LSU Professor Recognized with Outstanding Faculty Award at National Service-Learning Conference
BATON ROUGE – Sharon Williams Andrews, instructor in the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences’ Department of English, was recently recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Contributions to Service-Learning Award at the 2011 Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education.
As a service-learning practitioner since 2000, Andrews has provided innovative, creative service-learning experiences for more than 2,000 English composition, poetry and first-year writing students who learn how the power and beauty of language is connected to societal change. Since 2002, Andrews’ students have partnered with Connections for Life, a 12-month transitional housing and re-entry program that serves women coming from prison, treatment facilities, battered women’s shelters and other referral agencies. Each woman is provided an initially rent-free, fully furnished apartment, clothing, food, job placement assistance, financial management assistance and access to medical care. The objective of the program’s services is to empower each woman to achieve economic self-sufficiency, physical well-being and emotional healing.
Andrews’ students serve at the thrift store alongside the Connections women while learning about each resident’s unique life circumstances and decisions leading up to her involvement with Connections. Andrews encourages her students to use writing and poetry as a tool for exploring connections between their class work and their community work.
“Sharon has an openness about the service-learning experience for her students,” said Karen Stagg, executive director of Connections for Life. “While she makes sure the course objectives are achieved, she allows space for the students to interject new ideas and thoughts into the semester’s activities. She wants her students to engage and realize that we’re all stakeholders in our community and that we have a place and voice about how our community behaves and looks.”
Andrews’ contagious enthusiasm for writing and her efforts to involve her community partner in all aspects of the class provide a rich experience for her undergraduate students and community partner as well. In addition to working alongside the LSU students at the thrift store, the Connections for Life women have worked together with the students drafting newsletters and small grant proposals. The residents also share in classroom discussions, coming to LSU and discussing how particular poems reflect their lived experiences.
“The service-learning students bring fresh eyes, ideas and questions that help us to continue improving our program and fulfilling our mission of serving women in need,” said Stagg. “Often the students are unknowingly self-esteem boosters for the women we serve. It usually surprises the woman that the students are interested in knowing her story. She is encouraged to know that by sharing about herself and her mistakes that maybe she can help the students make better choices for themselves. To witness the students and the women interact and develop relationships is a wonderful example of community at its best.”
Andrews was recognized during the ninth annual Gulf-South Summit held in Roanoke, Va., attended by approximately 350 administrators, faculty and staff engaged in service-learning at colleges and universities throughout the nation. Since 2003, the summit has recognized LSU service-learning with 11 awards ranging from Outstanding Community Partner to Outstanding Practitioner. Last year, LSU brought home four of the summit’s five awards.
Andrews has also been recognized with the TIAA-CREF Outstanding Service-Learning Faculty Award in 2004 and Outstanding LSU Service-Learning Faculty Award in 2000.
“Sharon’s classes are exemplary models of service-learning that include all of the principles of effective practice,” says Christy Kayser Arrazattee, assistant director of the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL. “For thousands of LSU students, Sharon’s class has been their first introduction to service-learning. Many of them come back as seniors to tell us that her class had a profound impact on their college experience.”
The LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership promotes learning, student leadership and community engagement through service-learning activities and community partnerships. For more information, visit http://www.ccell.lsu.edu.