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The "CHANCE" Course, a Model for Public Affairs Education

By Merrie Benasutti
Associate Director for CIL, Student Initiatives

Dean Brian Atwood summed up the common threads of a Humphrey Institute 2020 visioning assembly as a call for relevance, integration, alliance and innovation in Public Affairs education.

One answer to this call has been the creation of PA5990, Engaging the Public in Policy and Planning, otherwise known as the "CHANCE" course. The CHANCE course was proposed by and developed in consultation with Humphrey Institute students who were interested in community based research and committed to engaging the Humphrey and other University of Minnesota students in community-based initiatives to strengthen the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.

Since the 2007-2008 academic year when the course was first offered, students have completed twelve different projects with and for neighborhood organizations, including the Brian Coyle Community Center, the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program, the West Bank Business Association, and the West Bank Community Coalition. The CHANCE website includes copies of most reports.

This is what students enrolled in the CHANCE course in 2009-10 had to say:

100% of students who participated in the CHANCE course reported enrolling wanting a relevant and meaningful learning experience.

"The course offered an opportunity to develop a project and do something real."

100% of the students who participated in the CHANCE course said that their experience changed their perception of themselves.
• "Just learning about the neighborhood, working on a team and learning about a new discipline has changed and broadened my perspective."
• "I usually have an opinion and we do what I think is best, but I learned that what I think isn't as important as empowering the community."
• "It's expanded and broadened my perspective on how I see myself contributing."

100% of students who participated in the CHANCE course reported developing leadership and/or professional skills through participation in the course.
• "I realized a plan won't always work. I need to be flexible - not impose my frame and it was challenging."
• "I see myself now as a more active problem solver."
• "I learned a lot about how I engage with a group and I learned I have confidence to lead through conflict."

"This was the best course I took at the Humphrey." "I've learned so much. It was challenging and rewarding."
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