All third year students in the Electrical & Electronic Engineering (EEE) discipline within the College of Engineering and Informatics undertake service learning based group projects involving the development of technology prototypes for the clients of various community organisations such as the NCBI, Deafhear.ie, COPE and Enable Ireland.
Gillian Collins and Orla Lyons, 3rd Year Occupational Therapy students, reflect on their Community Service Learning project
"Service learning is an integral part of the 3rd year undergraduate occupational therapy programme. Students collaborate with community organisations and community groups who do not have access to occupational therapy services to develop occupational therapy programmes which support participation and promote health and well -being. This year there are over 12 community-university partnerships ranging from occupational therapy with family support services to occupational therapy with local active retirement groups.
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This service learning module introduces Biomedical Science students to the concept of service-learning. Students take the 4 ECTS module in the second year of the programme. It aims to enhance classroom learning and link it with community service to enrich learning experiences and emphasize civic responsibility. The module is integrated into the students' curriculum to provide structured time to think, talk and report about their group activities.
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CAIRDE is an initiative where all third-year Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering students apply their academic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs. This is the first time in history that an Irish education institution has been recognised for work in the area of civic engagement, which certainly enhanced the honour.
The MacJannet Prize is administered by the Talloires Network. The Talloires Network is an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. They received 66 nominations from 54 universities in 27 countries around the world.
Andrew Carroll was one of approximately ten medical students in first and second year at NUI Galway to participate on the Special Study Module. As part of the module, Andrew and his fellow medical students taught CPR to schoolchildren in the Galway region. The coordinator of the Special Study Modules, Dr Gerald Flaherty maintains the Special Study Module brings medical students and children together in a highly beneficial capacity for all concerned. "We train our students how to teach CPR, then they pass on this skill to the students attending these schools. The hope is that some day these students could either practice the skills themselves in a cardiac arrest scenario, or they could teach other people how to perform the skill, so this is a very worthwhile initiative."
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Every year the 3rd year Occupational Therapy students take on an intense community project as part of service learning that is designed to both address some of the occupational therapy needs of the community and to help them develop the professional skills that will make them valuable occupational therapists in the future. The 3rd year module itself, Emerging Areas of Occupational Therapy Practice, has been in near continual evolution since its inaugural year in 2006. It began as a kind of needs assessment to various groups and NGOs around Galway which represented a wide variety of people with various disabilities who were, for some reason or another, excluded from the larger Galway community. In 2007 the module became a full year project and shifted its focus from needs assessment to actually addressing those needs in collaboration with the different community organizations and developing projects that could be effectively implemented. This particular evolution of the 3rd year module was extremely successful with loads of positive community feedback and gratitude for services that could not normally be provided. "But everything has to change," says course director Margaret McGrath. "It can't just stand still."
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You wouldn't build a house in an area without first finding out as much about the local community as possible. The best way to do that is to ask the locals, using their community knowledge to learn as much information as they can give.
It's this idea of community knowledge that Dr Cheryl Siemers discussed in her seminar in March as part of the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) Conversations with Community series that was held in the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, NUI Galway. "I'd say my primary broad category would be community-based learning, in the teaching and learning that surrounds what we would call service learning. So that's my biggest, broadest category of research, and how we can improve the way we do service learning instruction," explained Dr Siemers soon after her seminar ended. "And in that category, it's primarily at the undergraduate level. And I specify that because, based on the conversations today, it's a little different over here, where we might do service learning from freshman to senior years because we have four-year degrees, and as we talked around the table, I realised that a lot of the service learning components would come in in later years - like maybe the third or fourth year or graduate, it sounded like. I'm interested in how we construct a curriculum around service learning." Dr Cheryl Siemers was, at the time of her seminar, a Colston Visiting Fellow at the University of Bristol, hosted by the English Department to work with the BA in English Literature and Community Engagement and by the Department of Social Sciences and Law to engage with the Productive Margins programme.
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By Tomás M. Creamer
Dr Maria Luisa López Segura, from the University of Monterrey, Mexico, visited the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, located in the Northern area of the NUI Galway campus, on 27 March, 2015.
As part of the institute's Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), Dr Segura was invited to the institute to give a talk about her experience in promoting civic professionalism knowledge and initiatives, among faculty and colleagues in the University of Monterrey.
Dr. Segura spearheaded the ITESM Citizenship and Ethics Program in the University, as part of an effort to promote and develop a culture of "civic professionalism", where students are encouraged to utilise and combine their knowledge and skills, in an ethical and responsible manner, for the benefit of wider society.
This was important, as she explained later, as only around 5% of Mexican students progress to Third level education (compared to over 50% in Ireland), and many of the students that do often come from relatively wealthy backgrounds. Because of this, many University students may not be aware of the problems and challenges of the many millions of Mexicans that live in relatively poor, remote areas, and hence not be aware of the problems of wider society.
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