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Service Learning Course to Examine AIDS Awareness

Date: March 8, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Photo by Colleen Kelley
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: General News

An AIDS awareness Service Learning course under development at University College was awarded funding from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. UC was one of 20 schools to receive a $3,000 planning grant under the "Bridges to Healthy Communities" program.

University College faculty Jonathan Alexander and Barbara Wallace will use the money to create a language arts course focused on AIDS. The Bridges program funds efforts to educate and inform students about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and AIDS. Alexander is hoping to work with Greater Cincinnati community service agencies such as AVOC, Caracole House, the United Way, and the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department to explore local needs and how they can be applied to the curriculum.

Alexander says the idea for the course came about after he read the growing number of HIV cases reported in the United States. The National Institutes of Health reports 40,000 new HIV infections occur in the U.S. every year and half of the affected population is under the age of 25. "When AIDS was first recognized, it was typically considered to be a disease that affected the gay population, but now the people most at risk are young, straight women and members of the African American community. Yet there's very little social awareness about these communities and their susceptibility to AIDS.

"This course serves an immediate and significant service in helping to educate young people and help them become engaged in issues that are very important to the larger community," says Alexander. "Even more importantly, the service component of these courses will add to their academic rigor as students connect their writing to a real-world issue."

For instance, students enrolling in the future English 102 course will be able to fulfill both the academic and service learning aspects of the course by working with local agencies and researching and developing grants, informational pamphlets and content for web sites, which would make information on local services and prevention more accessible. As the course takes shape, Alexander hopes to extend prevention information by building partnerships with the public schools.

"Service learning has been a part of University College for some time now, and this builds on something we've found - that service learning can be an integral part of any discipline. We actually piloted Service Learning in an English composition course, and I've heard students remark that these courses involve 'real writing for a real audience,'" says Barbara Wallace, director of Service Learning for University College.

Alexander is fine-tuning the curriculum, and he and Wallace will attend a national planning meeting in Washington, D.C. later this month. He plans to have the course ready for the classroom this fall.

Wallace predicts that as the course gets rolling, it could easily cross disciplines. Wallace is also a member of a new university-wide committee established by Provost Anthony Perzigian looking at ways to better coordinate and assess the Service Learning initiative at the university.

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