Part of the purpose of STELLAR is to expose international students to all the facets of life in a liberal arts college and at UMM in particular. Throughout the program, we've been meeting with guest lecturers to learn more about the different disciplines that make up a liberal arts education, we've been spending time with the American students in the Gateway program as we learn about each other's cultures, and we've been traveling around the state to see some of the experiences that different U.S. cities have to offer. One component of campus life at Morris that we are just now learning about is the role of service to the community in a UMM education. In fact, we have a whole office on campus--the Office of Community Engagement--dedicated to helping students connect to needs in the community.
Here's a little big about Argie, who helps run the Office of Community Engagement and who is helping us with our work with the community:
Argie Manolis is the community engagement coordinator at UMM. She helps students get involved in the regional community through service-learning classes, service events, and volunteer opportunities. She also teaches creative writing, an IC course about community engagement, and a study abroad course focused on aging with a service-learning component in Greece.
During the next couple of weeks, STELLAR students will be working with the Office of Community Engagement on two separate projects: service events in the community on to Wednesday nights (last night and next week) and a service learning project in Duluth, during which we will be playing with underprivileged American children and leading activities to teach them a little about Chinese culture. The way in which our volunteering last night is different from the "service learning" we'll be doing in Duluth is that the work that we are doing now is only to help the community, where as the work we'll be doing with children in Duluth is a part of a Morris class (in this case, a language class) taken for academic credit.
Last night's activities took students across the city of Morris, from homes of elders in the community to the local food co-op to the public library. Some students spent the evening scrubbing kennels at the local Humane Society and were rewarded with the opportunity to cuddle with some of the kittens that were benefitting from the hard work.
Others designed gift bags with pictures and greetings--often in English and Chinese--for elders in the community, some of whom feel lonely and will no doubt be happy to read the kind words and see the fun drawings dreamed up by students in STELLAR (and eat the fruit that we'll put in the bags). We'll be headed back to the same service sites next week to continue the projects that we started.