Virginia Tech features an array of course-based, service-learning opportunities for students — from a communications course that explores interpersonal communication by working with diverse cultures to engineering students who mentor area robotics teams to classes that support community sustainability programs.

Beginning this month, VT Engage: The Community Learning Collaborative offers a new series of Engagement Excursions to help faculty and staff explore avenues for community-learning partnerships. Participants will travel to a community organization to learn more about the organization’s programs and will have the opportunity to discuss potential collaboration. Piloted in 2013, the excursions create a conversation space to help facilitate partnerships based on community need.

“This opportunity for face-to-face dialogue is an essential first step into building rapport among community and university partners, which we hope will lead to lasting relationships based on mutual respect and understanding that can meet community needs and enhance student learning,” said Perry Martin, senior associate director for community learning at VT Engage.

The first set of excursions will feature VT Engage’s VISTA Network partners. Through a grant managed by VT Engage, these partner organizations host AmeriCorps VISTA members for three years of focused service, concentrating on a range of issues including early childhood development, food security, and senior citizens. Their mission is to enhance the sustainability of these often-fledgling community projects through building infrastructure, expanding partnerships, and securing long-term resources.

One VISTA project is implementing the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech, under the direction of member Joanne Amposta, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and minor in medicine and society. Amposta is leading an excursion Aug. 12 to Washington and Lee University to observe its successful Campus Kitchen chapter . She said she hopes to engage faculty members in partnering with the Virginia Tech chapter through community-learning courses or in advisory roles.

“The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee is an established, successful model of how to maximize community-university engagement,” Amposta said. “For the past nine years, they’ve served a rural population that is similar to the one we hope to work with at our chapter, and they’ve created a program that feeds thousands of people each week.”

VT Engage will provide transportation for the excursions, which will be held on the following dates:

  • 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Aug. 5, to the early childhood education outreach at Valley Interfaith Child Care Center and Smart Beginnings of the New River Valley
  • 7:30 am. to 4 p.m. Aug. 12 to Washington and Lee University Campus Kitchen operations and associated hunger-relief outreach efforts and a discussion on development of Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech
  • 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 19 to the Town of Blacksburg's NRV HOME Consortium to discuss efforts of the NRV Aging in Place Task Force, housing rehabilitation efforts, and planning concepts at the former Price’s Fork Elementary School

Additional excursions will be announced later this month on the VT Engage website. All are welcome to participate in these events. Contact Perry Martin at 540-231-6947 to sign up or for more information on any of the excursions.

Written by Lindsey Gleason, VT Engage communication and administrative coordinator.

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