Faculty Testimonials

Jeremy Campbell

Roger Williams University, Assistant Professor
Brazil, 2011

I went to Santarém in 2000 with a Davidson College service trip, and I’ve been going back to Santarém ever since. Because of my exposure to Brazilian culture and the service learning project I participated in, I decided to focus on issues of development and environmental conservation during graduate school. I currently return to the greater Santarém region yearly, and I am a professor of anthropology at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. In January 2011, I led a group of 17 RWU students on an Amizade volunteer experience: the group studied issues related to environmental sustainability in the tropics, and worked on a stream revitalization project.

Melissa Swauger

Department of Sociology, Assistant Professor
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Jamaica, Summer 2010

During trip to Jamaica, sociology came to life for me in a way that it never has. What I meant was that sociology is the study of everyday life and while we train our students to constantly reflect on and analyze the world around them the importance of this reflection quickly became evident in Jamaica. I was so intrigue by how small mundane happenings, such as the Jamaican boys’ fear of frogs and comfort with spiders could be used to teach core sociological concepts like cultural relativism and how comparing things like everyday child rearing practices could be used to teach these key ideas and terms. Now I use many of these everyday mundane observations to illustrate sociological concepts in my teaching.

Personally, I was inspired (blown away really) at (local site director) Mr. Brown’s relentless activism and leadership. He taught me the importance of being an activist all the time, everywhere. I hope I can someday be as consistent and influential as Mr. Brown. As the group leader I learned a lot about group dynamics, as well as reflecting and acting on them to ensure a positive experience for all.

The program has made me want to continue to foster similar opportunities for students, it made me realize the sacrifices that students from universities like IUP have to make in order to participate in such an experience. More importantly, the program has taught me so much about sharing and withholding personal needs and interests for the benefit of the larger community. I feel like I have less desire for materialistic things and more desire to create and maintain meaningful relationships.

Dr. Cari Carpenter

West Virginia University
Bolivia, 2009

In June 2009 I took advantage of a rare opportunity to teach Indigenous Women’s Literature in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The course proved to be a tremendous learning experience for me, not only in terms of Bolivian government and indigenous cultures, but pedagogy itself: I realized the degree to which traveling with one’s students challenges one’s identity as a teacher. Given that class time stretched far beyond the usual hour and fifteen minutes twice a week, I was forced to renegotiate my relationship to the class and the students sans classroom walls. I couldn’t pack my pedagogical energy into a neat song and dance; I had to develop a much more sustained, realistic persona. I was also confronted, in productive ways, with my own assumptions about the culture, politics, and ethnicity of Bolivia and the United States. Up close, many of my previous beliefs were challenged, leaving me with a kind of “enlightened confusion” that I still wrestle with. Instead of black and white, Bolivia was a more complicated gray: my initial pity for the children at the Millennium orphanage became useless in its simplicity, and instead of finding an unadulterated enthusiasm for the first indigenous president, I was met with a critique of his administration that I couldn’t easily dismiss as racism. The unexpectedness of any teaching experience is amplified, I discovered, by study abroad and service learning; the only guarantee is that there will be surprises. The open-mindedness and flexibility this requires made me, I hope, a better teacher in any setting.

Jessica Friedrichs, MSW, MPA

Instructor, School for Social Change
Coordinator, Service-Learning and Outreach Center
Carlow University
Navajo Nation (2002), Northern Ireland (2002), Jamaica (2003), Tanzania (2004), Bolivia (2006)

While teaching Amizade courses, I was inspired to develop new thought-provoking activities that truly engaged students with the learning experience – challenging them to think deeply about the purpose of their life for example; asking students to articulate thankfulness; providing concrete strategies for action that would lead to a more just world. This profoundly impacted my teaching and I use many of these strategies in any course I teach now.

Along with my students, I had many transformative moments while teaching Amizade courses. I learned a lot about listening from watching site directors who serve as catalysts for change in their community. Many of them have the ability to listen deeply and to transform what they’ve heard into action.

I was also incredibly inspired when I called my former students a few years ago. I called students who had travelled on many different Amizade programs – some were in Northern Ireland, some in Jamaica, some in Bolivia and some in Tanzania. Each of these service-learning courses was focused on a different topic and had different dynamics but the students were universally impacted in the same way. They had all given much deeper thought to how they wanted their life to contribute to the world. Some of them had changed career paths in order to do so. It was remarkable.

An aspect of Amizade that I really value is the short-term service-learning course options because I noticed that many of my students were not traditional study abroad students – they could afford the time and resources only for a short-term course. On every course I led, I had students who had never had a passport or left their region. Since Amizade, I have been conducting research on how service-learning impacts students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and am currently engaged in a project looking at the impact on first-generation college students.

Dr. Richard Montgomery

Associate Professor of Philosophy
and Resident Faculty Leader
West Virginia University
Jamaica, 2008, 2009, 2010

Teaching with Amizade has helped reinforced my conviction that, as much as I enjoy the classroom experience in my discipline, I want to be involved more broadly in students’ education, not only in the classroom but beyond. I also recognize that what happens outside the classroom can invigorate the classroom experience for students and can help them remain committed to their education. I think this kind of involvement invigorates my commitment to education as well.

Eric Schwerer, MFA, PhD

Associate Professor
The Program in Creative and Professional Writing
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Tanzania, Summer 2010

It was a joy to work with students outside of traditional classroom walls. Class discussion, one-on-one conferences, writing assignments: these and other features of my teaching were utterly transformed during my time with Amizade students in Tanzania. For ten years, I had worked hard to make my classrooms comfortable, safe, and intellectually stimulating places; yet after my one semester-long Amizade experience, I feel more empowered than ever to interact with students in ways that truly matter.

Graham Hubbs

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of Idaho
Tanzania, Spring 2010, Summer 2011

Service-learning has given me a new way to make ethical philosophy ethical, to make practical philosophy practical. Through Amizade, I taught a service-learning course in Karagwe, Tanzania with the theme of International Justice. I’m not sure such a course can be taught in any serious way without living amongst and working with the people for whom such justice is a genuine concern. Theory gives way to practice when you read Plato or Rousseau in the morning and then learn about and try to help problems with water access and education in the afternoon. And while I have yet to figure out quite how to do this, I expect that my experiences with service-learning will end up contributing to my scholarship as well. There is a role for service-learning to inform not just the practice of bringing about justice, but the study of justice as well, including the philosophical study of justice. At the very least, it produces an understanding of systematic injustice that is not possible without living in it. I can’t wait to return to Karagwe, to reconnect with the friends I made there, to open more students’ eyes to issues of international justice, and to continue developing my own understanding of these matters.

Monica Frölander-Ulf

Associate Professor Emerita of Anthropology
Retired from University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown
Jamaica 2003, Navajo Nation 2004, 2008

In a service-learning situation, where students and instructors/program directors interact way beyond ordinary classroom hours and settings, it has become clear to me that teaching to the whole person is far more effective, and sometimes absolutely necessary. While I have been careful to not take on the role of a trained psychologist or counselor, I have learned to pay more attention to a student’s physical, mental, and emotional state realizing full well that learning does not happen in a vacuum.

Amizade’s course template and numerous reflection assignments have been very useful for me in suggesting ways in which academic content and community service serve mutually reinforcing roles allowing students to critically examine the course material while getting a clearer understanding of their place, purpose, and experiences in the partner community. For example, one Amizade reflection assignment asks students to take some time to note their sensory experiences in a particular setting at a particular time. This exercise not only speaks to the different ways humans learn about their environment but it can also serve as a vehicle to critically examine what our own and other cultures consider important, or unimportant, sensory information.

My service-learning experiences (both as an instructor and supervising/directing programs) have enriched my life in multitudes of ways. I have gained vast amounts of new knowledge through the generosity of Amizade’s community partners and by being challenged to learn as much as possible through many other channels about the communities where I have worked. The environmental settings have included hiking opportunities in some of the most beautiful, historically and spiritually significant, spots imaginable and access to ocean shores and mesa tops with breathtaking views. I have also been privileged to find new friendships in our partner communities and among Amizade staff, friendships which are bound to last a lifetime.

In the two communities where I have led and taught service-learning course or programs, I have learned invaluable lessons, on the one hand about human’s relationship with the environment of which we are but a miniscule part, and on the other about certain subtleties in human-to-human relationships that I had barely perceived before.