MSUB students make a difference through service-learning
December 8, 2014
Jennifer Randall, Office for Community Involvement, 896-5815
Cassie Winter, University Relations and Communications intern, 657-2266
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Rather than sitting in a classroom taking a final exam, a class of Montana State University Billings students demonstrate what they’ve learned through community service.
Armed with piles of coats and sleeping bags, Amy Stuckey, a sophomore communications major, and her classroom group made their way through Tumbleweed Runaway Program’s doors in recent weeks. The items were a donation for runaway and homeless youth, and part of the course’s final project.
Over the course of the semester, the group gathered more than 300 articles of warm weather clothing including hats, gloves, and coats and about $150 worth of gift cards to contribute to the organization’s efforts to serve homeless and at-risk youth.
“This project made me think bigger, like what can I do next to help,” Stuckey said. “I want to keep going.”
The sophomore-level communications course is designed to provide hands-on experience to learn the dynamics of communication in small groups through service learning. Communications university lecturer Melinda Tilton said the coursework goal is for students to learn by doing something meaningful and applicable.
“The class has gradually evolved to be more and more focused on enhancing student learning and engagement,” Tilton said. “I aim to have students discover their strengths and passions by making a difference in our community while applying everything they learn in class.”
At the beginning of the course, students divide into a few small groups and decide on a nonprofit to partner with for the semester.
One group of six students joined up with Help for Homeless Pets, an animal shelter with an ongoing need of blankets and towels to help fight the frigid winter temperatures.
“Helping animals is the first thing that came to mind when talking about a community outreach project,” student Samantha McLeod said. “Homeless animals are often forgotten about, and if I can do anything to help, I will.”
The group distributed donation boxes throughout Billings and the university campus. More than 100 cats and dogs are living at the no-kill shelter at any given time, making the demand for blankets and food high, according to Angie Cook, HHP executive director.
The third group worked together with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yellowstone County, an organization that pairs high-risk children with mentors. Student Alesha Erfle previously volunteered with BBBS and brought attention to the group about the ongoing need for volunteer mentors to be “Bigs” to about 75 young “Littles.”
“It is something that would benefit the children in our community,” Erfle said.
With the group’s community outreach efforts, they recruited six new volunteers for the organization.
MSUB’s Service Learning Coordinator Jennifer Randall said when service learning is incorporated into coursework it provides students opportunities for networking with potential employers by highlighting students’ talents and skills.
“Service learning is really an excellent opportunity,” Randall said. “Our students get a hands-on learning experience all while learning to be civically engaged citizens of their community.”
For more information about service learning, contact Randall in the Office for Community Involvement at 896-5815.
PHOTO: Communications students cart donation items into the Tumbleweed Runaway Program facility.