Center for Citizenship & Social Justice (CCSJ) Updates
- Author: Tuesday, September 11th, 2018
Wishing a warm welcome back to Western Kentucky University from the staff of the Center for Citizenship & Social Justice (CCSJ)! This year we will see some exciting changes to the Center. We have moved our location, so we are now at the top of the Hill in the Diversity & Community Studies house. We are a new and proud member of the Potter College of Arts & Letters (PCAL) and look forward to working closely with the various departments, faculty, staff, and students of PCAL. We are dedicated to our mission of providing academic and extra-curricular experiences for the WKU community to empower and inspire deeper levels of engagement with complex social issues. To showcase this, we will publish a monthly spotlight post that will feature members of the WKU community who are putting this mission into action through engaged teaching and learning.
This September, our spotlight shines on Professor Barry Kaufkins. Kaufkins has been a professor in the Folk Studies department at WKU since 2005 but started teaching as a graduate assistant in 2002. He teaches several courses, including Flk 330: Cultural Connections and Diversity. In this class, Kaufkins challenges students to gain an understanding of diversity through project-based learning. Originating as a class with a broad issues focus, he developed the course over time to focus on the social issue of food insecurity, a topic for which he shares a special passion. The class features traditional methods of lecture and testing. However, the prominent feature of the course is the semester-long service-learning project. The students, divided into small groups, are tasked with developing a relationship with a community partner who has expertise in combatting food insecurity. The relationship is reciprocal, with the students lending their skills and knowledge to the partnering organization and the community partner serving as a co-educator for the students about the social issue being addressed. Kaufkins believes that this is the best structure for a class that focuses on diversity, stating, “Any discipline that includes the study of people could benefit from service-learning or applied learning.”
As a student of this class in Spring of 2018, I can attest to the value of this applied learning experience. Through work with a topic previously unfamiliar to me, I dug deeper into the complex dimension of diversity, inclusion, and social work regarding food and hunger in Bowling Green. Professor Kaufkins complicated diversity for me, while also expanding my grasp as to how it affects the community around me. The success of this learning experience and the take-away for students is not unique, as Kaufkins remains very pleased with the results of his applied-learning classroom, maintaining the belief in concrete examples leading to a more concrete understanding of the curriculum.
Kaufkins also discusses his interaction with the CCSJ as a resource for his project-based learning course. CCSJ provided support through service- learning grants, connections to local community partners, and technical and moral support throughout the learning process. Kaufkins also noted the importance of the service-learning training given to him from the Center’s Director, Leah Ashwill.
Overall, the style of learning and level of engagement within Professor Kaufkins’s Cultural Connections & Diversity class lends to success in accomplishing WKU’s mission to prepare students to be productive, engaged citizen leaders. The CCSJ hopes to see even more members of our WKU community serving as public problem-solvers and effective agents of change by making positive impacts on important social issues through teaching and learning. By introducing community partners and unfamiliar social issues into a classroom, Kaufkins shapes students into engaged, experiential learners.
Check in next month to read about our next feature, Dr. Saundra Ardrey of Political Science and African American Studies programs at WKU.