Service Learning at NJIT


Author
Vivian Lanzot, Director, Civic Engagement - Career Development Service, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Published
May 1, 2018


Service Learning at NJIT

Career Development Services has long provided service-learning support for a number of faculty members who recognized the added benefit of learning through civic engagement.   Service-learning is a significant pedagogy that enhances the university’s mission of teaching, research, and service which falls within the University's 20/20 Vision.  Current research supports that when there's successful involvement in community - based service experiences it does not only enhance the academic experience, but also provide opportunities for students to develop leadership, project management and communication skills.  Through our partnerships on campus we demonstrate the importance and impact that a strong service-learning curriculum can have.  Service-Learning offers a win-win for all involved.  As we begin our planning for fall 2018, we continue to be deliberate in our intent to integrate service – learning to expand the experiential opportunities and civic inquiry of students beyond the classroom.  With the goal to encourage our students and graduates to develop a lifelong practice of civic action where they will work with others to address common problems and improve the quality of life for others while enhancing their skills.  This is what some of our faculty are doing:

Dr. Michael Bieber

College of Computing Sciences - IS 350 Computers in Society

For the past 5 years Dr. Michael Bieber has taught IS 350(Computing, Society and Ethics) and has strongly encouraged his students to commit to an extra credit 20+ hour Community Service activity related to computing, coordinated with CDS's Service Learning program.  IS 350, originally designed by Prof. Starr Roxanne Hiltz, has always contained a strong service-learning component.   Dr. Bieber further explains that IS 350 engages undergraduates in the tough issues that computing facilitates in the workplace and society.  Students learn to reason about dilemmas and opportunities as responsible professionals and citizens using an ethical framework, and to consider the intended and unintended consequences.   Dr. Bieber strongly believes that this is a valuable opportunity for students to experience that, regardless of their expertise level; they can utilize their knowledge of computing together with their emerging understanding of issues such as responsible design, privacy and security, to truly help a community organization.  This experience develops our students as knowledgeable and responsible citizens beyond what they learn through course materials and activities.  “Furthermore, their insights from working with community organizations often enrich a classroom discussion, which informs both their peers and quite often me as an instructor,” says Dr. Bieber.

“I strongly encourage other faculty to think creatively about how Service -Learning options could enhance learning related to their courses, and to brainstorm with NJIT's Service-learning program staff.” Dr. Bieber goes on to say that in many disciplines, topics could be applied to certain challenges or opportunities in community organizations.  Students directly benefit from the opportunity to apply course concepts, and become better citizens from doing so with community organizations.  Dr. Michael Bieber recommends that faculty ask students to report back to the class so everyone can learn from the different experiences of their classmates, which can provide new insights for students in thinking about course topics.

Darius Solluhub and Simon McGown

College of Architecture and Design - Stack City

Students in a Comprehensive Studio at the College of Architecture and Design worked in partnership with Audible.com on a project called Stack City, Reimagining Downtown Newark.  The course taught by Simon McGown, a partner at the New York based Co-Office, a design practice focusing on the spaces of the new technology economy and presenting all designs in virtual reality and Darius Solluhub an associate professor at College of Architecture and Design.  Like many technology companies, Audible is immersed in a rapidly evolving paradigm shift around live, work, and play.  It asked NJIT to design responses to this changing world on sites within a half-mile radius of their headquarters on Washington Park.  As a result, Professor Solluhub leveraged his extensive knowledge of Newark and his demographic research on the millennial generation, the topic of his forthcoming book. Each of the fifteen students envisioned a project for Newark that both accommodates and anticipates Audible’s future, all the while remaining mindful of the City’s diverse community.  Throughout the 15-week course, students met with Audible to receive feedback from the firm’s community engagement team. At these meetings, students presented their work through drawings and models and also using virtual reality software, an emerging technology for architectural representation. The semester culminated in an open gallery presentation at the Rutgers Business School attended by over one hundred stakeholders from Newark and beyond.  

Professor Simon said “the project accomplished several goals:  It helped Audible clarify its relationship with the City, leading to an increase of employees moving to Newark, NJ.  It also advanced the economic development goals of Newark by promoting its exceptional location for new business and superior fiber optic infrastructure.  From an academic standpoint according to Solluhub, the studio experimented with applying the workflow methodologies and new tools and skillsets developed of the software industry to architectural design. The name Stack City, refers to the concept of a Full Stack Developer, the software industry's paradigm for engineers capable of integrating the multiple interfaces and coding language that are the backbone of every app, program, or website.  Stack City aimed to teach a new generation of architects to become Full Stack Designers capable of integrating the complex layers, scales, objects, people, and systems of the emerging city into a comprehensible whole. 

Prof. Solluhub believes that the level of engagement the studio attained stayed high after the gallery-style final review that over 100 people attended.  Most of the class made a subsequent presentation to local stakeholders who could not attend the review including city officials and business owners.

As a result of the impact that a strong service-learning curriculum has, NJIT students will continue to improve their leadership, professional, and technical skills development through active engagement in a diversity of civic and community projects; preparing them for a lifelong practice of civic action.

For more information about service learning and civic engagement at NJIT please contact

Vivian Lanzot, Director Civic Engagement at [email protected] , 973.596.3642 or visit our website at https://www.njit.edu/cds/comm-service/


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