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CommonLore—Practitioner Advisory Group

KAY LEWIS
Assistant Director of Civic Engagement & Career Services—Adams State University, CO

kay lewisKay is the Assistant Director of Civic Engagement at Adams State University, in Alamosa, Colorado. Alamosa is a small city along the upper Rio Grande with the highest elevated farmland in the U.S., and a population of 8,700. Adams State is Colorado's first higher education institution to be federally designated a Hispanic Serving Institution. A majority of Adams University students are low income, first generation students.

Many students are non-traditional, coming back to school after years away or starting for the first time as adult learners. Many students work mutilple jobs, are athletes, and have their own families. Kay notes that Service-Learning projects outside of the classroom aren’t always an option for her students. So it is a challenge to show her students the importance of Service-Learning. If it seems to be taking up more time or isn’t built into the classes that they are taking it will cause students real difficulty.

adamsAs a recent alumna of CWI''s Summer WEST Institute, Kay says that she is drawn to Place Based Service-Learning because "it's important for myself and my students to be active members of the society in which we live. The more we are each involved, the stronger our sense of community and belonging will be." She shares that the disparity in her region is tangible. "We are one of the poorest rural communities in Colorado. Most of our population are farmers and ranchers, or work for the hospital or University."

Kay says that students in the valley often grow up feeling as if they don’t have what it takes to “make it”, or that they are stuck in the lives that they and their families have had for generations. But, she says, "the community here is amazing. Folks look out for each other, help each other, and come together in difficult times as well as in celebration. There is such a rich history here, and amazing opportunities to get involved."

She sees the chance to come together (university, students, faculty, staff, and community members) to work togeher to make positive changes and address the true needs of the community. This also provides students with a great way to utilize their knowledge and the skills they’ve developed in the classroom in a real, concrete way.

adamsKay believes that many students learn best when working in a hands on environment. Building Place Based Service-Learning into the curriculum provides students with the chance to really make a difference. "If we can pair that with a focus on civic mindedness and citizenship, we are assisting in the holistic development of our students, and helping to create engaged future citizens." She says.

Adams State University is in the process of redoing their general education curriculum, looking specifically at High Impact Practices. Kay's position came to be because the university saw a hole that needed to be filled. She has been charged with developing a Civic Engagement Program from the ground up. She came to CWI's Summer Institute to gain ideas and resources for developing the mission, vision and scope of a realistic program that she and her colleagues at Adams can implement. She and her colleagues are dedicated and are now well on their way.

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