Community-Based Learning

What is community-based learning?

In the McGovern Center, we use this definition to help explain this kind of service:

Community-based learning is an intentional pedagogical strategy to integrate student learning in academic courses with community engagement. This work is based on reciprocal and mutually beneficial partnerships between instructors, students, and community groups. The goal is to address community-identified needs and ultimately create positive social change. Critical reflection is an essential component of community-based learning; it serves to enhance students’ learning of course content, understanding of the community, and sense of civic agency.
(Taken from University of Colorado- Boulder CU Engage website:

Here at DWU, the McGovern Center works with faculty and our community partners to help create an engaging, educational service experience for the classroom, that helps to enhance student learning– specifically as it relates to their course curriculum or degree program.

Here are some examples of community-based learning projects we’ve done this year:

The Abbott House

  • DWU Business Finance students helped to teach a financial literacy course to students at the Abbott House.  The girls there learned finance basics, budgeting, goal-setting, credit, and a variety of other topics, while the DWU students were able to explore their own knowledge by teaching what they themselves have learned in the classroom.
  • DWU upper-level Experimental Psychology students assisted in a community-based research project where they provided research into various therapeutic techniques.  They gave a special emphasis to neurofeedback– a technique the Abbott House had been interested in learning more about.  The students then presented the data to the Abbott House staff, which allowed them to move forward in implementing this as a possible route for their organization.

James Valley Community Center

  • DWU Social Psychology students partnered up with members of JVCC and met with them several times throughout the semester to engage in conversation and build relationships.  The students practiced interview skills and learned more about inter-generational relationships.  More importantly, we think, there were some awesome friendships built (that continued even after the project!)
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Community Garden and Mitchell Area Food Pantry

  • Students collected leftover produce from area gardens at the end of the growing season and donated the produce to the food pantry.  These students were taking a class titled, “Ending Hunger”, and learned about food security, access to healthy foods, and nutrition.  Finding out that it is often challenging to have access to healthy, nutritious food when most of your meals come from food pantries, donating fresh produce that would have otherwise gone to waste helped!


PLUS, many, many more!  Feel free to email us if you’d like to keep in the loop about other CBL projects in the future!  We will do our best to keep updating here, too!
Carly Hubers- McGovern Center Program Coordinator-

Community Partner Breakfast

The McGovern Center held our first annual Community Partner Breakfast last week as a way to say “thank you” to the organizations that were directly involved with our center in helping to create service-learning and community-based learning opportunities for our students.  We encouraged our community partners to reach out if they had an idea for a service-learning project or other opportunity for our students to serve.

We also presented the Abbott House with the “Community Partner of the Year” award.  The Abbott House has been especially involved and committed to engaging our students in service and community-based learning projects.  We wanted to thank them, and all of our community partners, for helping to teach our student the importance of service.

Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing a post about community-based learning– what it is and how DWU students have jumped into this kind of service this year!  Check back!


Congratulations to The Abbott House for receiving the McGovern Center “Community Partner of the Year” award!


Third Freedom and MEG- Conference updates

Our UFWH group (also known as Third Freedom) attended the 2017 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit at Walsh University just a few weeks ago.  They participated in discussion about food waste and food security.  Our students, including senior Amy Zeller, even presented about our piggery project taking place in Uganda.

Our McGovern Engagement Group (also known as MEG) just got back this weekend from a Model UN event hosted at the University of Minneapolis.  They each held a specific role, representing a leader from a different country, and engaged issues of security and conflict with other student delegates.  The students did a great job in this completely student-run event!  Check out the photo slideshows below:

UFWH Conference:

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MEG’s Model UN event:

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Sustainable School Lunch Program– it’s working!

As you may remember, a few months ago, some of our DWU students took a trip to Uganda to help our community partners there with a sustainable school lunch program– using hydroponics and other gardening techniques to grow vitamin rich food for their weekly meals at school.

We have good news!!!  From Alisha Vincent,

“The sustainable school lunch program is WORKING! They planted leafy greens just three weeks ago and are already harvesting! Now incorporating this vitamin rich food into their weekly diets at school. They also already planted again. SO AMAZING! Great job team!”

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Conference for Leadership, Innovation, and Social Change

Yesterday’s Conference for Leadership, Innovation, and Social Change was sponsored by the McGovern Center, Kelley Center, and the Stark Lectureship.  We listened to several different speakers– including some of our very own DWU students during the InnovaTalks!  (Our own version of TedTalks.)

The purpose of the conference is to encourage discussion and inspiration around leadership, innovative ideas, and social change.  Check out some of our photos in the slideshow below:

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Presidents’ Day- Trivia Contest

Yesterday was Presidents’ Day!  Dakota Wesleyan didn’t have the day off like some of the local grade schools, but the McGovern Center gave Presidents’ Day a little shout-out with a Presidential Trivia Contest.

Congratulations to DWU student Matt Bader, who answered EVERY question correctly!

Just a few of the questions:
Who was the first president to fly overseas?
Who was the first president to complete a marathon?
Which president had the most children?
Who did George McGovern run against for president?

Do you think YOU have some presidential fun fact knowledge?


Third Freedom- Singing Valentines

Last week, our chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger student group, Third Freedom, hosted their “Singing Valentines” Valentine’s Day Fundraiser.  Some of the Third Freedom students went around to area businesses and sang their hearts out to the staff, shop owners, and anyone they met– collecting donations of support (or perhaps payment to put a stop to the “joyful noise”).  Businesses could then send the singing group on to other area businesses and friends!  The group had a fun and busy day!  All donations help to support the events and programs of the UFWH group.


Stories of Refugees event


Last night, the McGovern Center, along with DWU Campus Ministries, hosted “Stories of Refugees”– an event that invited our community to share and listen to stories of refugees in our area.  Our hope was that last night helped to continue a conversation and to put a human face onto an issue that all too often becomes limited to a political or social media debate.

We had a full house for the event and are so thankful to all those who were willing to share a piece of their story!  Check us out on Keloland and the Daily Republic:


Ralph Helmuth shares his experience working with refugees in Greece.


“What is your understanding of what it means to be a refugee?”


To be civically engaged

Like many of you, I’ve (Alisha) remained social-media-silent on all-things-political for the last several weeks. I’ve been a bit paralyzed by thoughts, not knowing what to say or how to say it. I’m sure many have wondered what I’m thinking, especially given my job as the director of a program that endorses civic engagement, a professor who teaches leadership, and a person who says she loves Jesus.

To be certain, I have a lot of thoughts on what’s been unfolding the last several weeks and, although these sentiments have not found their way to a public platform, they’ve been there in my home, in my workplace, and in my classroom. In case you’re wondering, I DO work REALLY hard to present both sides of the issues in fairness and always encourage people to see the pros and cons of every situation. I’m confident that students would tell you that I’ve remained pretty balanced and focused on helping them be independent thinkers, too.

Here are some sentiments I’ve been glad to share in person and now here, publicly, as well:
I believe in the value of our representative democracy, one in which we elect leaders to represent us and one in which we have the opportunity and constitutional right to stand up, speak out in public and march in opposition when they don’t. I’ve been in places where people do not have this right. I’ve watched what it looks like when a government shuts down social media to deter organized action, suppress voter information and more. It’s not the kind of government I want to live with and I hope you don’t either.

I’ve strongly encouraged my students to be cautious of their news feeds on their social media apps. We need be aware that if we gravitate toward “likes” for the same types of news, information, and posts over and over again then our news feeds will become biased (the systems are designed to give us “what we want to see”). This will set us up for being less objective, less informed, and less likely to be the free thinkers we really think we want to be. We should be noting that Fox News tends to report information one way and CNN another but we should read both (and a lot of other factual news as well). Being informed from multiple perspectives allows us to try to understand the “other” and we will not be able to make good decisions unless we are thinking about something from all sides of the issue. I hope we are encouraging our politicians and our president to do the same.

I’ve worked hard to challenge my students to be engaged and be courageous. Speak up when your friends say something you disagree with. Email your representative when you disagree with them AND when you agree. Pretending that what’s happening in Washington, or in our state legislatures, or in our local governments is not our problem… and when we don’t know how to respond so we don’t… is not the answer. People who crave power often hope that those they are in authority over disengage. It makes their job a lot easier when they can do “whatever they want” without having to be held accountable. So, even if you lack confidence and your words aren’t perfect, there is room for your voice to be heard. Send a two-sentence email. Leave a voicemail. Write a letter. Sign a petition. Tell a representative “thank you” for doing something you agree with. Don’t be intimidated. You have a lot more power than you think you do.

Other words I’ve left behind these weeks are to be kind. Persons whose leadership legacy is the most tarnished are typically those who are/were mean.

And, perhaps the most important sentiment shared in recent weeks and months is to actively listen and speak the truth. Respect diversities of opinions and ideas. Talk about differences and ask a lot of questions. Critically examine opinions and proclamations. Challenge yourself to verify that information is true and know that real facts are not relative. When we stop listening and don’t take the time to reflect on ideas we put ourselves at risk for being easily manipulated.

I have lots of opinions about what’s going on in our state and in our nation today. I’m emailing, calling, attending open forums, and talking to those in my circles about those things I really care about. I’m giving funds to support legal action against things I believe are injustices to my fellow Americans. I’m celebrating that people marched for women and people marched for life and that we can do these things in our democracy.

My parting words for today are these: Listen. Have courage. Be informed. Engage.