March 28, 2000
by Elliott Lauderdale
Two important meetings were recently held in the area:
One might be challenged to keep the two meetings separate, not because they run together, but in part because so many of the same people attended both. More than the people in attendance, the meetings shared common elements of vision, planning, commitment, study, benchmarks, organization and action.
On the invitation of the USA Office of Academic Affairs and the Service Learning Committee, Dr. Ed Zlotkowski, Senior Associate of the American Association for Higher Education and professor of English and founder of the Service-Learning Project at Bentley College, visited Mobile last month for workshops and a meeting with town and university service- learning participants.
John S. Davis, of Mobile Gas/Energy South and Envision Co-Chair, made inspiring speeches about the Envision Mobile process at the end of the service learning meeting and in the beginning of the Envision Mobile-Baldwin annual meeting.
Outsiders provide a sense of study, a benchmark, a way to note progress and set new goals. At the university meeting Edmund Tsang received a huge hug from Levones DuBose, coordinator of the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering (SECME) program for the Mobile County Public Schools. Spring Hill College, USA and our public schools are becoming better partners in Service Learning. Ms. DuBose, a USA graduate, noted how her mind had changed about the contribution of USA to the African-American community as a result of her experience as a student and with Dr. Tsang and SECME.
At the end of the afternoon workshop for faculty, Ms. Penny Dendy, Director of Volunteer Mobile and statewide leader of Community Service and Service Learning, who planned only to stay a few minutes of the afternoon workshop, was inspired to speak. Some professors are rumored to be uncomfortable with inspiration. Ms. Dendy, who has helped thousands of individuals make a difference in Mobile and has consequently numerous examples to use, described how her son applied his principles to a community architecture project. Auburn and its school of architecture profited from the public relations.
A list of USA Service Learning Project Examples was prepared and made available to participants in the workshop. Please contact the writer if you are interested in this short document or in participating in the Service Learning committee. Dr. Orange leads service learning work at Spring Hill College and participates in the Service Learning Committee. Some Service Learning in Mobile has been documented in past Town and Gown columns and is available on the web at http://entropy.me.usouthal.edu/harbinger/towngown.html.
A few new participants from the faculty and community attended the morning and afternoon workshops. Dr. Sue Walker, Chair of the USA English department, came to the presentation with her colleague from Massachusetts who helps students use the skills and knowledge from college drama classes to teach students in inner city secondary schools. Dr. Walker and many of her student interns were responsible for the publication of Negative Capability.
It was suggested above that public relations goals were served by community service and service learning. Large corporations and many citizens were represented at both meetings. Gigi Armbrecht of Bell South and John Davis of Mobile Gas participated in both meetings. An important point about how service learning is more than public relations was made in one Adult Interdisciplinary Studies project. Organizations' training budgets are smaller if leadership training can take place as part of the process of community service. For example, BellSouth can save human development costs in terms of not only commitment but dollars and cents for leadership training courses by the thoughtful and studied design of service projects that help us move forward on community goals such as those established in the Envision Mobile Baldwin County process. Dr Zlotkowski would like to see educational institutions spend time and resources to design such service learning opportunities for our current and future citizens.
At the Envision meeting community leaders from Montgomery came to learn from us in Mobile. Progress Reports were presented on education, quality of life, infrastructure, economic development, government, and community leadership by some fifteen volunteers: Bradley Byrne of the State School Board, Denise D'Oliveira of Baldwin County Public Schools, Raphael Maharaj of Mobile United Race Relations Committee, George Krietemeyer of Mobile United, Bob Haskins of Keep Mobile Beautiful, Mobile Mayor Mike Dow, Stan Virden of Baldwin Public Transit Coalition, Skeeter McClure of David Volkert Associates, Dr. Kevin White of USA, Michael Pierce of the MLK Redevelopment Corporation, Wendy Allen of Manders & Co, Jim Apple of Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Lance Lacour of the Baldwin County Economic Development Corporation, Christopher Lee of the City of Mobile, and Gigi Armbrecht of BellSouth. Mobile County Commission President Sam Jones called the meeting to order and gave closing remarks.
The results of extensive collaborative and mutually beneficial work are documented in the Envision Mobile - Baldwin 1999 Annual Report and in G. David Johnson and Jenifer Teason's Progress Indicators for Coastal Alabama 2000 Edition. Both of these documents are available from the Envision Mobile Baldwin office at Box 2187, Mobile, AL 36652-2187
One comes away from these meetings with a solid sense that progress against all our problems is possible. At least yearly it pays to remind ourselves of the work we do and have to do in service to our communities.
Dr. Elliott Lauderdale is assistant professor of the University of South Alabama's Adult Interdisciplinary Studies.