RWU center connecting students with community needs
DUAL PURPOSE: Arnold Robinson, director of Community Partnerships Center at Roger Williams University, says that the program allows students to apply what they’ve been learning, as well as meet the needs of the community organizations.
Arnold Robinson is director of the Community Partnerships Center at Roger Williams University. Formed just under two years ago, the center serves as a central resource to partner students with community organizations, client organizations and government agencies in real-world, experiential-learning projects that would have a visible impact on partner communities.
Projects for the 2012-2013 academic year include a Main Street revitalization project in the Broad Street neighborhood in Providence and Main Street in Woonsocket; a children’s-room design at Adams Memorial Library in Central Falls; and a collaboration with the East Bay Coalition for the Homeless on marketing research to obtain data on community perceptions. Robinson hopes to expand the program and the number of community partners.
PBN: How did the center for community partnerships come about?
ROBINSON: I taught at Roger Williams as an adjunct professor for nine years before my visiting professorship. I integrated experiential learning with all my courses. You need to leave the ivory tower and go out and work with citizens on community projects they care about. While teaching a graduate preservation class we established a relationship with Warren, and wrote the preservation-planning element of a comprehensive plan. That philosophy was very quickly picked up by two leaders here and after my visiting year was over, they asked if I’d like to do this more broadly across the university.
PBN: What is the goal of the program?
ROBINSON: It has two main goals and I like to say they are completely counter-balanced. The first is to provide students with the ability to exercise what they’ve been learning within their particular disciplines on real projects in the community. The second is to meet the needs of the community organizations through real and valid projects. I think the rub there is that often times you’ll think of student work as being «constant ****SSLq»Oh, isn’t that great they did something, but can we really use it?’ All our projects are neatly balanced to have terrific experiences for the students. They get something they would never have gotten otherwise.