. We received some very positive feedback, especially because, amid academics from disciplines as varied as architecture, graphic design and nursing, I was the only economist there. This is a gap that definitely needs to be addressed. Future students should therefore be excited, since Prof. Blaauw and I are working on some very interesting service learning projects right now!

The NWU team at the conference

The NWU team at the conference

And for those who were curious – yes, I did get to see the Indy 500 race track. The only cars were the tour buses taking tourists around, and Danica Patrick was conspicuously absent (I have since learnt that she moved over to NASCAR).  I stood there for a while, thinking that Danica must really envy my glamorous, jet-setting academic life. So, to Danica, I just want to say: The next International Symposium on Service Learning will take place in two years’ time. If you’re looking for a real thrill, that’s the place to be.

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