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Students Receive a Stewardship Lesson from a Communication CoursePosted Feb. 21, 2011
Kent State University at Stark’s Communication Studies Program launched the Organizational Training and Development course in fall 2010. Initiated by Lisa Waite, the class’s 14 junior- and senior-level communication majors signed up for the course with no idea what they were in for.
“I promised them that if they really engaged themselves in this class, they would leave here with more than a letter grade and three credit hours,” says Waite.
Using a $1,000 grant from Kent State University’s Service Scholar Award, Waite chose the United Way of Greater Stark County’s 2-1-1 Referral System as the focus of the course. The purpose of the intensive, 14-week class is to prepare students for training roles in profit and nonprofit environments. “For this service-learning course, my goal was to allow the students to recognize and gain a greater sense of stewardship, civic duty and a ‘sense of one-anothering,’ ” says Waite.
Their first introduction to the United Way campus was through a tour of the facility, led by Sherri McKinney-Frantz, the director of United Way’s 2-1-1 referral department. They observed the call center, where a staff of seven, plus two volunteers, handles an average of 2,000 calls per month from area residents who need public assistance, counseling, access to food and shelter providers, information on community volunteer opportunities and other human services.
The students were then charged with designing a needs assessment for the department. This included building a questionnaire and several interviews with staff members to determine what, if any, training needs exist. Listening emerged as the most required skill to effectively serve the callers.
Taking this into account, the students wrote a prospectus, developed learning modules, prepared a training manual and designed a quantitative feedback form. They used these tools to construct their one-hour presentation at the end of the semester. Their on-site audience consisted of the United Way 2-1-1 personnel, in addition to a few Kent State Stark faculty and staff. The presentation was very well received by the United Way staff.
“United Way’s 2-1-1 had a wonderful experience with Professor Waite and her students from Kent State,” says McKinney-Frantz. “They did a thorough needs assessment, developed training specifically for us and then facilitated it in a professional manner. It was a pleasure to work with each of them!”
Waite proudly watched as the students grew personally, professionally and academically during the semester. “After seeing how the United Way connects people who are down on their luck with services like the free clinic and soup kitchens, they realized how fortunate they are. It is a privilege to usher students into their future as tomorrow’s leaders,” she says. “To me, this is what teaching is all about.”
This communication major elective will be back on the schedule for fall 2011. As for the course’s pioneers, Waite says, “I believe they came away from this semester with the understanding that life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I hope this experience helps them become lifelong stewards.”By Cynthia Williams