Dwight Hall reaches out to faculty members

The student-run Dwight Hall affirmed its goal of including Yale faculty in its outreach efforts in a forum of students and professors yesterday evening.

Since the successful launch of Community Based Learning, a program designed to encourage Yale students to fulfill academic requirements while performing service-based research in New Haven, Dwight Hall’s leaders are beginning to introduce their efforts to University classrooms.

At the faculty outreach tea, Erica Greenberg ’06, Dwight Hall’s first Faculty Outreach coordinator, and Carolyn Molleur–Hinteregger ’07, student CBL Coordinator, encouraged faculty to become involved by introducing the program in their classes, giving lectures or becoming mentors for extracurricular groups. While Dwight Hall coordinators Ben Staub ’06 and Laura Huizar ’06 familiarized a handful of Yale faculty members with Dwight Hall’s activities, Dwight Hall program director Johnny Scafidi said most professors simply do not know enough about the organization

“Professors know that we are here as a resource but don’t know exactly what the students envision,” he said. “A lot of professors do related work, but the information is not getting networked to all the people who could potentially use it — work in isolation gets lost.”

At the tea, political science professor Cynthia Farrar, who started CBL with former Dwight Hall co-coordinator Michelle Rosenthal ’05 last spring, said that given the passion many students foster for social service, professors’ involvement in Dwight Hall’s activities can strengthen the student–faculty relationships. She also said that as citizens of the New Haven community, professors should strive to connect the academic life of the University with issues that affect the community.

Molleur-Hinteregger said Yale students participating in CBL while enrolled in a relevant class benefit both themselves and their classmates by providing a deeper understanding of the issues they are addressing through their work. Yet the most important goal of CBL, she said, is to address the needs of the city, not the academia.

“We work with the local organization in order to ensure that the research project done is actually helpful to them,” said Farrar. “The need for the project always arises from the organization itself.”

Michael Mahoney, a history professor who attended the tea, said he was eager to work with the community, but that he found it hard to connect CBL with his main area of concentration.

“I want to sit down and think about how I can incorporate it into my work, which mostly focused on African history,” he said.

History professor Cynthia Russett shared his concern, saying that she admires students who participate in Dwight Hall, but her interests are more “cultural and intellectual.”

But Greenberg said the CBL program is not the only way for professors to become involved in Dwight Hall. She said that since she assumed her position this January, she has started reaching out to various professors, encouraging them to give talks and develop mentoring relationships with extracurricular groups. She said Child Study Center lecturer Carla Horwitz has agreed to speak at a dinner for Dwight Hall’s Early Childhood Education Fellows in April and political science professor Cynthia Horan has signed up to mentor two service groups — the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project and The Roosevelt Institution, a student-run progressive think tank that is part of a national network. In addition, Greenberg said Economics Director of Undergraduate Studies Patrick Bayer has expressed interest in becoming involved with “Little Economists,” a group designing basic business projects for New Haven public school students.

“We are hoping that professors will not only become mentors, but also program partcipants,” Huizar said. “They have a lot to offer, and there is a potential for very meaningful student-faculty interaction.”

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