CSN funds numerous Master's and Doctoral annually to conduct community outreach activities. Student's take part in narrative interviews on a range of topics such as; refugees, optimism, interfaith work, poverty, addiction, African culture, spiritual awakenings, transgender issues, homelessness, traumatic brain injuries, and the dealing with the death of a parent. Current partners include the Children's Restoration Network, Friends of Refugees, Kate's Club, Covenant House, and the Friendship Center.
"Service-learning" is designed to help meet the learning objectives of an academic course while also helping to meet an identified community need. This reciprocity—hands-on skills and civic insight for students, objective value for the community—is the hallmark of genuine service-learning at Mercer. No matter what major or career interest a Mercer student is pursuing, there is a service-learning class that can make the learning experience more impactful.
The service-learning work of the CSN comes out of a tradition of narrative theory and narrative therapy/counseling. Narrative theory is a multidisciplinary effort to understand how stories help people make sense of the world and how people make sense of stories. Narrative therapy/counseling places importance upon narrative as stories of people's lives that can be changed through particular tellings and retellings. Through people's many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities, they can reduce the influence of problems in their lives by re-authoring their own stories. While our service learning does not involve formal counseling or psychological interventions, as a foundation of our service mission, we believe a person receives a significant emotional benefit when someone takes the time to listen to their story.
Service learning takes place in a variety of counseling courses such as Lifespan Development and can involve a student conducting a senior interview and then creating a digital narrative to share with the interviewee. Other examples from Penfield faculty collaborators include Melanie Pavich’s work having students interview African American descendants of Harrington School graduates living on St. Simons Island, GA, and S.J. Overstreet’s project involving student interviews of military veterans.
The following courses required service learning activities that involved interviewing a community member in a marginalized/underpublicized population and crafting a digital narrative:
|Course Name||Population||Number Completed|
|Lifespan Development (2 Sections)||Older Adults||47|
|Job Analysis||Disabled Adults||15|
|Substance Abuse||Recovered Addicts||22|
|Narrative Theory||Oppressed/1st Time Travelers||11|
- Study of African American life and culture in coastal Georgia with Penfield history students involving interviews and the creation of digital narratives.
- Study of Veterans Oral Histories in conjunction with Library of Congress with Penfield Students studying Family Systems Theory.