Monthly Archives: August 2010

Edible Landscapes

By Lucy Marincel

Fall is almost here and college campuses around the state are gearing up for another busy year.  Besides the usual class schedule changes and new student orientations, a group of volunteers from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) have some other, tasty work cut out for them.

Last spring, a group of UMD students, faculty, staff and campus organizations came together to create the Edible Landscape Garden project.  Inspired by a similar project in San Francisco, the group intended the gardens to be a learning tool about sustainability and healthy eating and, in the case of one of the gardens, to be a pilot experiment to lower the temperature under the garden.  The hard work of planning and planting last spring and upkeep all summer means that students come back this fall to potatoes, carrots and onions, among other things, that need harvesting.  Candice Richards, Associate Director of UMD’s Facilities Management says that once students are back in school, the planning committee will set some dates for harvest activities, mostly likely in late September.

Besides the other advantages, the edible landscapes project has created community connections for the university.  The fact that the burlap sacks that form the outside perimeter were donated by a local business, Alakef Coffee Roasters, is just one example of how the community has connected with the university around the gardens.  A bus tour of gardens sponsored by the local public television station stopped on campus to check out the gardens.  Several summer youth groups have also stopped by to see the gardens and the nearby daycare center has brought over children several times, who helped plant a few seeds of their own.

The trend of gardens on college and university campuses seems to be growing.  Besides providing fresh produce and lessons in sustainability, these gardens can be a great place to build communities relationships and inspire students and community alike to become further engaged in community partnerships.

To learn more about UMD’s garden, see If your college, university or community has a garden with an eye toward civic engagement, please let us know!

College Athletes & Community Engagement


By Maria Ortiz

Athletics can teach fair play, character and a form of enhanced intellect, as student-athletes are forced to mature individually while also being responsible to the group.  They develop self-esteem, learn to develop healthy relationships as well as healthy lifestyles and learn to manage emotions.

Campuses should be committed to providing opportunities for student-athletes to excel in the classroom and be leaders on campus and in the community.  It is important to recognize that athletes need to get out into the community as often as possible with an emphasis on scholarship and the importance of academic excellence.

A challenge to student-athletes should be to give back to their communities and to individuals in need. This form of engagement may encourage more deliberation in decision-making in order to mitigate potentially poor judgments in compromising circumstances. Instead of getting involved with drugs, alcohol, or gambling, the student-athletes may have built up a foundation of beliefs and core values to withstand peer pressure or boredom. Participation in an institutionally controlled community service program has the potential to produced notions of social responsibility, personal improvement, and future intentions to volunteer beyond college.

Sports have the ability to bring people together. Athletic involvement is at the core of student and community life and is a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks, as well as promote the ideals of peace, organization, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice. It’s not enough for these institutions to just dispense knowledge and do research. The goal should be to become an integral part of the community and the world.

As the word gets out to the public that student-athletes are volunteering and doing good deeds in the local areas, more community members will want to associate with the teams, or will be more loyal than they previously were. The increase of fans, and more loyal fans, means more ticket sales and more merchandise sales, which ultimately translates to more revenue for the schools. While the athletic department does have to expend funds to support the community service programs, the positive effects experienced by the student-athletes, the communities, and the school, have the potential to far outweigh those preliminary costs. This in the end is a mutually beneficial relationship, where all parties are reaping the benefits of living, working, and being in community.

Examples of college athletes engaged in their communities

American Conversations at St. Olaf College

By Maria Ortiz

American Conversations (AmCon) is a learning community that introduces students in their first two years at St. Olaf College to the liberal arts through a sequence of four civically engaged courses. Assistant Professor of History Eric Fure-Slocum has adopted the theme of citizenship for his two-year tenure as AmCon lead teacher. Over the two year span students have had the opportunity to pursue the conversations that have shaped the history and culture of the United States. From the beginning, the AmCon program has encouraged students to seek to live Thomas Jefferson’s dream that free and educated citizens should learn to understand what is going on in the world, and to keep their part of it going right. With this model in mind, students dedicated two years of their life to learning about, practicing, and knowing the enlightened citizenry indispensable for us to thrive as a nation.

American Conversations

Click image for more information about American Conversations at St. Olaf

The idea behind AmCon is to have conversations about American values, and our role in the world.  What exactly are America’s values? What do we mean when we talk about freedom, rights, and justice for all? What is the American dream, and where did it come from?  The conversations that students engage in move through history, literature, art, and a variety of social sciences focusing on what students now refer to as “dense facts”. Most of all, this two year experience is a community where everyone learns by having conversation — with professors, with the material, and with each other.

The first sequence of courses provided the opportunity to think about voting, specifically the ways in which the practice of voting shapes American citizenship and identity. Students worked in groups in the Northfield, Minnesota area to register people who had not already registered to vote. Students also spoke to Northfield High School social studies classes about the importance of being active in their community and nation by voting. Some students also volunteered to be trained and fill a full shift on Election Day as an Election Judge.

The second sequence in the course focused on sustainability in Northfield and the nearby area. Students discovered how Northfield came to be by examining project sites historically, culturally, socially, environmentally and physically as the landscape was made and re-made throughout time.

In the second year students focused on immigration, migration and ethnicity in early- 20th- century U.S. Students created a workable curriculum for middle school or high school students and discovered resources and great examples of what works to best to support the immigrant population in Northfield.

The final sequence provided a perspective to understanding globalization and citizenship. Students focused on America’s past and present global presence. Students created a segment for local radio stations based on their research.

AmCon gave students the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and articulate what they had learned over the two years. Nate Jacobi, Assistant Director of Civic Engagement in the Center for Experiential Learning facilitated the final conversation. Students had a pre-class assignment to journal about the impact AmCon had on their education as well as their impact beyond the classroom. During their last session together students created a timeline of their experiences together, then broke into small groups to discuss their future plans, what skills they developed, and what civic engagement means to them.

Students agreed that understanding how things work and finding ways to use resources and connections to help the community is important. The two years these students had together working in community, collaborating, and making change was invaluable. According to Jacobi, AmCon provides a deeper form of service-learning profoundly affecting both students and the Northfield community.