State Department delegation visits Elon to learn about service-learning
A delegation from the State Department visited Elon to learn about service-learning in a presentation from the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement and had a chance to serve with students on Loy Farm.
A delegation from the State Department spent time at Elon last week as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas: Expanding Hemispheric Exchange in Higher Education program.
The group included representatives from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru. They selected Elon because of the “reputation the university holds as a national model for engaged and experiential learning,” according to Leila Bekri, Director of International Visitor Leadership Programs, who worked with the Global Education Center to coordinate the visit. Bekri added that the primary focus involved exploring “the university's commitment to student community involvement and service-learning as well as the public-private partnership that creates opportunities for community service.”
To understand the process of engaging the community through service-learning, the delegation met with Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement staff with a presentation from Mary Morrison, assistant dean of campus life and director of the Kernodle Center, Bob Frigo, associate director, and Tammy Cobb, assistant director for community partnerships.
Afterward, the group had an opportunity to learn about and serve on Loy Farm. Kernodle Center Campus Kitchen Coordinator Sarah Williams provided information about the farm’s integral connection to the success of Campus Kitchen, a student organization housed in the Kernodle Center that incorporates produce grown on the farm in the preparation of over 200 meals each week for community members struggling with food insecurity.
While at the farm, the delegation also had the opportunity to meet and serve with students in Professor Steve Moore’s Sustainable Food Production class. Moore and Abbie Robinson, Loy Farm student manager, gave a tour of the farm, explained the high tunnel design of the Loy greenhouse, and guided the visitors through laying a drip irrigation line and trellising tomatoes with his students.
Noelle Baffa, a student in the course, said, “This was definitely a moment during my Elon education where I thought: this is why I’m here. I’m aware that you don’t have these kinds of interactions elsewhere." Despite being dressed in suits and professional clothing, the delegation did not mind getting dirty to serve alongside students on the farm.
During the visit, Moore noted, “Two things seemed to touch our class - first, that the idea of service is not limited to developed countries and that it is a universal expression and need, and, secondly, that students could see the global struggles of food security and food sovereignty from an international perspective. When one visiting professor said ‘Our farmers, and hence our students, cannot make money farming, we don't know where our food will come in the future’, it really prompted further discussion in our Sustainable Food Systems course.”
The delegation spent time at the farm with Assistant Director of Sustainability for Education and Outreach Kelly Harer, and one of her student leaders, Kate Pearce, who discussed sustainability at Elon, highlighting solar energy, biointensive farming, bees, sustainable building and design, and how students can serve through the Don’t Trash It! campaign.
The delegation was part of the International Visitor Leadership Program that is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Each year, approximately 5,000 emerging leaders come to the U.S. as participants in this program; they are typically mid-career professionals between 25-45 years of age. Since its start, more than 200,000 International Visitors have participated, including over 330 current or former chiefs of state or heads of government.