State Department Program Sends Civic-minded Leaders to the MidwestJune 11, 2013

Integrating service into the classroom has been a long-standing tradition at Rockhurst University. A tradition that Julia Vargas, director for the center of service learning, and Alicia Douglas, director of community relations and outreach, were glad to share with representatives from around the world.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to share with an international audience the culture of service here at Rockhurst,” Douglas said. “Service is embedded in our curriculum and it has proliferated organically within the student body.”

On Monday, the University played host to visitors from Brazil, Israel, Iraq, Ukraine, Ireland and India as a part of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Some of the program’s goals include examining the role youth play in American civil and economic society; how society fosters youth development and empowerment; the creating of an action plan for a campaign or social good project they can begin in their home country; learn about fundraising and sustainability for projects; and learn how they can use technology and social media to make a difference.

Hilly Hirt, the representative from Israel, said she was very interested in the University’s ability to integrate service in the classroom because that was something that wasn’t in the culture of university academics in Israel.

She said as all universities in Israel are public, there was more of an emphasis on research and traditional classroom work, but she wanted to see some sort of service component being integrated into a student’s education.

For 90 minutes, the two Rockhurst staffers engaged in a conversation where they shared their experience and knowledge on Jesuit philosophies, the importance of the school creating men and women for others and how service learning became a part of the coursework.

“I think they learned a great deal about how we facilitate service, how we champion partnerships and good relationships with nonprofit organizations in the city,” Douglas said. “Our guests also learned how we are committed to our neighborhood in the urban core.”

During the group’s six-day stay in Kansas City, they took part in the Kansas City Mayor’s challenge cabinet, visited Google Fiber, volunteered for Harvesters and participated in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s social entrepreneurial challenge.

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