JAKE VERMEULEN ’21 | STAFF WRITER • Sitting in a classroom day in and day out can get a little bit monotonous. Several courses on campus, however, are breaking up the monotony by giving student an opportunity to learn while getting involved in the community. Among these courses are ENG 302 Writing in the Community and PSC 230 Disability in Politics. These courses provide students with opportunities to get into real world situations to further their education and put a more human face on concepts that can sometimes seem abstract.
Crystal Benedicks, Associate Professor of English, teaches Writing in the Community, and the course has focused on writing grants for local non-profit groups. Students were put into small groups and given a non-profit group to work with throughout. Students have helped organizations like Pam’s Promise, Dusk to Dawn Bereavement, and the Recovery Coalition apply for funding to help start new projects in the community. Benedicks said that part of her motivation for teaching this class stemmed from a desire to give students more realistic experience writing. Rather than getting students to write to try and get a good grade, Benedicks wanted to give her students the opportunity to write and to achieve a goal, and “get the teacher out of the writing.”
Students in this class have been able to make a tangible impact within the community. One of the non-profit organizations that students have worked with is called the Recovery Coalition. This group is working to create a “Sober Recreation Center”, which would provide a place for people recovering from addiction a place to spend time away from things that could tempt them to relapse. Students have already helped the group win one community grant and reached the second round of the process for another.
Lorraine McCrary, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, teaches Politics in Disability, and students spend time at Ability Services Inc., which provides services and activities for people with disabilities, as part of the course. McCrary said students, “…jump into whatever is going on,” while they are there. McCrary also saw it as an opportunity to give students a glimpse into what it is like to do research, since much of her research deals with disability in politics, and it often entails doing exactly this kind of interaction with people with disabilities.
“I wanted to bring that into the classroom and have students experience that way of learning as well as reading texts,” McCrary said.
Both McCrary and Benedicks said that feedback from students about the community engagement portions of the class has been overwhelmingly positive. McCrary said that students’ experience at ASI has become a key part of class discussion.“They have made very good connections between the readings that we are doing in class and their experience there,” McCrary said.
Students themselves were enthusiastic about their experiences. “My experience working in the community as part of a class at Wabash has been hugely influential,” Mason Hooper ’18, who has taken both courses during his Wabash career, said. “Some of my greatest Wabash learning experiences come from working inside the greater Crawfordsville community.”
Courses focusing on service such as these provide valuable opportunities for Wabash men to obtain practical knowledge in their classes, and to make a sizeable,
as well as tangible, impact on the greater Crawfordsville community.