English professor wins inaugural service-learning award | UPDATED

April 07, 2011

Julia Jasken’s efforts to include community-supported education in her students' learning opportunities earned her the inaugural Faculty Award for Outstanding Service-Learning for the state of Maryland.

The Service Learning and Civic Engagement award is sponsored through the annual service-learning conference of the Maryland Compass Compact, an association of colleges and universities that promotes engaged citizenship as an aim of higher education. The award was presented April 9 during the Service Learning and Civic Engagement conference.

Julia Jasken, second from left, with McDaniel juniors Megan Franey, Sara Krome and Megan Robinson at the April 9 Service Learning and Civic Engagement conference during which the students presented their service-learning project which involved working with non-profits to incorporate social media in their marketing.

“For me, community outreach is a key part of a liberal arts education,” Jasken says, explaining that she sees a difference in her students’ work when they are engaged with real audiences as they are in her Writing for Non-Profit Organizations class. “The quality of what they produce is greater, their learning is deeper and their engagement with materials is more active.”

Jasken practices what she teaches.

She designed the Writing for Non-Profits course that sends students into the field to work for local non-profits. She helped three students win the Griswold-Zepp Award for Volunteerism to fund their project, “New Technologies for Nonprofit Communications and Marketing,” helping 15 local agencies use social media. And, she started and annually organizes Operation Prom Dress, for which she and her students have collected about 350 gently used prom dresses to send to a disadvantaged community in West Virginia.

Junior Betsy Warner and senior Jenny Wallace at the April 9 Service Learning and Civic Engagement conference during which they presented, with Foreign Language professor Amy McNichols, McDaniel’s 8-year-old student volunteer organization “Palabras 2 Words,” which offers free one-to-one tutoring to English learners in the community.

By the end of the semester, the students who have taken Writing for Nonprofits in the past three years it has been offered will have clocked an impressive 1,944 hours helping nearly 30 organizations with researching and writing grants, developing brochures, planning special events, and updating their web content and social media strategies, notes Tara Kaley, faculty liaison for service learning at McDaniel’s Center for Community Outreach and Service, in her nomination of Jasken for the award.

Jasken serves as assistant director and media program coordinator for a month-long experiential summer bridge program at McDaniel, which serves high school students from three of the poorest school districts in Washington, D.C. In 2011, the Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) established by D.C. College Success Foundation, in partnership with McDaniel College will enroll 275 students. She is also responsible for developing the curriculum for the media component of the program, in which students learn how to use Flip cameras as a way of connecting their personal lives to their academic experiences, according to Kaley.

“Julia exemplifies the spirit of committed service learning and community engagement at McDaniel,” says colleague Kathy Mangan, English professor.

First-year students Cindy Reid and Kelini Coker with McDaniel’s Leadership Engagement and Development Program (LEAD) and LEAD graduate assistant Ben Cowman at the April 9 Service Learning and Civic Engagement conference.

While the broader push to integrate service learning on campus is relatively new, various forms of service learning and community service have played a role in the McDaniel experience for many years. For the past two decades through McDaniel’s VITA program, students have provided free tax preparation for low- to mid-income taxpayers who would otherwise have to pay for the service.

In recent years, community-supported learning has gained traction at McDaniel, Jasken says, noting courses and projects in Social Work, Psychology, Sociology and other departments that “embrace the community as a full partner in learning.”

“I was completely surprised,” Jasken says. “It’s an honor to be nominated and an honor to be selected – and it speaks to how much commitment Tara (Kaley) has to service learning that she nominated me. She has been so much a part of our successes.”