2024 Engagement & Service Learning Summit

Local partnerships celebrated at the 2024 Purdue Engagement and Service-Learning Summit

On February 29, 2024, hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and community partners from across the state gathered at the Discovery Learning Research Center to celebrate giant leaps in community engagement and local impact.

The event included lightning talks, a networking happy hour, student engagement showcase, and awards. From enlightening talks to impactful projects, the event showcased the transformative power of collaboration and reflected Purdue’s commitment to community engagement.

Kicking off the summit with words of welcome were chief of staff and senior vice president for partnerships, Alyssa Wilcox; vice president for engagement, Roberto Gallardo; and associate vice president for world readiness, Jennifer Dobbs-Oates.

Six TED-style lightning talks from faculty, students, and community partners highlighted best practices in partnership:

  • Nicole Adams, Clinical Associate Professor, Nursing, “I’ve Got a Guy: Partnership beyond acquaintance”
  • Emmanuel Babalola, Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction, “From Little Explorers to Future Scientists: Nurturing early interest in STEM with ‘Physics is Fun’ project”
  • Harris Collins, Undergraduate Student, Honors College, “’Centering the Urban Periphery’ Service Learning and community engagement in your own backyard”
  • Erin Hoying, Clinical Assistant Professor, Nursing, “From Playgrounds to Teddy Bears: Creating and maintaining a meaningful community partnership”
  • Jason McManus, President & CEO, Wabash Center, “Life Without Limits: How academic inquiry, innovation, and technology are changing the game for people with disabilities”
  • Sandra San Miguel, Associate Dean for Engagement, Veterinary Medicine, “The League of VetaHumanz: Using our powers for good”

Photo: Alyssa Wilcox. Credit: David Mason.

When you harness the power of a world-class research university like Purdue and community partners practicing in the field, the ingredients are there for very potent innovations.

Jason McManus

Lightning Talk Presenter / President & CEO, Wabash Center

Reciprocity in Partnership

Jason McManus, President & CEO of Wabash Center in Lafayette, discussed the power of university-community partnership in solving real-world problems. Wabash Center is a comprehensive service provider for individuals with disabilities or special needs and a longstanding partner of Purdue EPICS and the Purdue Autism Research Center.

Nicole Adams highlighted the importance of patience and dedication in building partnerships, emphasizing the time and effort required to build trust, acknowledging that while the process may entail giving more than receiving initially, the rewards of genuine collaboration are invaluable. 

Across the diverse talks, a key theme arose: the importance of reciprocal relationships. Purdue and community partners shared that they prefer to tackle challenges in a collaborative manner, determining where their strengths intersect rather than imposing solutions. The approach not only fosters trust but also ensures initiatives are rooted in the genuine needs of the community.

Photo: Jason McManus. Credit: David Mason.

Students in Partnership

Image credit: Ryan Maluchnik.

Student involvement is a cornerstone of the annual summit, with Student Engagement Showcase submissions reflecting the creativity and dedication of Purdue’s engaged students. From empowering youth researchers to designing sustainable community centers, engaged students demonstrated their commitment to making a tangible difference in the world around them.

“It’s important to provide our students with learning opportunities not only in traditional academic settings but also beyond the classroom where they can begin to address today’s societal challenges in collaboration with community members,” said director of service-learning and summit lead Lindsey Payne.

This year’s student showcase was the largest in the summit’s history, with 31 teams of 130 undergraduate and graduate students showcasing engagement scholarship and partnership with community-based organizations. Projects ranged from local community collaborations to cross-continental partnerships. First-, second-, and third-place prizes were awarded across the poster and creative display categories.

“It’s great to see such diversity of partners and projects,” said Payne. “Even the relatively smaller partnerships can have meaningful impact.”

Photo: Tugce Karatas, Yiheng Zhou, Viviana Piceno. Credit: David Mason.

Student Partnership Snapshot

English 424 brings together 20 professional writing students and three community partners this semester to use professional writing to improve access to emergency services in rural Indiana. Students are analyzing current state processes, telling stories through data, providing small-scale solutions documents, and recommending next steps to meet the needs of the organizations and to improve access to emergency services in all communities. In their submission, the team stated that through this work, “students are committed to living out Purdue’s land-grant promise to serve the community through positive impact.”

Phoenix Paramedic Solutions chief strategy and transformation officer Jason Padgett said,We deeply appreciate every chance to collaborate with Purdue students. Empowering the next generation of caretakers and providing them with opportunities to learn and grow is a cause we wholeheartedly embrace. When these opportunities involve Purdue students, we are confident that it will be a mutually enriching experience. Their compassion, talent, and remarkable efficacy leave a lasting impression. The English 424 class is conducting invaluable research, enabling our limited staff to offer hands-on services in Tippecanoe and the surrounding counties.”

Resources in Partnership

Community-based organizations, students, faculty, and staff were able to connect at the summit to Purdue’s service-learning and engagement resources and personnel.

Notable this year was the creation of a new role in Purdue’s Office of Engagement focused on local nonprofit engagement. Lisa Duncan, nonprofit engagement director, now serves as the office’s primary point of contact for nonprofits in Greater Lafayette and the surrounding counties, in addition to managing the Purdue United Way campaign and agency relationships.

Duncan works with any nonprofit organization, community partner, or philanthropic agency within Tippecanoe and the surrounding counties; organizations and agencies of every size; and partners who want to pair their social impact efforts with Purdue’s internationally renowned community engagement work. “It’s an honor to serve our local nonprofit and community-based organizations, connecting their missions and expertise with the interests and innovations of our engaged faculty, staff, and students,” said Duncan.

One such resource was seen in action throughout the Student Engagement Showcase: service-learning grants awarded from the Office of Engagement to support student service-learning and service projects with community partners.

Photo: Lisa Duncan. Credit: David Mason.

The support of the Office of Engagement in evaluating my service work, including support, time, and encouragement has been hugely impactful.

Erin Hoying

Lightning Talk Presenter / Clinical Assistant Professor, Nursing

Persistence in Partnership

“Events like this, where we gather record-breaking numbers of faculty, staff, students, and community partners, catalyze new local engagement opportunities for experiential education, service-learning, and community-based research,” said Gallardo.

This year’s summit made clear that the reciprocal relationships between universities and their surrounding communities hold immense potential for progress and transformation.

With new partnerships on the horizon and an institutional commitment to fostering reciprocal relationships, Purdue University and its partners continue to be at the forefront of innovation through community collaboration.

Connect with the Office of Engagement at engagement@purdue.edu. Connect with the Office of Service Learning at paynel@purdue.edu.

Credit: David Mason.

I feel like the most powerful thing that we can do is believe in others.

Sandy San Miguel

Lightning Talk Presenter / Associate Dean for Engagement, Veterinary Medicine

Photo credits: David Mason

Source: Virginia Vought