By Ryan McLaughlin
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Service. Learning. Team. Project. Four words that can make any college student cringe. However, any student taking Business and Professional Communication with Dr. Wood this semester, will experience these new additions to the course.
Dr. Jennifer Wood, who has taught at Penn State New Kensington since 1999, decided to add this project to her Business and Professional Communication class as a means to help her students learn. “Students learn by doing,” she said. “The community gets its needs met.”
Dr. Wood also says that the campus is focusing on the issue of poverty in the community. To this end, Dr. Wood sought out the Bridges program at Westmoreland Community Action, to see about a service-learning opportunity for her class.
For a true service-learning project, Dr. Wood said that the project needs to both benefit the class and the community. “Service-learning has a hyphen between it,” she said. “And that’s because both of those things have to happen.”
The project will both fit the needs of the class and help parts of the community. The students will work in teams to create materials based around the employment process. Additionally, they will create materials based around interviewing skills, resume writing, and numerous topics all revolving around obtaining a profession.
Bill Connolly is the Director of Community Support Programs for Westmoreland Community Action (WCA), and is Dr. Wood’s contact for the service-learning project. He explained that the materials are part of their Bridges program. The materials will be used in the classes the WCA has to help their low income clients. “We are really excited about how our relationship with Penn State has come about in recent years,” Connolly said.
The students are also excited about the opportunity for the class. Darren Myers, Junior Corporate Communications Major, said that he likes the idea behind the project and that, “(It’s) preparing us for the actual corporate world.”
He explained that students have to apply and interview for their positions on the project, which will help students in the future. Myers is in charge of the interview process of his work at Aéropostale and said that he has employed some of the techniques as an interviewer that were brought up in the course. Myers noticed the format of this class is different from previous courses he has had with Dr. Wood.
Dr. Wood also admitted that the project is an experiment for the course. “It could be a complete disaster,” she said. “I’m expecting a number of bumps along the way.”
She explained that she hopes her students produce something worthwhile that can be used for the WCA. She will be taking notes along the way and plan changes and adjustments for the next time she teaches this course. Both Dr. Wood and Connolly want to continue the service-learning project for years to come.
Service-learning is not the only new experience for Dr. Wood. Last year, she became the Discipline Coordinator for the Arts and Humanities in University College. Essentially, she provides a perspective for the evaluations performed by the Director of Academic Affairs for faculty in the Arts and Humanities.
“If the Director of Academic Affairs has a background in mathematics and is evaluating a language professor, the Discipline Coordinator can say these are the norms of the discipline or these are the expectations in terms of teaching, researching, or service,” Dr. Wood said.
“I’m new to administration,” Dr. Wood said. “It’s kept me busy.” Her new position has required more of her time. She has to travel to the various campuses that fall under the University College and provide that perspective during evaluations.
Despite Dr. Wood’s new challenging position, her and her Business Communications class are looking forward to the semester.