The following is a multifaceted and collectively told story about the evolution of the University of Cincinnati’s Service Learning Program. This story will be punctuated by moments of unfreezing that have not only had an impact on the program but have formed my own identity within that of the larger, evolving institutional structure of the university’s Service Learning Program. More specifically, the story here is one in which who I am becoming is intimately linked to the becomingness of the Service Learning Program at UC, and a great deal of detail will be shared from this personal perspective and substantiated by a wide array of narratives chronicled by others.
Within the scope of this story, “structure” is understood to mean the larger organization of the University of Cincinnati, while “agency” refers to the individual and often collective actions taken by individuals or groups of individuals. Agency often confirms the existing structure and conforms to it, with individuals reaffirming the existing rules and resources used to sustain the university structure, but there are moments when fresh acts occur, which is agency enacted to shift the institutional structure in some way. It is here where we see the duality of structure and agency, in that the structure exists because of individual agency, but it is also altered through the same.
The findings will be separated into six distinct stages, narrated through the metaphor of farming. The first three stages will be discussed in this chapter, setting up the historical backdrop of the narrative. Stage four will be included in the following chapter, and stages five and six will be illuminated in the final chapter. My personal role in the farming story begins in stage four, which is where I will share narrative findings relating to how making sense of service learning in Cincinnati has evolved under my practice of Urban Educational Leadership. In stage five of the narrative, “Listening to the Ground,” I will share with the reader important and often painful learning experiences in a section titled “Critical Findings and Making Sense of Service Learning in Cincinnati,” which will bring the reader to where we are in the narrative today. In the sixth and final narrative stage, “Hand on the Plow,” I will share with the reader several key next steps that are guiding the latest evolutions of service learning at the University of Cincinnati, including shifts in institutional structure and my agency within it. There are several key terms that I will repeatedly use throughout the narrative (See Table 1 below). It is my hope that understanding the narrative through these terms will illuminate how service learning at the University of Cincinnati has evolved over time. As previously discussed, this study has also provided the opportunity to add to the existing structuration theory literature by introducing nuanced modalities of fresh acts. The reader is urged to journey through the narrative with the following key terms in mind:
Duality of Structuration
The production, reproduction, and transformation of the institutional structure through rules and resources in relationships.
The rules and resources used to sustain the institutional structure.
Behaviors or activities used in the institutional structure.
Something new developed in the institutional structure through agency.
Discursive Fresh Act
Something new is articulated by an agent within the structure, which shifts the structure and provides new opportunities for agency.
Structural Fresh Act
The larger structure shifts, which provides new opportunities for agency for agents within the structure.
Intrapersonal Fresh Act
Agents reflectively reframe their understandings of the structure, providing new opportunities for agency.
Interpersonal Fresh Act
New relationships are formed by agents in the structure, shifting the structure and providing new opportunities for agency.
Table 1. Definitions of key terms used throughout the narrative
Complicated History Punctuated by Fresh Acts
I will now move toward the meat of this project—making sense of service learning in Cincinnati. I will remind the reader here that much of the story, and my individual agency within it, is very much tied to the story of the larger structure of the university. I have chosen those events that I and others believe are the most illustrative of this narrative, punctuating them with key fresh acts that are considered watershed moments for the program—moments that may be understood through the duality of structure and agency.
My goal is that the following narrative adequately captures the dualistic complexity of service learning at the University of Cincinnati by taking into account both the structural elements as well as those elements illustrated through agency. Taking inspiration from Theado (2013), this narrative will acknowledge the smoothing-over effect that results from the processes of narration and historicization, but it will also account for the undiscoursed histories that unfold alongside the more official or authorized (that is, the “discoursed”) accounts of events happening over time.
The following includes a timeline derived from several places. These include formal and informal conversations, artifact research, story archeology, extensive internet searches, asking many questions, and having many discussions with the co-narrators—the participants in this case study. All of these forms of data have helped to create this narrative. There are many events included, but the most salient are those where the duality of structure and agency is most noticeable.
If another narrator were to tell this story, perhaps other key watershed events would be chosen: a strength of the narrative inquiry method. With that said, this is the story as I have lived it, and it is also the story that has been passed on to me by others. The story has several stages, moving from times before my birth all the way through to where the ongoing story is today. In this story of service learning in Cincinnati, I am one of many farmers that have been instrumental in the building and maintaining of programs, but the story is filtered through my point of view and substantiated by the fellow storytellers.
As I embark on the telling of this story, I find myself inspired by the words of J. J. Hendricks in a jointly written essay titled “Symposium: The Role of the Theorist in Facilitating Voice” (Hendricks & Vickers 2003). Hendricks writes:
I (Hendricks) ask myself why it is that I am concerned with the concept of voice. Finding the answer is more difficult than dealing with the concept itself—noting it’s [sic] place in the stream of conversational and authorial consciousness called the history of thought. Scratch a theorist, uncover a complex bundle of contradiction and human situatedness. I suspect that my fascination with voice begins with the fact that I am a woman who thinks. More so, given that it is the utterance that fascinates, it probably issues from the importance I attach to being heard. Perhaps it may reside in unmet infantile needs too inaccessible to grasp without depth psychology. The baby cries. Is it heard? The meaning of being heard may lie in the quintessential act of cognition. (Hendricks & Vickers 2003, 457)
These words get to the heart of this project. I want the story to be told, but it is not only my own. Over the years, however, it has become more and more my story every day. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for me and the program is hard to decipher at the moment, but my sense is that it may not matter much over time. I find myself agreeing with Maya Angelou (1969) writing in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you,” but also with J. D. Salinger’s (1951) “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” (Salinger, Catcher in the Rye). It is a bit of a contradictory perspective to hold, and it is, more so, a bit frightening to offer my version of the story of service learning in Cincinnati.
What if I am wrong about the story? What if my version is too tinted by my own subjectivity? What if I offend those that I work with and work for? These are all questions that ping around in my mind, but perhaps the most important question pinging around is, what if I do not tell the story? And the answer to that question can silence those pesky doubts. Perhaps the perspective provided by Saturday Night Live’s late and great Gilda Radner (2009) is most befitting to the spirit of this work. In her book It’s Always Something she writes:
I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity. (Radner 2009, 268)
I have come to realize that the story needs to be told and there is no other way forward but to tell it in the midst of living it. What follows is just that.
Stage One: The Ground Thaws
Volumes have been written about the original founding of the cooperative education model, and the reader is strongly urged to investigate its evolution through the many resources available in the appendices. The reason that cooperative education, or “co-op” as it is more commonly known, plays such a major role in the narrative of service learning at the University of Cincinnati is that it has been, for over 100 years, the core institutional structure of the university. Unlike the evolutions of other service learning programs in the nation and world, UC’s story of service learning is cemented by and to the structure of co-op, which has had both positive and challenging outcomes, as will be discussed.
Even today, the cooperative education program is articulated as one of the university’s key signature strengths. It is THE history of the institution. It is the hook on which we hang our hat. It is in the DNA of who we are and what we are becoming, and we are very proud of it. According to the University of Cincinnati’s website:
Co-op was invented at the University of Cincinnati in 1906. Now, over 100 years and 43 countries later, generations of students worldwide have followed our lead! (https://www.uc.edu/news/articles/legacy/enews/2015/02/e21259.html)
Today, UC’s co-op program is listed among the nation’s best in US News & World Report rankings. Cooperative education is an educational model in which students alternate traditional academic semesters with semesters spent working full-time in their chosen field. Co-op positions are paid and are offered by a variety of organizations all over the country and the world. Students complete between three and five co-op semesters prior to graduation. During each co-op semester, students complete an online course intended to help them focus on their academic and professional development. Co- op employers are also asked to evaluate student development and performance.
The story begins with one of the original farmers of service learning— Herman Schneider. Schneider may not have known how his own agency within structure would unfreeze, not just the University of Cincinnati but higher education in general. Fortunately, we can look back in time, talk with those who know his work, and surmise that Schneider understood the duality of structure, enacted agency through fresh acts, and began to “thaw the ground” for many types of experiential learning.
In talking with M. B. Reilly (author of The Ivory Tower and the Smokestack: 100 Years of Cooperative Education at the University of Cincinnati, 2006), Kevin Grace, and Cheryl Cates, I have come to learn more about Schneider’s many fresh acts, each of which enacted agency within structure. There is much to Schneider’s legacy that could be connected to the evolution of service learning at the University of Cincinnati, but what the reader will encounter below are those watershed moments of his legacy that the narrative participants illuminated as being key.
While at Lehigh University at the beginning of the twentieth century, it is said that Schneider believed that learning in the traditional classroom was insufficient for technical students, which could be considered an intrapersonal fresh act—an agent reflectively reframing an understanding of the structure, providing new opportunities for agency. Schneider observed that several of the more successful graduates had worked to earn money before graduation and, after interviewing many employers and graduates—an example of an interpersonal fresh act, which occurs when individual agents within an institutional structure form new relationships with other agents, serving to shift the structure and provide new types of agency and choice—Schneider created the framework for cooperative education in 1901. This creation is an example of a structural fresh act, occurring when the larger institutional structure shifts, providing opportunities for agents within that structure to draw upon new sets of agency and choice.
Schneider knew that industry had the best equipment but it was too expensive for the university to purchase the equipment, particularly because the equipment would become obsolete so quickly. In 1903, the University of Cincinnati appointed Schneider to their faculty, and later, in 1906, allowed him a year to experiment with the co-op plan. Following that year, the University of Cincinnati gave him full permission for the co-op program, a significant shift in structure spurred on by the previously mentioned intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural fresh acts.
It should be noted that there is a myth surrounding this story of Schneider’s epiphany to create a co-op program. According to Cates, Schneider was walking around campus pondering how to raise enough funds to purchase equipment for his budding engineers to learn on. He had been getting reports from industry that the students were well-educated upon graduation, but they were lacking an understanding of how to apply that education in the field setting of working with equipment. The myth says that during one of these daily walks, Schneider heard a lunch whistle blow at one of the local factories, and in this moment, he decided to cease thinking about how to bring the equipment to the campus and instead to focus on how to bring the campus, and the students therein, to the equipment.
This is another example of an intrapersonal fresh act, wherein the agent—in this case Schneider—reframed, internally, the ordered elements of the structure. In the case of Schneider’s rethinking how the university would provide education to engineering students, this intrapersonal fresh act resulted in discursive and interpersonal fresh acts, which ultimately led to the structural fresh act of piloting the co-op program. These fresh acts enacted agency that has fundamentally shifted the system of education at the University of Cincinnati and elsewhere.
Herman Schneider, co-op’s founder, is born in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania
First engineering program begins at UC, then a municipal university
The Cooperative system of education is proposed at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania
UC’s College of Engineering is organized
Herman Schneider arrives at UC from Lehigh University to serve as professor of civil engineering
Co-op is officially founded
Though the new co-op program isn’t advertised, up to 800 students apply for 70 co-op positions
Northeastern University, Boston, is the first university to follow UC in adopting the“Cincinnati Plan”
University of Pittsburgh adopts co-op
George Binns becomes UC’s first co-op graduate. Co-op is adopted at the University of Detroit
At UC, the first co-op class graduates
UC’s co-op enrollment stands at 473 while employers number 86
Marquette University begins co-op with 175 students
Co-op begins at Drexel University and at MIT
UC becomes the first school in the country to admit women into the co-op program
UC becomes the Envy of the Ivies as Harvard University adopts co-op
A mandated Hobby Hour begins for co-op students at the University of Cincinnati
Table 2. Timeline of events in the evolution of service learning at UC: 1872–1921
Clearly, the seeds planted in the thawing ground by Schneider are not specifically tied to service learning in a direct way. However, it is easy to see that this early form of experiential education did lay the groundwork for many different modalities of experiential learning, service learning being one (See Table 2 above). I could have chosen to focus specifically on the creation of co-op education as the watershed moment pertaining to the eventual development of service learning at UC, but I have instead chosen to focus on a less celebrated development ushered in by Schneider—Hobby Hour.
Hobby Hour and the thawing ground
A 2005 article included in UC Magazine, a publication produced by the university administration, describes Schneider’s Hobby Hour:
Paintings, literature, music and sports allowed Herman Schneider, the author of cooperative education, to help students grow as persons, as well as engineers. Within the activities and arts he introduced to early co-ops are the roots of campus traditions that still bring beauty and joy to the university.
Schneider wanted the co-ops to develop an appreciation for the arts, but wondered how he could ask students with heavy academic schedules to take on anything more. He introduced two on-campus experiences: fine art displayed in the engineering college and a daily “hobby hour” of diverse activities.
Turning the walls of the college into an instant gallery in 1916 was his solution to students’ lack of time for museum visiting. An Edgar Degas sketch, “Ballerina Adjusting Her Stocking,” is one of the first pieces he obtained, a gift from Charles Taft.
The lesson was not lost on the co-ops. Students raised funds, asked Schneider’s advice and began presenting artwork as their graduating-class gift. Edwin Abbey’s “Winter” and two works by H. H. Wessel, “Coal Miner” and “Jamming Barges Under the Suspension Bridge,” are among early alumni gifts that form the foundation of the University of Cincinnati’s respected Fine Arts Collection.
Dean Schneider’s introduction of “hobby hour” in 1920 gave students a mandatory “break” at noon each day. Co-ops were told to fill this time with an activity unrelated to their studies, one that would offer their weary brains a change of pace. Among the options were sketching, band or orchestra, chess, literary discussion, wireless radio club, horseshoe pitching, fencing, and basketball.
The music groups were particularly successful. The orchestra, led by College Conservatory of Music staff, was a mix of student and faculty members. Regular performances were presented on campus.
The co-op band, which would become known as the UC Marching Band, is one of the university’s strongest traditions. In 1923, the band performed on campus at the first football game played under electric lights in the U.S. The lighting system was designed by co-op Jack Silverman, Engineering ‘23.
As impressive as the UC Marching Band has become, it had an inauspicious start. At the first rehearsal, one of the eight co-ops who showed up was Ralph Van Wye, Engineering ‘24, who had played in a World War I Army band. Recalling the marching formations of the early UC group, Van Wye later joked, “The only letter we could form was the letter ‘I.’” (http://magazine.uc.edu/issues/1205/hobby.html)
There are many events that led to this moment in time in 1921, and I could have chosen any of the above moments to dissect and narrate, but during the narrative inquiry research, this single event seemed to resonate as a key watershed moment for what would many years later come to be known as service learning at the University of Cincinnati. It was Schneider’s ideas for Hobby Hour that opened up the then-existing structure of the then-newly-developing co-op program.
Up until this time, the engineering curriculum was designed to be much like what one would remember from high school, with specific class times and rotation among those classes. Schneider very much understood that students needed something more than simply experiencing what they were learning through an engineering lens, and he created a period of the day—Hobby Hour—where students were divided into teams and given the freedom to explore how their interests and skills could be applied to things outside of engineering. Schneider understood that the engineering students needed to be enriched more holistically, beyond their traditional classroom study and co-op rotations. Therefore, he assigned them time to work on other things that could be of benefit to the university and to the community. While cooperative education was a key watershed moment at the University of Cincinnati, the specific intrapersonal and ultimately structural fresh act of Hobby Hour served to create many new projects and endeavors that are more easily tied to the service learning program. Many non-engineering projects were started through Hobby Hour. For example, the chess club, a university marching band, a literary society, the university newspaper and a cooperative engineering magazine, a wireless radio club, a sketching club, and many sports such as baseball, basketball, boxing, wrestling, tennis, and track began at this time.
In many ways, Hobby Hour was an early form of service learning, because students were applying what they were learning to the service of others by accomplishing goals for the campus and the community. Because of Schneider’s unfreezing of the typical co-op coursework and rotation, enacting a bit of agency within structure, these students were given time to identify needs on campus and in the community, and self-organize groups to meet those needs. For example, UC's Amateur Radio Club was born during the 1937 flood, and it was instrumental in keeping lines of communication open during the disaster. It was in these moments that the production, reproduction, and transformation of social environments through rules and resources in relationships—the duality of structure and agency—can be observed.
Up until this moment of unfreezing, the structure—the general routines that the university followed in accomplishing goals—the rules—and the attributes or material goods that could be used to exert power in a group—the resources—that were used to sustain the organization—the system—of co-op at UC had been more narrowly focused on traditional engineering education. But Schneider had new ideas, and he enacted behaviors or activities used in social environments—agency—through developing something new from an action or behavior—a fresh act—that fundamentally shifted the university structure in no small way.
This fresh act of agency fundamentally changed the institutional culture of the university, and it eventually created an institutional atmosphere that was ripe for something like service learning to be adopted some years later. There is more to the larger story of experiential learning than this essay can cover, but the point is that the ground was beginning to thaw for this sort of thinking about how and why students should be educated. How teachers and students could address some of the needs at the university and in the community; how they could apply skill sets, understandings, and even theory to those contexts, began to find new solutions. The reader can also see in the timeline that the structure of the nation and the working world was shifting as well, and this was due to individual agents working toward many types of fresh acts—discursive, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural fresh acts—which served to unfreeze the structures of higher education.
This fresh act of Schneider’s Hobby Hour was key for many of the narrative inquiry participants. Schneider became a change agent who provided his students with the opportunity to also become change agents. His legacy at the University of Cincinnati was monumental. The university historian, Kevin Grace, confirmed what was said by Professor Cheryl Cates, one of the leading experts on Herman Schneider’s legacy, in describing the gravity of Schneider's agency at UC and beyond. She stated:
Herman Schneider went from school to school to help other universities start their own program. When Herman Schneider died at his desk in 1939, campus was closed to attend his funeral. Because he was such an important national figure, there were obituaries in many national publications. Schneider was personally responsible for starting many—if not ALL—of the current co-op programs all over the nation.
Many events have occurred since the creation of Hobby Hour, and most can be linked back to this fresh act and moment of unfreezing the structure of the university. Schneider’s agency altered the institutional structure and provided additional agency and opportunities for fresh acts to be enacted by others. These moments of unfreezing at UC have even served to change the structure of many institutions of higher education here in the U.S. and also in other countries.
Stage Two: The Ground Is Tilled
I came to the University of Cincinnati as a freshman in 1993. Much of the narrative pertaining to service learning and cooperative education was not even in my sphere of understanding until around 2006. What you will see below are portions of the narrative that I have come to know through studying records and having narrative inquiry discussions with many participants in this case study.
Turning over ground with the Service Learning Report of 2001
Schneider’s legacy, it could be argued, served to thaw the ground at UC and beyond, but even with the development of Hobby Hour, it would be many years before the wheels of service learning would begin to turn at the university. In talking with Professor Emeritus Dr. Wayne Hall, one-time Vice Provost of Faculty Development and my first supervisor, one of the watershed moments of the story of service learning at the University of Cincinnati occurred in 2001 when the then-Senior Vice President and Provost Dr. Anthony Perzigian requested that a group of university stakeholders explore the budding practice of connecting classroom instruction to the service of the community. This request from Perzigian, a key example of a discursive fresh act that ultimately resulted in a larger structural fresh act, was reported by narrative participants to have started the process of institutionalizing service learning at the University of Cincinnati.
Service Learning Report is commissioned by the Provost
Service Learning Action Plan at UC is drafted
White Paper for Service Learning at UC is drafted
Table 3. Timeline of events in the evolution of service learning at UC: 2001–2003
In June 2001, a Service Learning Committee Report was prepared for Perzigian and the Vice President for Student Affairs and Human Resources, Dr. Mitchel D. Livingston. The authors of this report came from all over the university and included representation from the College of Engineering, College of Applied Science, Raymond Walters College, Community Service Programs Office, College of Arts & Sciences, College of Education (known today as the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, or CECH), College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning (DAAP), the now-defunct University College, and the Vice Provost for Faculty Development. The report represented the input of a wide swath of university stakeholders, which can be understood as an interpersonal fresh act.
In conducting the narrative inquiry over the last several years, I have had the chance to speak with several of the original authors and have included their ideas and feedback in this essay. Some of these stakeholders are still employed in some capacity at the University of Cincinnati, but many have moved on. One of the original authors, Hall, would in 2008 become one of my two supervisors. Another of the original authors is my current supervisor, Dr. Kettil Cedercreutz, who is now the Director for the Division of Experience-Based Learning and Career Education. Two other original authors would become mentors of mine: Professor M. J. Woeste, Department of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences, was the individual who originally taught me about service learning during my undergraduate years at UC; and Professor Barbara Wallace, now retired, would come to serve as one of the original members of the service learning Advisory Council formed shortly after my hiring, in 2008.
This 2001 report—a discursive fresh act—ushered in a monumental shift for the University of Cincinnati through an interpersonal fresh act of collective agency. Perzigian’s discursive fresh act of requesting a report and the work done by many to produce the report underscores the interplay between the structure of the university and the agency of those beginning to operate in the world of service learning. While it would still take some years for a formal Service Learning Program to take hold at the university, this report served to begin unfreezing the university in such a way that within a few years, funding would be sought to create an office to lead the effort.
Many narrative inquiry participants recalled that, during this time, stakeholders at UC were experimenting with service learning—examples of intrapersonal and interpersonal fresh acts—most with positive results. These, however, were typically limited to discrete faculty initiatives and did not occur at the university level. The main organizing of this work was
through one of the original authors of the 2001 report, Barbara Wallace, an individual faculty member in the now-closed University College. While Woeste, a professor of Communication on UC’s main campus, was simultaneously experimenting with incorporating service learning into his own classes—examples of intrapersonal and interpersonal fresh acts—Wallace was focused on program-based service learning both in the University College and at UC Clermont College, a satellite organization in a rural part of the Cincinnati region— examples of interpersonal and structural fresh acts. Her goal was to take a college-wide approach to service learning, which included having multiple classes all participate in some sort of community-engaged event each term.
Before the 2001 report, there were organic and grassroots efforts to connect these programs to UC’s volunteering efforts, but they were fragmented and disparate, according to Hall and Woeste, and this report gave UC a working definition of service learning and recommendations for future developments. These grassroots efforts are examples of intrapersonal fresh acts. Wallace reported that before 2001 there had been efforts for patching ad-hoc initiatives between academic and student affairs, but the structural and interpersonal fresh act of developing a steering committee for service learning gave the university an opportunity to ask for funding to support the efforts—yet another discursive fresh act that would ultimately lead to a structural fresh act.
Both Wallace and Woeste, two stakeholders with relatively little power, enacted agency with discursive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal fresh acts, and they seized upon the opening-up structure requested by Perzigian, a discursive and structural fresh act. Wallace’s work, first at the University College and later at UC Clermont, pushed the boundaries of her college and began to change the lexicon with an understanding and valuing of service learning, an example of discursive and interpersonal fresh acts. Woeste, on the other hand, enacted agency and intrapersonal fresh acts of incorporating service learning into his individual classes, seizing the fluidity of structure provided by academic freedom. Neither Wallace nor Woeste possessed clear institutional power to shift the institution toward holistically adopting service learning, but they each in their own way worked within their respective structures—Wallace at UC Clermont and Woeste at UC’s main campus within his own classes—to help lay the groundwork for what would later become an institutional approach to service learning.
Hall indicated that the 2001 Service Learning Report substantially shifted the university's focus toward beginning to accept service learning as a valuable education endeavor, an example of a structural fresh act. The work of those original authors allowed the senior administration to advocate for service learning to the deans and associate deans across the university—discursive fresh acts—which provided opportunities for interpersonal fresh acts and shifts in structure.
Perhaps most importantly, the 2001 Service Learning Report laid the groundwork for a secondary document to be drafted.
In 2002, an Action Plan for Service Learning (Feb 20, 2002) was delivered to the Council of Associate Deans, detailing several key steps toward institutionalizing the program through discursive and structural fresh acts. In this action plan, it is written that service learning should be led at the university-wide level and required several resources for success:
Service Learning relies for its success and advancement upon both logistical support (from Student Affairs) and academic support (from the Provost Office). In the first case, community agencies need to be contacted, background checks need to be conducted, and other arrangements need to be made to make sure that Service Learning doesn’t pose too great a logistical burden on faculty or create any legal or political problems within the University’s relationship with community partners. In the second case, faculty need to be given development opportunities so that they will redesign current courses or create new courses that have Service Learning components. It is thus essential that Student Affairs and the Provost Office maintain an ongoing collaborative relationship if Service Learning is to grow as an initiative. The efforts of both areas are crucial to the success of Service Learning.
With the above in mind, Frank Bowen (from Student Affairs) and Wayne Hall (from the Provost Office) will be the main administrators to be working together towards coordination of Service Learning activities on campus. This working relationship will not be designed so as to interfere in any way with other Service Learning initiatives, such as the one in University College. Rather, it will seek to enhance Service Learning through a variety of contexts and approaches, and in particular through a close working relationship with the Service Learning Steering Committee.
By the end of the current winter quarter or early in the spring, we will seek to have in place a Steering Committee for Service Learning. With the exception of the fulltime position for a Service Learning Coordinator, this committee will be constituted and will operate along the lines described in Section II of the Ad Hoc Service Learning Committee’s June 1, 2001, report.
The recent appointment of Ms. Pamela Person as director of the University’s Learning Communities program offers further new administrative resources. To the extent that some Service Learning courses might be part of a Learning Communities cluster of courses, Ms. Person will also be able to lend support to some first-year courses that contain a Service Learning component.
Ms. Pia Heyn will be able to lend some administrative-support time to Service Learning as well. We anticipate that this will amount to somewhere between ten and twelve hours per week for the remainder of this academic year, with this arrangement then to be revisited for the summer.
For the remainder of the current year, if some budgetary supplements are required for Service Learning activities, we will seek up to a total of $5000 from Success Challenge funding to help cover logistical costs incurred by the Center for Community Engagement. For the 2002-2003 year, we will seek to hire a graduate assistant whose duties will be dedicated to Service Learning. The functional supervision of this position will come from the Center for Community Engagement. The projected stipend will be $12,000, and we will seek a UGS from the academic department where the student’s degree program is housed.
Within this action plan of 2002, they go on to detail specifics for coordinating the program. They write:
In service learning, there are three main constituencies to be considered: the community agencies, the students, and the faculty. The main division of responsibilities, then, will assign community agencies to the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), with the Provost Office being assigned the faculty, and then both offices splitting responsibility for the students. More specifically, that breaks down as follows:
Community agencies: The Center for Community Engagement will be responsible for establishing and maintaining contacts with these agencies. In individual cases (for particular faculty, or for University College’s network), agencies might be contacted by a UC person not directly connected with the CCE; but the Provost Office would not be involved in this particular area of the overall service-learning operation. The CCE would also have responsibility for communicating with agencies for training or assessment purposes.
Faculty: The Provost Office will be responsible for coordinating the training or recruitment of faculty, for providing faculty with the resources necessary to develop a service-learning course, and for working with such organizations as Faculty Senate or such programs as General Education in promoting and institutionalizing service learning. The Provost Office will also assist faculty in assessment activities related to service learning and will help to define additional academic policies that might apply to faculty who teach service-learning courses.
Students: Responsibility for students will need to be divided between the CCE and the Provost Office. The CCE will provide students with information about placements or contacts with available community agencies and will maintain a database to record those contacts. The CCE will also provide students with the documentation necessary for purposes of legal liability to the University. The Provost Office, in turn, will have the responsibility of coordinating academic assessment of service learning, developing institutional structures for identifying service-learning courses in Learning Opportunities and for certificate purposes, and defining additional academic policies that might apply to students in service-learning courses. (Service Learning Action Plan (Feb 20, 2002))
In the development of both the 2001 Service Learning Report and the 2002 Action Plan, we can observe several types of fresh acts: discursive fresh acts, structural fresh acts, intrapersonal fresh acts, and interpersonal fresh acts all served to incrementally shift the larger institutional structure. These two fresh acts, the 2001 and 2002 reports, shifted the structure in such a way, that a third document could be drafted.
Turning over more ground with the Service Learning White Paper of 2003
In 2003, a smaller group of stakeholders joined to enact collective agency and to keep the forward momentum created from the 2002 Service Action Plan and the 2001 Service Learning Report. Dawn Hunter, the leader of this group, began to develop an action plan for service learning at the University of Cincinnati, and her work provides key examples of interpersonal, discursive, and structural fresh acts.
Moving forward with service learning at the university-wide level, the 2003 Service Learning White Paper clearly articulated the need for an organized and centrally supported operation in order to sustain the program. Authors usher in discursive fresh acts, writing specifically about the need to focus on four strategies: (1) curricular integration, (2) faculty development and involvement, (3) student participation and leadership, and (4) sustainability and institutionalization. Through their discursive fresh acts, they go on to write:
In keeping with the service learning mission and goals of the University of Cincinnati, these carefully selected strategies are imperative for sustaining and building service learning at the University:
- Curricular Integration: (a) Involve all levels of administration, especially the chief academic officer; (b) Invite to class reflection sessions, etc.; (c) Involve administrators with community partner organizations.
- Faculty Development and Involvement: (a) Support travel and encourage presentations and formal publications by service learning faculty members; and (b) Collaborate with internal professional development entities.
- Student Participation and Leadership: (a) Identify student ambassadors for service learning; (b) Organize student presentations to faculty meetings; and (c) Celebrate student achievements and provide recognition.
- Sustainability and Institutionalization: (a) Include service learning in long-range planning; (b) Provide a budget that includes a service learning coordinator; (c) Make service learning a degree requirement, and (d) Assure academic integrity and rigor in all aspects of the program. (p. 7)
The 2003 document makes it clear that advancing service learning would require logistical support from both student affairs and academic affairs, thus calling for structural fresh acts through interpersonal and discursive fresh acts. The writers note that student affairs should be charged with contacting community agencies, conducting background checks, and making other arrangements to reduce the logistical burden on faculty while academic affairs would develop opportunities for faculty to redesign current courses or create new courses that have service learning components. The report maintained that it was important for student affairs and the Provost’s Office to maintain a collaborative relationship, calling here for interpersonal fresh acts.
According to Hall, it was with these points in mind that he, representing the Provost’s Office, and Frank Bowen, a representative from student affairs, agreed to be the main administrators working together towards the coordination of service learning activities on campus, another example of interpersonal fresh acts. The report’s writers made the point that this working relationship should be designed so as to not “interfere in any way with other service learning initiatives, such as the one in University College . . . [but] rather . . . seek to enhance service learning through a variety of contexts and approaches, and in particular through a close working relationship with the service learning Steering Committee.”
By the end of the 2003 winter quarter, the writers sought to have in place a Steering Committee for Service Learning at UC, harking back to the groundwork laid in the 2001 Service Learning Report and 2002 Action Plan. They went on to write in the 2003 report that “with the exception of the full-time position for a Service Learning Coordinator, this committee will be constituted and will operate along the lines described in Section II of the Ad Hoc Service Learning Committee’s June 1, 2001, report” (2001 SL report).
This same year, another participant in this narrative inquiry case study, Pamela Person, was appointed as director of the University’s Learning Communities program. Person’s role was to extend resources so that some service learning courses might be part of a Learning Communities cluster of courses. Person was also charged with “lending support to some first-year courses that contain a service learning component,” per the 2003 Service Learning White Paper, which is an example of an interpersonal fresh act ushered in through the discursive fresh act of drafting the report.
This stage is another example of the ongoing duality of structure and agency occurring at the university. The 2003 Service Learning White Paper, much like the 2001 Service Learning Report and 2002 Action Plan, served in very concrete ways as a means to enact agency within the larger university structure. The hiring and tasking of Person furthered this momentum in that someone would now be responsible for “touching” every freshman student at UC, a program that still serves an important function at the university today. According to the University of Cincinnati’s website,
Learning Communities at the University of Cincinnati are made up of diverse groups of students and faculty who come together because of shared academic interests to interact in two or more university courses. There are more than 100 different learning communities for students to choose from at UC. During Bearcat Orientation, incoming freshmen have the opportunity to join a learning community based upon their major or area of academic interest. The partnerships that first year students form with faculty, staff, and other students in learning communities provide a cohesive learning experience centered around courses that fulfill core requirements. The Learning Community experience helps students:
- Establish close relationships with professors
- Explore areas of academic interest
- Build friendships with classmates
- Achieve their academic goals
- Experience the feel of a small college with the benefits of a major university
- Obtain reserved seats in popular, difficult-to-get-into courses
Of particular interest to this narrative, the 2003 Service Learning White Paper demanded that three main constituencies be considered: the community agencies, the students, and the faculty, clear examples of supporting interpersonal and structural fresh acts through discursive fresh acts. In talking with several narrative participants, particularly Hall and Person, the action plan clearly set about structuring an approach to service learning that could potentially be scalable. In the report, the authors went on to write that student affairs would be responsible for connections with community agencies, academic affairs would be responsible for connections with university faculty, and both academic affairs and student affairs would share the duties associated with connecting with students. This is another example of discursive fresh acts affecting the structure of the university.
The 2003 Service Learning White Paper shifted the institutional structure in a few substantial ways, according to Hall and Person. The discursive fresh act of articulating which duties were to be led by both Academic and Student Affairs provided nuance to the structure of service learning at UC and opened up particular interpersonal fresh acts for both. At this point, the Center for Community Engagement, an office of student affairs, could take on a leadership role in contacting and connecting with community organizations interested in service learning. On the other hand, the Office of the Provost could enact a complementary type of agency by invigorating faculty around service learning endeavors. Both Academic and Student Affairs could also step collectively into the shifting structure and agency created by the report’s articulation of shared duties for connecting with students.
The AmeriCorps Vista administrator Dawn Hunter, and the work of her drafting team, helped to coordinate and further focus some of the scattered issues pertaining to service learning at UC. Prior to her leaving the university at the end of her AmeriCorps Vista placement, Hunter was able to substantially shift the university structure around service learning. She did not accomplish this alone, but it is very interesting that she was able to do this with what was seemingly zero institutional power. Rather, she leveraged the shifting structure to engage others through discursive and interpersonal fresh acts, particularly those who had more power at the university, and all participating stakeholders were able to enact collective agency toward change.
In speaking with the narrative participants about this stage in the evolution, what is interesting is that Hunter’s work began to “put some meat on the bones,” as one participant mentioned, of the growing institutional philosophy and identity surrounding service learning at the university. Of interest to me personally is that Hunter could accomplish these things through enacting agency as a young twenty-something-year-old agent of change.
Her work can be explained through a structural lens in that she stepped into an existing structure of service learning on campus. The discursive and structural fresh acts of the 2001 Service Learning Report and 2002 Action Plan had laid the groundwork and set the tone for service learning on campus, and Hunter enacted fresh acts within that structure to take the budding program one step further. It is unfortunate that I was not able to locate Hunter to get her ideas and thoughts about her work, but the fresh acts that she was a part of are, nevertheless, very important in the story of the program.
Stage Three: The Seeds Are Obtained
At this point in the narrative, I had just begun my doctoral training, having been accepted into the Urban Educational Leadership program at the University of Cincinnati. I had completed a Communication BA (2000) and MA (2003), also at UC, and had been retained as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences. At this time, I still had no conceptions of service learning whatsoever, but it has been very interesting to hear others speak about this part of the story.
UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences begins co-op, as does the College of Nursing
Design Intelligence Magazine name UC as having elite architecture programs because of co-op
U.S. News & World Report lists the nation’s best co-op schools
Funding is sought to create the Office for Academic Community Partnerships
First Director of Academic Community Partnerships is hired
Table 4. Timeline of events in the evolution of service learning at UC: 2003–2006
Seeding the service learning grounds
Due to the shifts in structure around service learning ushered in by the fresh acts of the 2001 Service Learning Report, the 2002 Action Plan, and the 2003 Service Learning White Paper, along with the agency enacted and created by several of the stakeholders above and others, the university was in a position to seek funding to take the program to the next level. Taking the lead from the 2001 Service Learning Report commissioned by the Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs, and building upon the ever-growing structure ushered in by Hunter (2003) and her collective work with others, the leadership at the University of Cincinnati moved to create one of the key missing pieces outlined in both watershed documents—the centralized person to coordinate service learning at UC. This is an example of how the interpersonal and discursive fresh acts of the 2001, 2002, and 2003 documents substantially shifted the structure at the university.
In coordination with a local philanthropic family, the Mayersons, a grant proposal was written to the Mayerson Foundation, which served to create a tangible position at the university. The Office for Academic Community Partnerships was created to lead the implementation of interdisciplinary experiential capstones for a growing number of seniors throughout the university community. In partnership with Vice Provost Gigi Escoe (Undergraduate Affairs) and former Vice Provost Wayne Hall (Faculty Development), this position was designed with specific responsibilities, including the following:
- working with faculty members and community partners to craft mutually beneficial ongoing projects for senior students as part of their capstone experience;
- increasing faculty and community support for this academic model;
- assessing outcomes for students, faculty, and community partners;
- disseminating ideas and findings to faculty and students and community partners; and
- participating in the growing conversation on the pedagogy of engaged and experiential learning.
It was articulated that this person, while positioned in the Provost Office, would need to work closely with student affairs and Services, especially with the Center for Community Engagement, which is a key example of discursive fresh acts creating interpersonal fresh acts. This was substantiated by talking with Hall, Escoe, and the current director of the Center for Community Engagement, Kathy Brown. Also, in talking with the representative from the Mayersons, Jeff Seibert, the family believed that
...this was an opportunity for deep impact in the city . . . and the Mayersons were instrumental with this. . . . At the time of granting this capital support, the Mayersons were in their seventh year of supporting service learning endeavors in the high schools of Cincinnati. . . . Having an existing relationship with the university—Mannie Mayerson, the family’s patriarch, and past president Joseph Steger were close friends, and the foundation even participated in Steger’s reconceptualizion of the campus architecture—they moved to seed the office.
The Mayerson family was particularly interested in assessing what was currently happening in the world of service learning on campus. Seibert reports wondering, “what is happening on campus, where was service learning going on, and how can we begin to assess quality as well?” Therefore, one of the missions of this new hiring endeavor was to begin to understand where some of the leverage points might exist that could result in positive impacts for students and community.
In reviewing the hiring document for this position, which was co-crafted by the Mayerson representative and the Office of the Provost, specifically Gigi Escoe, the search committee was looking for someone with an extensive understanding of the pedagogy of experiential and service learning, along with teaching experience at the university level and research interests in the scholarship of teaching and learning. According to Hall, Escoe, and Seibert, the university and the Mayersons were looking for a candidate with an ability to help design innovative teaching environments and to collaborate with and support faculty, community partners, and other administrators within this budding initiative. Funding, a key structural fresh act, was to provide for the first year of this position, with a second year guaranteed upon successful progress towards the above responsibilities. It was mentioned in the position description that funding beyond the second year was contingent upon future budgetary developments and/or successful external grants, which can be understood as a severe structural constraint to the Service Learning Program that was overcome.
In talking with the narrative participants about this stage in the narrative, there was a bit of a tug-of-war developing at this time around where the Service Learning Program was to be housed at UC, which can be seen as a struggle through interpersonal fresh acts. Both academic affairs and student affairs had invested a considerable amount of time and resources into service learning up to this point, but despite the best efforts from 2001 to 2005 to communicate the collaborative nature of the program, there was some confusion, which became even more divisive when the program received a very sizable grant of $250,000, the Learn and Serve grant, from the Ohio Campus Compact. The Learn and Serve grant allowed training for faculty members on campus, which was very important for moving service learning along, but the addition of these funds caused a bit of infighting around who would control those funds. Despite the best intentions, there was conflict within the structure of service learning at the University, which would still be apparent some years later.
The structural conflict over where service learning should “live” was made even more complicated by the hiring of my predecessor, Dr. Al Hearn. With funding from the Mayerson Foundation, Hearn was hired in 2006 to lead this office and represent the academic affairs element of the program, according to Hall. At about this same time, Kathy Dick (now Kathy Brown) was hired to represent the student affairs element and was charged with managing the Center for Community Engagement, which would house Hearn’s office. Both of these developments could be considered monumental fresh acts that pitted academic affairs and student affairs against each other.
Planting the service learning grounds
It should be noted that this point in the narrative is when my voice and agency enter the story. During my second year in the Urban Educational Leadership program, I worked in the Office for Academic Community Partnerships under Director Hearn. Hearn’s responsibility was to invigorate the Service Learning Program, following the groundwork created by the 2001, 2002, and 2003 service learning documents and the collective agency within that structure, and my job was to work as his intern.
Hall, Brown, and Escoe reported that Director Hearn was instrumental in furthering the planting of service learning seeds at the University, and he remained in the position for two years. Unfortunately, many details about what occurred between 2006 and 2008 with regard to the program are unclear, according to the narrative participants. This was in part due to the manner in which Hearn ran the operation, according to some, in that he did not engage a large swath of institutional stakeholders. He lasted for approximately two years in the office, and due to personal issues, was asked to resign. At the time of writing this essay, there are no records (written or otherwise) left by Hearn.
Despite his abrupt departure, most narrative participants, including Woeste, Wallace, Seibert, Person, Brown, Hall, and Escoe, reported that Hearn’s senior status as an Academic Director certainly added gravity to the budding program. Up until Hearn’s hiring, the service learning endeavors were largely led by those lacking structural power. Insofar as these individuals were acting in isolation, Hearn’s hiring provided structural power through the seeds planted by the Mayerson Foundation.
I knew Hearn personally as I had interned in his office for several months, and the last time that we spoke was over the telephone. Hearn, or “Al” as I called him, had called me to ask for a ride. Apparently, he was stranded somewhere in the city with car trouble. It was during this phone conversation that Al told me that he had resigned from his position. I was shocked. One of the last things Al said to me was, “Who knows, maybe it’s a job opening for you.” I scoffed at this, as I was simply an adjunct instructor and a graduate assistant in the Office of the Dean of CECH, but Al’s words would later come to fruition.
As I will detail in the next section, Hearn’s leaving the university left a void in the leadership of service learning at UC. The position would remain vacant until 2008, and according to Hall and Brown, the Center for Community Engagement stepped into the void, enacting a bit of agency with the structure created by the vacated Office for Academic-Community Partnerships.