About the International Service-Learning (ISL)
ISLP is a collaborative project where the university works directly with communities in a different country to help solve complex challenges within that community. ISLP is also a for-credit course that enables students attending UofL an opportunity to gain international experience while assisting another country. Students enroll in one of five courses each semester, develop an interdisciplinary specific project, learn about a specific country, train for on-location activities, study country specific cultures, and then travel to the location. While in-country the students work with local leaders in completing the projects. These projects are developed based on feedback provided from the representatives in the country and could include university students working with teachers and schools, government agencies, villages or towns, police, engineering agencies, hospitals/clinics, or any other opportunity that may be identified by that county's community.
UofL has maintained an ISLP since 1997. The first program was held at Barbados. Since 1997 the program has been in several locations throughout Belize. The Belize program was once as large as 87 delegates. In the past two years the program was deliberately reduced in size and is now limited to 40 delegates, which includes 32 students and eight faculty and staff.
The students may have majors in any disciplines. Courses are offered in communication, education, justice administration, nursing, college student personnel/higher education, business, sport administration, civic leadership, and dentistry.
The ISL program was formed in 1996 when the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Denise Gifford, contacted Dr. J. Price Foster, a Professor from the Justice Administration department, to partner in a collaborative and interdisciplinary concept that would invite outstanding students to take a course and then conduct service projects in Belize. Since that time there have been several locations throughout the globe.
The faculty for the program has grown from three to over 23 professors and staff representing 13 different departments and six colleges/divisions. The programs vary in size and time offered each year. Belize and Trinidad & Tobago travel over spring break and include delegations of 40 and 25 respectively. Botswana travels during May with a delegation of 30 and the Philippines travels during winter break with a delegation of 30.
Program Learning Outcomes
1. Integration of academic course content with practical experience in a structured manner will increase students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills.
2. Through realistic self-appraisal and reflection, students will demonstrate personal growth through clarification of values and enhanced self-esteem.
3. Students will develop an increased sense of social responsibility and appreciation for diversity through an understanding of the social, political, religious, and cultural constructs of the host community.
4. Students will learn how their intended career choices may be viewed or practiced in different cultural contexts.
5. Students will learn the importance of teamwork, balance, and relationships to achieve satisfying and productive lifestyles.
Although UofL may modify the program outline, the university has learned from previous experiences the following schedule is effective and allows for travel, learning, and service.
This programs allows the participants an opportunity to relax following travel days, learn about the country’s cultures, focus on work specific days, and maintain a balanced environment while out of country.
In May 2010, the UofL delegation traveled to Botswana and worked directly with Nanogang and Bokomosa schools. This was the first year and it was agreed only two schools would be piloted as UofL developed the program in Gaborone. While on-site, UofL students worked in classrooms addressing self-esteem, AIDS/HIV education, substance abuse education, getting along with classmates (anti-bullying), and improving communication (using videos made by the Gaborone students).
In May 2011 the program continued work with Nanogang school, and added Maoka and Kwento-Serrito schools, as well as service in the Hope Mission and dental rotations in the Princess Marina Hospital under the direction of the Chief Medical Officer. When students were not working they toured the national museum, Mokalodi, Three Chiefs, and other local and historical areas.
The 2001 the Belize program focused on how mental health issues were related to the social issues like AIDS, domestic violence, drugs & alcohol abuse and clinical mental health programming.
The Belize 2002 program centered around the refinement of interdisciplinary project development. Special emphasis was placed on the project of providing football (soccer) uniforms for teams in Dangriga, Independence and Gale's Point. Students from Justice Administration refined their program and initiated contacts with representatives of the National Police Force. Participants initiated community mental health projects and in-service programs for mental health workers in several regions of the country. The ISL Program began exploratory work the area of community planning and organized an interdisciplinary community-based health program for the town of Gale's Point. This project involved students from the areas of medicine, nursing, dentistry and communications.
The interdisciplinary medical program came to fruition in 2003. The Medicine and Nursing teams performed health and vision screenings, physical exams, child development screenings, and determined the prevalence of alcoholism for each individual as well as the community at large. The residents of Gales Point were treated with medications and other therapies that the team brought with them to Belize. Residents with chronic and acute illnesses that could not be treated by the team were subsequently referred to appropriate health care facilities.
The Dental team also performed health screenings, including documentation of dental and oral histories of each client. The residents of Gales Point received much-needed medicine, therapy and dental care such as restorative and surgical dental procedures and construction of temporary prosthesis (flippers).
In 2008 the program worked in both the Red Bank and Independence. The highly interdisciplinary team approach conducted community profiles in the Mayan village, provided science and bullying workshops for kids in the local schools, and provided dental care to Red Bank residents. Additionally, participants toured the country's prison, speaking directly with staff and residents, met officials in the U.S. embassy, toured the very unique country zoo, and participated in several different community excursions.