Suzanne Goodrich

by Suzanne Goodrich, MATC Psychology Department co-chair and service-learning co-coordinator

It seems that “Community Engaged Learning” is the new buzz phrase on college campuses; but, is this a new trend that will be replaced by another “flavor of the day” in a few months – or is Community Engaged Learning something more?  I believe that Community Engaged Learning is much more; woven into the very fabric of MATC, it is an integral part of who we are as an institution of higher education. More than 100 years ago, MATC’s founder Robert Cooley envisioned an education founded on the premise of “practical learning,” a term still used today, “where populations of people from many different backgrounds could come together to experience learning that would directly advance their lives.”

Today we refer to that practical learning as Community Engaged Learning; a phrase that encompasses multiple forms of hands-on learning in the community: clinicals, internships, preceptorships, apprenticeships and service-learning. Community Engaged Learning is deeply rooted in the premise that collaboration between institutions of higher education and the surrounding community share a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources for the benefit of all.

Let’s take a closer look at how Community Engaged Learning impacts students, faculty, the college and the community at MATC. Community Engaged Learning helps student development in five major areas:  academic, personal, interpersonal, civic and career. Academically, students gain a deeper comprehension of course content, a better understanding of the relevance of content in “the real world,” more effective transfer of knowledge and skills from one setting to the other and stronger problem-solving skills. They grow critical and reflective thinking skills. In the area of personal and interpersonal skill development, students develop improved decision making, teamwork, leadership and communication skills. In addition, they demonstrate growth in personal responsibility, empathy and respect for others’ views, beliefs and backgrounds. Civically, students gain increased awareness and respect for the importance of civic participation, deeper connection to the community, as well as active participation in citizenship and involvement in public policy. Finally, students are provided increased opportunities for exploration of career options, application of career skills in real work settings, development of work ethic, as well as links to job placement.

When faculty incorporate activities into the curriculum. they benefit by seeing more engaged and motivated students. As a result, faculty, like their students, experience higher satisfaction with the quality of student learning taking place as students become less passive and begin to take charge of their own learning. Faculty members also gain an opportunity to collaborate within the college and with community partners, allowing them to become more involved with both communities at both a professional and personal level.

The college also gains from Community Engaged Learning endeavors through increased campus-community partnerships and enhanced positive public perceptions of the school. There is a strengthening of the link between academic development and civic and social responsibility. When students are engaged in their learning, student attendance and satisfaction with the college increases, as do retention and persistence rates, leading to higher graduation rates and higher satisfaction with their college educational experience. Additionally, there is increased public knowledge about college programs and educational offerings.

Finally, there is also a positive impact on the local and global communities. The local community gains valuable sharing of expertise, as well as provision of goods and services through campus-community partnerships. There are increased opportunities for collaboration and problem solving that can flow both ways – college to community and community to college.  Positive opportunities are created to build and grow bridges between generations, ethnicities and other demographic groups. Engaged Student Learning experiences foster growth in student respect for community members through development of deeper understanding and shared experiences.  In addition, college resources are indirectly marketed to students and community partners with increased opportunity for the latter to see how the college can positively impact the community. And finally, there is a positive reciprocal public acknowledgement created regarding contributions of college students, their faculty, the college as a whole and the community partners.

In summary, just as a ray of light entering a prism is broken into streams of multiple color frequencies, so are Community Engaged Learning experiences transformed into multiple outcomes that emerge from the prism. Community Engaged Learning opportunities provide multiple avenues for success beyond the formal or traditional educational experience. It offers everyone involved the opportunity to be active, co-facilitators of ongoing lifelong learning. With Community Engaged Learning, everyone wins!

MATC is one of 240 colleges and universities selected by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to receive its 2015 Community Engagement Classification. It is one of eight Wisconsin institutions to receive the classification and the state’s only two-year college to be recognized.

Hear from MATC students Lindsey Smith and Sarah Windler about their experiences with service learning:

Photos from the WTCS Showcase 2015

Students and instructors from the occupational therapy assistant, barber and cosmetology programs represented MATC Feb. 17 at the Wisconsin Technical College System’s Student Showcase 2015. Technical college students from across the state displayed service and experiential learning projects at the state capitol.



For more photos, visit the WTCS’s Facebook gallery: