Empowering Noble Leaders: Service Learning and Community Engagement

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 @ 01:00 PM

Empowering NobleLeaders through Service Learning and Community Engagement

Hello NobleHour community! We're happy to announce that Dr. Kristin Joos, UF faculty-member, and recent college graduate and service-oriented young professional, Liz Harlan, have teamed up to write for our new “Empowering NobleLeaders” blog series. They both found their passions through service learning and community engagement and are eager to educate, inspire, and empower others to do the same. This first post introduces Kristin and Liz, as well as the topics they'll be covering in upcoming blog posts. We're excited to have them on board. Welcome, Kristin and Liz!

A bit about Kristin:

I am the Coordinator of the Innovative Sustainability & Social Impact Initiative in the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. I also direct the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability High School Summer Program at UF, the only summer program in existence where college-bound high school students learn and practice the skills of successful business and community leaders, while being inspired to solve social, environmental, and economic problems. 

As a high school student I participated in a youth organization where I learned the importance of community engagement; I was inspired by the director, a social entrepreneur, who challenged youth to risk their dreams and make a positive impact on society. We were exposed to a plethora of social problems and were encouraged to be part of the solutions. When I was 16 years old I was asked to speak in front of an audience of 2000+ people. I opened my speech with “So many times there is no peace outside our windows: extinction, pollution, unemployment, homelessness, racism, discrimination, disease, neglect, abuse... in our society the list goes on and on...” After early-admitting to college later that year, I decided not only did I want to learn how to solve social problems, I could have a bigger impact on the world if I educated others to do so as well.

I first learned of Social Entrepreneurship in 2000 when attending a conference for an international NGO, and met an Ashoka Fellow. At the time, I was completing my dissertation and studying high achieving teenagers who aspired to make a difference in their communities and the world. From then on, I was committed to dedicating my professional career to educating, inspiring, and empowering students to become changemakers. In 2005, I brought Social Entrepreneurship to UF. My current research and applied interests center around social entrepreneurship, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, service learning and community service, civic engagement, and creating positive social change. I am passionate about teaching and empowering students to use the skills and strategies of business to create innovative and sustainable solutions to social, environmental, and economic problems locally and around the world.

In 2006, I had the pleasure of being named Service Learning Professor of the Year at UF, because of the community service completed by my students. In fact, each year my students complete more than 1⁄4 of the UF President’s Goal of 1 Million minutes of service for all UF students. I am the author of Don't Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering & Community Service, a valuable resource for both service learning students and faculty and greatly appreciate the help of folks at the Corporation for National & Community Service, Campus Compact, and the National Youth Leadership Council.

I believe that education is a life-long process. In 2012 I participated in the International Social Entrepreneurship Programme at INSEAD. In 2013 I graduated from the AACSB PostDoc Bridge Program and was awarded Academic Scholar status. This spring, I will complete a Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship, sponsored by USASBE and the Kauffman Foundation and will also attend the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

I delight in living in a historic home built in 1912. I find happiness in checking items off my never-ending to-do lists, practicing yoga, reading The Sun Magazine, supporting local farmers, learning to standup paddle board, and collecting quotable cards.

A bit about Liz:

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Joos in high school with her Windows of Opportunity college and career advising program. In May of 2012, I graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in Anthropology and Human Biology and a minor in Global Health, Culture, & Society, and could not be more grateful to Dr. Joos for helping me in my acceptance to the perfect college fit.

My introduction to service began as a young child with two parents in the military. When I was not playing sports as a teenager, I loved to volunteer at my local library, homeless shelter, or middle school science summer camp. These volunteer experiences soon turned into ongoing community service activities. My mother believed spring breaks at the beach were too luxurious for high schoolers, so I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church. I fell in love with medicine, other cultures, and decided I wanted to be a doctor. This led me to study Pre-Med and choose my major and minor at Emory, with professors who emphasized community engagement, taught courses in Community Based Service Learning, and urged us to reflect on everything from all perspectives. I was very involved in community service in Atlanta, as well as in Honduras and South Africa.

I value community service for the connections and relationships they create between people. All of my volunteer, internship, and community experiences recently helped grant me acceptance at the University of Florida College of Medicine. I am passionate about my future career of service. I balance work, family, traveling and staying active with helping at the Catholic Worker House in downtown Gainesville, Florida. As an independent and frugal adult, I am pursuing sustainable, local, and free ways to be fully immersed and involved in my community… and loving it!

A bit about the Empowering NobleLeaders Blog Series

We are thrilled to be working with NobleHour to help service learning faculty and community service coordinators find ways to get their students excited about volunteering, the benefits of long-term involvement in community service, and the personal transformation that often occurs. We will explore various topics, learning strategies, and community service programs on this blog, including social entrepreneurship, community service in higher education, how service helps both in college and a career, and leveraging community partnerships. Be on the lookout for our next blog coming soon highlighting how to leverage enthusiasm from MLK-Day service activities (or other Service Plunges) to maintain and sustain long-term involvement.

We're excited to launch this blog series and hope it helps you achieve your goals of engaging students with the community. Please let us know your favorite topics in the comments!

Topics: service learning, service, community service, sustainability, learning strategies, community service programs, social entrepreneurship, higher education, college, career, community partnerships, community service coordinators, community connections

Supporting Sustainability through Volunteering and Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Dec 05, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

 

We have a responsibility to keep the earth healthy.  Here are some simple steps you can take each day to improve the environment, and in addition, some ideas and service projects for sharing these changes with your community.

  • Help create a healthier community by using reusable bags.

    Skip Paper AND Plastic: One of life’s everyday questions: should you take your groceries home in a paper or plastic bag?  It’s one of those decisions we routinely make at the check out line, and it’s an example of how our everyday choices can impact the environment. The truth is neither paper nor plastic is better for the environment.  A better alternative is to purchase a few reusable grocery bags.  These are inexpensive and can be found at almost any grocery store.  Stashing a few of these in your car and remembering to bring them into the store with you is one a simple, sustainable way you can be more environmentally conscious. 

Service Project Idea: Educate members of your community about the impact of paper and plastic bags on the environment, and encourage them to use reusable bags as an alternative.  

 

Become more sustainable by opting out of junk mail.
  • Reduce Junk Mail: According to 41pounds.org, “The average adult receives 41 pounds of mail each year. 44% goes to the landfill unopened.”  Each year, this process results in 100 million trees cut down, 20 billion gallons of water wasted, and 2 billion tons of carbon emitted to produced and transport junk mail. Adding your name to opt-out lists is a simple way to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.  You’ll save time and trees while doing so.

Community Initiative Idea:  Work with your local community to see how you can reduce junk mail.  Encourage your city to organize a mail preference service so residents can easily opt out of junk mail.  Read more about how some cities are helping the environment by reducing junk mail here.
 
 

  • Conserve Water:  Water is a precious resource. The water crisis affects the quality of life of millions of people. In developing countries where clean water is scarce, women in particular are impacted because they need to walk for hours to collect clean water and carry it back.  This deprives them of time that could be used for education or work.  In addition, once water is polluted with chemicals from manufacturing plants and industrial farm fertilizer runoff, it is difficult to separate the clean water from the pollutants.  Water.org has more information about the importance of clean water.  Conserving water is not just about appreciating having clean water; it is also an important step in making sure our planet can continue to sustain the human population.  Imagine a day without water, and you’ll see how important it is to preserve this resource for generations to come.

Improving Your Habits:  Take simple small steps in your routine to reduce your water consumption.  This might entail taking shorter showers, watering plants only when needed, or plugging the sink to rinse your razor instead of letting the water run.  Find over 100 more water-saving tips at wateruseitwisely.com.  


  • Many service opportunities help educate the community about recycling.Recycle: Recycling seems like a no-brainer when it comes to sustainability. The National Park Service reports that “Americans represent 5% of the world’s population, but generate 30% of the world’s garbage.” Reducing waste improves water and air quality, saves money, and reduces the effects of global warming.

Service Project Idea:  While recycling is good, not all materials can be recycled.  This depends on the capabilities of your local recycling plant.  When the wrong plastic is found in a load of recyclables, the whole batch is sometimes discarded, which defeats the purpose of recycling.  Check with your local government and inform yourself on what is and is not accepted in recycling bins.  Then, take this information to your community by educating people on how to maximize the benefits of recycling.  
 
 

  • Build Bat Houses: Bats are a great addition to the environment and are a good pest controller—particularly against mosquitos.  Building a bat house that mimics a bat’s natural habitat helps preserve their livelihood.  Bat house plans are easy to find online.  Eparks.org and the National Wildlife Federation have easy-to-follow instructions on building bat houses.

Service Project Idea: Construct bat houses around your community in parks and schools to teach students and neighbours about the importance of bats in the ecosystem.


  • Creating birdhouses is a fun service project that can help the environment.

    Create Birdhouses: The same idea applies here as with bat houses. Restoring birds’ habitats is a great way to improve your local environment.  Here are some resources about starting birdhouses in you backyards, neighborhoods, parks, and schools: http://www.freebirdhouseplans.net/ and http://www.birdsforever.com/.  

Service-Learning Application: Incorporate this lesson into classrooms by studying the necessities of nesting and the types of birds found in your area.  Then, set up a birdhouse so that students can see these birds first-hand.

 

 

  • Plant Trees: Trees are important to the environment.  They clean the air and produce oxygen for us to breathe.  Trees are often cut down to build buildings, parking lots, and roads, so restoring trees is important to any environment. 

Service Project Idea: Organize a tree-planting day where you and a group of volunteers plant trees in your community.  

What do you think is the most important reason to preserve our environment?  Share your environmentally-friendly service-initiatives on NobleHour to connect with volunteers, schools and organizations interested helping with your cause.

 


Image sources:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/foldablebags_com/4527744948
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaaronfarr/2057913010
http://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/7949833732

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hankinsphoto/6831816406

Topics: education, volunteering, opportunities, engagement, community service, service learning, connecting communities, sustainability

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