Saturday, January 3, 2009

What are Immersion projects?

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,

then let us work together.”

~ Lila Watson, Aboriginal Woman

What are Immersion Projects?

The goal of each Immersion Project is to foster a dialogue between the College community and the host community around issues of social justice. By working alongside people and sharing their stories, students learn about themselves and the world.

There are seven underlying philosophies and approaches to each Immersion Project. Each contributes to the understanding of community and the role of the individual within it.

§ immersion. The experience of being in a community.

§ service. Participating fully in a community-identified project.

§ learning. Examining community and social justice issues and how communities respond to those issues.

§ reciprocity. Both the community and the project participants work together to plan and implement the experiences so that equitable attention is paid to the agency’s needs and educational value for the student participants.

§ asset model. The community is not a place of “problems to be fixed.” Rather, strengths exist upon which to be built.

§ reflection. Connecting the action with theory – what is it that we have learned? How does this inform my future community involvement?

§ comfort zones. Center for Public Service will never knowingly put participants in real danger. However, we will gladly put them in situations where they will be highly uncomfortable.

Each project consists of three equally important stages: orientation, experience, and reflection. In combination, the three stages can project a powerful educational experience.

§ The orientation educates participants about culture, history, group dynamics, experiential learning, and more. Without proper orientation, the experience is severely weakened.

§ The experience supports what was discussed in orientation and provides a hands-on context for powerful learning. Without the experience, the orientation and reflection lose their reasons for being.

§ Reflection ties it all together, connecting learning and experience, so both are richer and more meaningful. Without critical reflection, the experience remains an unprocessed activity.

The program is built on the recognition of equal dignity and humanity of all persons, no matter what their circumstances. Hence, the local people at the project site, the students, and the leaders are all servers and served; they all teach and learn from each other. Immersion Projects are tools for changing students from observers into active participants and giving them a way to engage with people and ideas whom they would otherwise have little or no contact. Because of the nature of Immersion Projects, the human relationships established with the people at the project sites are paramount. The Immersion Project is committed to building two-way bridges between the persons at project sites and the participants from the College, so that the benefits are reciprocal and continuing.


This was contributed by the director of CPS, Gretchen Carlson Natter

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