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Pritchard’s psychology students engage with the community through service-learning projects

In the spring of 2024, Mary Pritchard, professor and associate chair of the Department of  Psychological Science, led students in her Community Psychology class in a series of experiential learning projects, benefiting eight community partners. Pritchard’s collaboration with the Service-Learning Program resulted in projects that provided students with hands-on experience in applying course concepts and practicing skills such as surveying, interviewing, creative thinking, communicating and problem-solving. Some worked on developing and implementing community assessments, while others designed and implemented outreach activities. Student teams applied these skills to issues like food insecurity, affordable housing, human rights and more.

One team of students worked with Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority on a needs assessment and outreach project with the tenants of Shoreline Plaza. Students surveyed residents about their needs, then developed and presented information at monthly tenant meetings.

“[The students] nailed the content and made it fun, applicable and interactive for the residents, said MaryEllen Johnson, services coordinator for Shoreline Plaza. “I’m so very pleased with the way they have risen to this assignment and gone beyond what I expected. I’m getting such good feedback from the residents – which is a cherry on top of the learning experience.”

Pritchard stressed the value of Service-Learning to link classroom teaching to real-life experiences and community involvement.

“I love being able to connect students with community partners. Getting students ‘in the field’ enhances their classroom learning by allowing them to see the things we are discussing in class in a real-world setting,” she said. “Nothing is more impactful than translating a classroom learning experience into meaningful service in the community. I simply couldn’t imagine teaching this content without the service-learning component.”

Service-Learning projects like these provide students with active, authentic learning opportunities akin to what they might experience in future careers. Pritchard’s use of service-learning reflects her dedication to student learning and her commitment to evidence-based pedagogy and community engagement. Her facilitation resulted in high-impact, authentic and impactful student learning and community engagement.