It was an honor to serve as the STC Big Ideas Fellow for 2020 – 2021. The time spent interacting with the Service Learning Academy and STEM TRAIL Center helped me grow and develop new ideas for integrating research and service learning into student experiences at UNO. Our goals for the year included identifying ways to build synergy between research and community engagement experiences at UNO, especially in STEM fields, and communicate the value of such experiences for students. We identified over 63 science courses at UNO currently including service learning components, providing a large pool of dedicated faculty who are already using community engagement to augment their teaching. Our hope for the coming year is to find ways to support faculty to incorporate research components into these service learning experiences. Another goal is to find ways to assess student outcomes from courses that incorporate both research and service learning components. Discussions with other Big Ideas Fellows highlighted opportunities to test survey instruments in new service learning/research courses in development across campus. Finally, we prepared a manuscript based on two years of data collected from a research/service learning experience at UNO, where we analyzed pre/post attitude data about the research and service learning components of the project to determine changes in student attitudes as a result of this collaboration. Our hope is that this publication will provide seed data demonstrating the value of such experiences for students both at UNO and elsewhere.
The Fellowship deepened my understanding of both the SLA and STC and the value of engaging students with both of these programs, and inspired me to continue working toward integrating research and service learning experiences in my courses. I am excited for Dr. Ayeni to bring his expertise and passion to the STC/SLA Big Ideas Fellow position, where he can provide new opportunities for both faculty and students to engage with the STC and SLA.
Dr. Foluso Ayeni; My ambitions for the time ahead:
Once again, I want to thank the STEM TRAIL Center and Service Learning Academy for this opportunity. The role of service-learning in today’s higher ed cannot be overemphasized. My plan moving forward is to increase community engagement by teaching at least three service-learning classes during the academic year; deepen the service-learning component by integrating a TOWN & GOWN speaker series in which professionals from the industry discuss, share ideas and brainstorm with Junior and Senior Students in the College of Information Science and Technology.
I also plan to conduct community engagement workshops targeted at improving enrollment, retention and graduation rates of students in the college of IS&T. The results of this workshop will shed additional light to provide a new perspective to the teaching of core computing courses.
Finally, I plan to organize a college level faculty panel discussion session targeted at discovering faculty perceptions towards service learning.