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Sass encourages students to pursue ‘passion projects’ for service-learning capstone

Margaret Sass, a lecturer for the Bachelor of Applied Science and Interdisciplinary Professional Studies program, facilitates experiential learning projects that inspire capstone students to make a difference while they practice project management, creative problem-solving and career networking. In her Spring 2024 Capstone class, Sass knew some students would focus their capstone project on their current workspace, while others wanted to create new opportunities in their local communities.

Sass, who directed a Service-Learning Program at Purdue before returning to Boise State to teach, knew how to light a spark in students. She asked them, “What are big issues you care about, that impact your life? How are those needs addressed – or not – in your community?” After students identified their issues they used their academic skills of research, writing, communicating, and problem-solving to design a small project to address the issue. Ideally, students would collaborate with a community group already addressing the issue, but sometimes students create their own solution to a very personal issue that they or others are impacted by. Below are examples of students’ projects:

  • Translated the Idaho Driver’s Handbook into Vietnamese. Goal: Address the challenges of Vietnamese Idahoans when trying to get their driver’s licenses, but need help understanding the driver’s handbook.
  • Sleep Savvy Student Solutions Blog. Goal: Address the prevalent issue of insufficient quality sleep among college students. A follow-up survey was sent to the blog readers, who reported successful implementation of the recommendations offered.
  • Oral Histories of the Silver Valley in Northern Idaho. Goal: Preserve the oral histories of the people who grew up in the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho, once an area known as the Silver Capital of the world.
  • Website for Idaho Giving Garden. Goal: Design an informational and visually appealing website for the non-profit organization Idaho Giving Garden, which provides vegetables and herbs to food-insecure people
  • Website for Empty Nesters – Finding Me Again. Goal: Provide support and encouragement to others who will become or are currently empty nesters.

Sass invests in and believes in these students. She supports them through several phases: brainstorming, evaluating community needs and project development. She says the keys to success are for the students to feel passionate about their project and aim to have a positive community impact, even if it’s small. It can still create a ripple effect.

“I get my passion for teaching through these students’ passion, knowing it can make a difference in their communities,” she said.

Many students discover a passion for working toward a common goal and an inspiration to continue the projects after the semester ends.