“Getting a glimpse into the non-profit world” is how St. Olaf student Hannah Westholm described her experience in the course Community Application of Psychology. The month long January course coupled academics, an intensive internship and reflection. As a result, the students gain valuable insight into their future career aspirations and community partners receive talented students working intensively to build the organization’s capacity. Faculty member Dana Gross designed and taught the course and it was supported by the Bringing Theory to Practice grant project created by Nate Jacobi, St. Olaf’s associate director of civic engagement. A snap shot of just three of the students’ projects show the variety and depth of the course:
Hannah Westholm, a junior, worked with Growing Up Healthy, partnering with a MN Campus Compact AmeriCorps College Health Corps VISTA. She helped prepare for a large event, the Mental Health Collective. For the project, Ms. Westholm researched the populations in Rice County with a focus on underserved and minority groups. Her research included the risk factors for mental health issues and measurement of effectiveness that currently exists in the county. She developed a baseline measurement and assessment tool for the entire county which was presented at the Mental Health Collective.
Sara Nobbs, a senior, partnered with the Northfield Area YMCA. Ms. Nobbs created a program evaluation for the YMCA. Throughout the month, she designed five different surveys to evaluate several of the Y’s programs. She was able to launch three of them, analyze the data and write up reports about two of the survey’s findings.
Eric Teachout, a sophomore, interned at Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA). Mr. Teachout completed several projects and tasks with LBSA. He researched and compiled behavioral records and worked with clients through music therapy. He also collaborated with other St. Olaf interns to present to the LBSA faculty on genetics, characteristics and therapies/approaches for Prader-Willi Syndrome.
The course was both challenging and rewarding. Ms. Nobbs felt that her work in the community impacted her experience in the class. She noted that “we read several articles each week and wrote responses papers in which we reflected on how the content of the academic paper was reflected in our internship site.” She also saw the value of the experience for the group overall, “We had great discussions in class because everyone was doing something different in their internship so they could add a different piece to the puzzle in our discussions.”
Mr. Teachout noted that there were challenges as well. “Prior to this course I often approached certain tasks, like school papers, with an easy and slow method, for I enjoy digesting information slowly as I progress through work. However, my real-life experience at my internship, searching through client behavioral records and summarizing data, helped me understand the importance of speed and efficiency when gathering information.”
Overall, it’s clear that the course provided much more than the average class. Community partners throughout Northfield benefited from the work and talent of the students and in return, in the words of Ms. Westholm, the students “had the opportunity to gain such valuable experience and to get a glimpse into the realm of non-profit work.” For more information on the course, see the story here.