Preparing Hearts and Minds
“Whenever we have wanted to start something new, the United Board has helped,” Anita Tiphagne, assistant professor of social work at Lady Doak College in Madurai, India, said. Lady Doak Principal Mercy Pushpalatha wanted to integrate service-learning into every department of the college and, with the commitment of her faculty and a United Board grant, she has been able to introduce Life Frontier Engagement (LFE) into the curriculum for all third-year students. LFE officially began in June 2015.
“Life Frontier Engagement is community-based action research and experiential learning,” Priscilla Jayasingh, the LFE program coordinator, explained. “The goal is to help Lady Doak students mature into socially responsible young women.” Students will better appreciate the relevance of their academic training when they cross the frontier – from the classroom to the community – where they can apply their knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of social dynamics and needs. That approach aligns with the United Board’s emphasis on whole person education, which seeks to prepare students intellectually, socially, and spiritually for rewarding professional and personal lives.
A United Board grant gave the Lady Doak innovators resources to train faculty in LFE principles, adopt a new style of instruction, and write syllabi for courses. Since the Indian education system is classroom-based, faculty also needed to shift their focus to the community. When they consulted with local groups, faculty found a wide range of issues they could draw into the curriculum, such as water quality management, noise pollution, entrepreneurship, and financial inclusion.
The initial results are impressive. One revised curriculum uses the framework of “women and health” and challenges students to examine connections between social problems and women’s health. In sociology and social work, Ms. Tiphagne’s fields of expertise, students are exploring the well-being – physical, social, and psychological – of elderly and adolescent, populations. Integrated study and service will help students better understand the roles that family, government, and social support systems play in promoting well-being.
“Students are excited about going out and doing something in the field,” Dr. Jayasingh says. That’s what she found when she observed service-learning as a United Board Fellow at Mary Baldwin College in 2011. It’s an experience she and her colleagues are confident will prepare the hearts and minds of Lady Doak graduates for the rewards of careers and service to others.