Service Learning at Umbra
Service learning combines community service with more traditional classroom work. The integration of these two components allows students to directly apply academic knowledge, skills, and reflection while collaborating with a local community partner.
The Umbra Institute has developed a variety of courses with a Service Learning component within the General Studies curriculum. Through this model students learn to apply analytical methods and concepts developed in the classroom to a specific project or case study. The projects are intentionally designed to fit both course goals and the current needs of the community partners involved. Projects may vary from one semester to the next and often give American and Italian university students the opportunity to work together.
Both courses include a group project in which students conduct an analysis of an Italian company’s internal organization and its external ambitions, or plans, for conducting business internationally. Students visit local companies, meet with managers, and perform elaborate business analyses where the set of problems to be analyzed is defined in collaboration with the companies. Students have partnered with a wide range of businesses, from small, family-run companies to those with an international profile. Current projects include student involvement with the Umbria’s region government conducting an analysis of international marketing strategies for local arts and crafts products. These products represent the fabric of artisan traditions that continue to play an important role in the regional economy.
Students from this course are given the opportunity to apply and participate in the service learning program called La Famiglia Italiana Project. Selected students are assigned in pairs to a host Italian family in Perugia. Each week, students meet the families and participate in their typical routines and cultural activities. Through La Famiglia Italiana Project, students gain a clearer understanding of course themes discussed in class, along with knowledge of Italian customs and practices from an insider’s perspective. The host families appreciate the opportunity to improve their English language skills and to learn about the students’ culture, while Umbra students improve their Italian language skills and learn about Italian culture firsthand.
This course introduces students to theory related to the ecology of human development. Using the course readings, students work in small groups preparing an action-based research project in collaboration with local elementary schools. The goal is to critically reflect on the processes of ecological development, enculturation, and socialisation by applying theory to practice. To conclude the project, students prepare a group report and present their findings at the end of the semester.
The service learning component in this course on Women and the Grand Tour focuses on the collection of travel narratives and guides at the Ranieri di Sorbello Foundation. Students will contribute to their library collection by creating an annotated bibliography. This is part of a larger initiative at the Foundation in preparing a bibliographic exhibition on the topic of travel literature.