209670 “Will they really use our work?” The Importance of University/Community Partnerships in Creating Relevant Service Learning Assignments

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 8:35 AM

Jean M. Breny Bontempi , Department of Public Health, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT
Chris Cole , AIDS Project New Haven, New Haven, CT
Engaging public health students in learning the critical skills of conducting community-based participatory community assessments is made much more relevant when they are able to partner and collaborate with the community in a “real world” class exercise. This presentation will highlight an example of successful collaborative work with a community-based organization and a graduate community health education class to complete an agency-wide assessment for the agency's strategic planning process. The project was designed and implemented entirely with equal partnership between course faculty and students and staff of AIDS Project New Haven (CT). Barriers to requiring service learning assignments, like this, from graduate students include their full-time work schedules, personal lives, and commuting distances resulting in a lack of time needed for students to work on-site at an agency. This experience showed that by taking on a participatory approach to conducting assessments and assigning students to working groups that met their own needs, the success of completing project was increased. The results for students, in working on a real project that will help an organization do its work better, was a motivating aspect of the process was the realization that their work would be used by the organization to improve services. By collaborating with community organizations, linking current public health issues at the local community level, and by researching organizations in the community, students realized that even the most diverse populations can be united by common goals. Making a “real difference” in the “real world” is at once inspiring and empowering.

Learning Objectives:
Describe one way to engage students in a community-based assessment project List one way to organize students into working groups for a real-life community assessment project Give a rationale for utilizing university-community partnership work in the classroom

Keywords: Health Education, HIV/AIDS

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: PI of the study
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.