New year, new approach to community-based learning at ISS

Happy New Year from the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State!

With every new year comes the opportunity to take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going and ISS is pleased to announce a new approach to our community-based learning projects that build on our years of experience working with partners in and around Portland to provide educational experiences that improve the sustainability of our communities.

PSU students engage in meaningful projects with partners of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions. PSU has long been known for its service learning. Through capstone programs and to support its identity as an urban-serving university, Portland State has been a steady partner to organizations across the city. Building on that legacy, ISS has built a practice of supporting the sustainability goals of its partners through community-based learning projects.

Over the years, programs like the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative and the Climate Action Collaborative, have delivered strong results for our partners—and they’ve also taught us quite a bit about the best ways to engage with them.

We’ve learned that the length of an academic term, while it may feel like an eternity to a student, goes by in the blink of an eye for our community partners, making it difficult achieve meaningful progress.

Building on this feedback, ISS is entering the new year with a refined approach to community-based coursework. As we start planning community project-based learning for the 2018-19 academic year, ISS will prioritize deep and long-term engagements. These engagements can take one of the following forms: multiple terms with the same faculty; same term with multiple faculty; multiple terms with multiple faculty.

What this means for community partners is that their goals and projects will receive more sustained and dedicated attention from our expert faculty members and their motivated students. Faculty and students in turn will engage in more effective research and learning programs.

To learn more about our new approach and the professional development opportunities it provides for faculty members, we’ve put together a summary of how we’ll be handling project-centered course engagements and posted it online. We’d love to hear from faculty who are interested in getting involved—register your interest by completing this online form. In addition, faculty can attend a short information session on February 8th at 3:00 p.m., immediately prior to the Faculty Fellows Winter Reception.  

We also invite community organizations who are interested in working with ISS and our Faculty Fellows to get in touch soon so we can start planning with you for the 2018-19 academic year. Spend some time on our website to read examples of community-based learning work that ISS has led with our faculty and students in the past. Partners and potential partners with project ideas that could benefit from multi-course engagements are encouraged to reach out to Beth bgilden@pdx.edu or Jihane jnami@pdx.edu.

Even as we move forward in 2018 with a newly refined approach, we are continuing to learn from the partners ISS has worked with in the past. Our staff is conducting interviews and admistering surveys throughout January that will provide additional feedback about how we engage with the community.

We look forward to applying new lessons as we continue to develop meaningful and effective partnerships that deliver both quantifiable results and fantastic learning experiences.