- Engaging the Whole of Service-Learning, Diversity, and Learning Communities
After reading the title of the book edited by Galura, Pasque, Schoem, and Howard—Engaging the Whole of Service-Learning, Diversity, and Learning Communities—a whole lot of questions arose: Is this yet another bandwagon book that simply argues that service-learning, diversity, and learning communities are good? Can a single edited book address these three often haphazardly used, but seldom carefully defined issues in a substantive manner? What are the interrelationships between these three ideas; should they be interconnected? Will readers think differently and more complexly about these issues after completing this text? The skepticism embedded in these questions arises from the historically glib and superficial treatment [End Page 566] of these important matters. It is difficult to oppose diversity, service-learning, and learning community initiatives; yet it is equally difficult to define, educate, and invoke meaningful action around an integrated treatment of these topics. After reading Engaging the Whole of Service-Learning, Diversity, and Learning Communities in its entirety, a whole lot of thought-provoking and satisfying answers to these questions resulted.
The heart of the book is a comprehensive overview and analysis of the University of Michigan's Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP)—in particular its infrastructure, history, and culture. The contributors also address how this unique program responds to the University's desire to bolster its diversity, service-learning and learning community initiatives. MCSP, a voluntary residential on-campus community, brings together diverse students, faculty, staff, and local community activists for reflection, dialogue, and action by sponsoring interdisciplinary-based seminars (e.g., music, sustainability, and democracy topics), residential camaraderie, and numerous off-campus field experiences (e.g., service-learning outings). MCSP began as a small living-learning program that aided with the transition from high school to college and has become a nationally recognized living-learning program where students utilize what they learn in every aspect of the program.
The MCSP's four learning outcomes reveal much about the program's ideology and implementation strategies and are themes that dominate nearly every chapter in the book. The outcomes include: (a) deep learning (i.e., teachers and learners engaging with ideas), (b) an engaged community (i.e., a safe, accepting, and participatory scholarly community), (c) meaningful civic engagement and community service-learning (i.e., establishing long term reflection, leadership development, sustainable university-local community partnerships), and (d) diverse democracy, intercultural understanding, and dialogue (i.e., engaging in intercultural dialogue, valuing democracy, reflecting on social justice, and modeling good practice). The authors persuasively and persistently argue that higher education's future hinges on college curriculums (i.e., what goes on in the classroom) and cocurriculums (i.e., life outside the classroom) that focus on these three issues (i.e., service-learning, diversity, and learning communities) and four learning outcomes. More importantly, contributors argue that universities should interconnect these innovations to achieve a "synergism, which broadens and deepens our educational agenda" (p. iv).
The four editors divide this 21-chapter book (with 50 contributors) into four sections. Part I, "National Trends in Higher Education: Service-Learning, Diversity and Learning Communities," includes brief essays from five national scholars who provide theoretical overviews of and rationales for the reoccurring themes such as diversity, social justice, learning communities, leadership, service-learning, civic engagement/education, community-based teaching, and innovative leadership.
The remaining three sections favor practitioners, organized around a series of local case studies written by a wide range of MCSP stakeholders (e.g., students, faculty, program administrators, internship supervisors). Part II, "Innovative Program Models that Engage the Whole," provides an exhaustive overview of the MCSP's conceptual underpinnings, goals, practices, successes, and challenges—necessary context for the case studies that follow. Part III, "Integrative Course Models: Collaborations of Faculty, Students, Staff, and Community Partners," includes nine chapters replete with numerous examples of integrative [End Page 567] seminar models where MCSP faculty members collaborate with students, community agencies and activists to design and...