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Spotlight on Community Engaged Faculty and Course HSSJ 2170 – Interpersonal Relationships with Nashman Affiliate Sangeeta Prasad

Academia too often focuses only on research, and community engaged scholarship allows people to rehumanize their fields and to consider the impact they could have in applying what they know, to the communities most in need in Washington, DC."

Professor Sangeeta Prasad, M.Ed, Psy.D., Nashman Center Affiliate Faculty and Adjunct Professor of Human Services and Social Justice, sat down to talk with us about her community engaged scholarship class, HSSJ 2170: Interpersonal relationships, which she has taught for the past four years. The class is a part of the Human Services and Social Justice department. It focuses on helping students better understand the dynamics of relationships, which they experience through the direct service they complete for the class. This semester, the class served with six different site partners, ranging from after-school programs to senior services.

Professor Prasad shared that she believes community-engaged scholarship is important because “Academia too often focuses only on research, and community engaged scholarship allows people to rehumanize their fields and to consider the impact they could have in applying what they know to the communities most in need in Washington, DC. In my sense, as somebody who moved here like many professors, we have a responsibility to the community in which we are living and to serve our students well… community engaged learning, I think forces us in a way to grow in our capacity to listen, to reflect, and to support our students.”

Additionally, she finds that students benefit from completing engaged coursework, “Many of our students have been shielded from suffering in the world so that they could grow and develop without worry. And then many of our students have experienced a great deal of difficulty in their early lives. I think it allows students to build empathy with their peers, and to consider how each of us has responsibility within our communities. I think it also benefits students by encouraging them to consider their own relationships in their lives and who they are, why they're here, and what matters - how we make meaning of the world.”

Dr. Prasad shared her insight on what is most meaningful within the class, when students “start wrestling with something at site that they typically wouldn't do. That's what I think is most powerful in service-learning work. When I see students in class discussion present something, and the whole class is able to engage in that dialogue and offer varied perspectives, then the student can start seeing what they were bringing and what the person who they were serving was bringing. [the class] gets to come to a shared understanding of what happened and deepen the understanding and access the feelings that come up in service.”

A student who took interpersonal relationships said, “I was a student in the course this past semester and this class was so helpful for me because not only was I learning ideas and frameworks in the classroom, but I could use and apply them directly to my experiences at site. Professor Prasad does such a great job at preparing students for site and gives us the space to work out all the feelings we experience there in class.”

If you are faculty interested in learning more about community-engaged scholarship and how to get your course designated, check out our resources here.  If you are a student who’d like to try a community engaged scholarship class click here.

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