Liberating Service Learning: Conversation with Prof. Randy Stoecker

Liberating Service Learning, Act 1

  For this January 2020 podcast, Lucia and Tina spoke with Randy Stoecker, Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, with a joint appointment in the Center for Community and Economic Development. Stoecker works in two spheres, the university and its extension program. Some recent courses include “Community Organizing” and “Research Design and Practice in Sociology.” In part one of the podcast Stoecker discusses the importance of studying change and making change, connecting students with community partners. Stoecker challenges traditional institutionalized service learning and the assumptions of higher education civic engagement as a volunteer pipeline (that connects with future careers). In other words, he investigates the charity versus change dichotomy. One question that has to be asked: Does institutional service learning create social change?

Liberating Service  Learning, Act 2

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx

 

In Part Two Randy Stoecker takes us further into his understanding of community-based research as critical pedagogy. He offers a challenge to the “careerism” approach that is plaguing many institutions of higher education. Using participatory action research and community-based research models, Stoecker gives examples of the work his students are doing on the margins of higher education—with/in community organizations. He shows how a “campaign model” of democracy, of goal setting by and with community groups, provides the base for concrete social change. The model of leadership here is group-centered rather than hierarchical, making the lines between margin and center porous. It is in these margins that Stoecker finds hope—for the future of higher education, and for society.

Stoecker shares his vision for the future of civic engagement in higher education: 

“This, then, is our vision: a future in which campus-community research partnerships are prolific, deep, sustained, reciprocal, and actively committed—in myriad ways, in every corner of the United States—to transforming communities and realizing a more just society. It is a future in which colleges and universities have finally become places where teaching and learning are vigorous and vital, scholarship is valued for its relevance as well as for its rigor, and the ends of knowledge truly are the benefit and use of life. We hope you will join us in working to achieve it.” (Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement, p. 241).

 

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