By Eric Pringle
Service-learning and community outreach opportunities are integral to the graduate and undergraduate curriculum in all College of Design departments and majors, instilling an ethos of public service as a key part of the design professions.
In Ozayr Saloojee and Leslie Van Duzer's freshman architecture classes, students are required to take part in direct service activities, such as tutoring, mentoring, or some other kind of weekly work at a community organization
"We felt it was really important to expose freshman students to one of the most important things about architecture -- service to community," Saloojee said. "The impression that I have is that the students feel that this [service learning] is an important part of education. It certainly has been very rewarding as a faculty member to be a part of it."
Last spring, Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, assistant professor of architecture, led graduate students in his studio course through the process of creating an outdoor brick oven for Casa de Esperanza, a St. Paul nonprofit organization, using traditional Latin American construction techniques. Part of the six-week studio involved students first building, then modifying, the design of the oven, reversing the usual order.
"This community has its roots in Latin American traditions and students were exposed to them," Ibarra-Sevilla said. "In this context of a multicultural city, it is important that architecture students get exposed to different groups and cultural expressions. With this experience, students have learned about the potential of our profession in creating a difference in the community."
Third-year clothing design students get the chance to showcase their talents in a "sweet" way while giving back to the community as a part of the Chocolate Extravaganza fashion show. Held in November at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the show is a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota, said Associate Professor Missy Bye, and 100 percent of the proceeds from the raffle ticket sales go to the organization.
The junior students' studio experience includes use of new and unusual materials and techniques and the cocoa-inspired concoctions fit the bill. "I also think it is really important for our students to make connections with the professional and the broader community," Bye said of the project. "Learning goes beyond the classroom."
Retail merchandising students are also engaging in project-oriented community learning activities through courses. Last winter, students in Assistant Professor Juanjuan Wu's visual retailing class (DHA 3243) worked on "Paint Uptown Red," which required students to work in teams to create a window display for an assigned retailer, combining the store's merchandise with the theme of the Go Red for Women campaign of the American Heart Association.
Project-based service-learning outreach is also part of the graphic design curriculum. Students enrolled in Identity Design, taught by Sue Chu, associate professor of graphic design, will create a visual identity for an organization called How are the Children? The goal of the suburban Ramsey County initiative is to connect more kids to more adults in places where they spend time.
"Working with the group broadens our diversity partnership," Chu said, "and helps ensure that all young people have the support they need to be safe, secure, healthy, and academically successful."
Incorporating service-learning projects stimulates active learning, Chu said. "I believe it is important for students to work with actual clients in a classroom setting because this will help students segue into the profession."