Students earn course credit through Academic Community Engagement

Kelsee Brady, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

There are many ways to get involved in the community through either volunteer projects with clubs or scholarships. Academic Community Engagement (ACE) courses provide students with a way to not only help the community through volunteer work but also receive college credit. These courses have similar aspects as other courses at Berry, however, community projects are a major part of the class.

In the communication department, Kimberly Field-Springer teaches an ACE course called Cases and Campaigns. Students in the class are paired with a community partner and assist with a public relations project within the nonprofits and businesses. This semester, three groups are paired with the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia, and the National Communication Association Anti-Bullying Resource Center.

Through these partnerships, students are using their skills to help with branding and health and awareness campaigns. Field-Springer believes that this is one of the more valuable aspects of the course.

“The knowledge that you learn from a textbook can only take you so far,” Field-Springer said. “It’s really getting out of the academic silos and doing the work is when we learn how to apply the concepts.”

This class is one of many ACE classes that go out into the Rome and Floyd County area to assist with community projects. Laurie Chandler, director of Bonner Scholars, shared more about the many non-profits and businesses that Berry students work with throughout the year. Some of the many partners include Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Senior Care, Open Door Home, the E.C.O. Center, the Floyd County Prison and many more. According to Chandler, these partners support Berry students because they aspire to help others.

“This idea that Berry breeds in all students, this concern for civic engagement and making the places we live, and work, and serve better, it permeates your time at Berry, but I think people take that with them,” Chandler said.

One interesting ACE course is in the sociology department and taught by Sarah Allred, associate professor of sociology and anthropology. The course, Sociology of Disability, is part of the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program. Half of the students enrolled in this course are Berry students while the remaining students are inmates at the Floyd County Prison.

Allred explained that students have different reasons for wanting to take the course, but most of them commit because of the advantage that it can provide them in their future careers. The class is also a way for inmates to learn and be engaged in a classroom setting, but also to escape the prison atmosphere.

“If I had to pick a phrase that best described it, it would be that it’s relational learning,” Allred said. “You learn with people and through people, and not just about people, and that’s true about the whole class experience.”

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