Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) Affiliated Courses

Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) trains students to use their disciplinary expertise to help “create sustainable communities” where humans and nature flourish, now and in the future, in Georgia, the U.S., and around the globe. To that end, they partner with faculty across campus to offer affiliated courses. SLS Affiliated Courses teach students skills and knowledge that will help them engage in “creating sustainable communities.” They align with one or more parts of the SLS sustainable communities framework. Their goal is to have affiliated courses in every school, at all levels. 

During spring 2018, the following WCP courses were affiliated with SLS:

Comics and Sustainable Urban Development (Leah Misemer, PhD)

In my research and teaching, I see comics as a mode of communication that facilitates connections between otherwise dispersed people and communities, and SLS has helped my students see this idea in action. In my course, which is also sponsored by Arts in the Classroom, after students have analyzed comics about the city and created research-based comics about topics related to urban development, they will present their comics at an exhibition opening on April 18th designed to raise awareness about the issues and assets of underserved neighborhoods in Atlanta. Research topics, developed through reading comics about the city and listening to guest speakers from community organizations, include the housing crisis, ecodistricts, senior relocation, community gardens, and transportation issues, as well as topics related to Grove Park historical landmarks, the Belt Line, and arts revitalization efforts in the area.  Designed to teach creativity as a skill through multimodal composition, the course asks students to analyze comics about the city and practice comics creation. The comics on display for the exhibition will marshall the knowledge students acquire about choices related to communication modes at their disposal in order to present a message to a broad audience. While the creation of the various materials for the exhibit will help students grow as communicators and the chance to exhibit will increase investment by providing access to an audience beyond the classroom, the display of the ideas contained therein will serve the Georgia Tech and Atlanta communities by educating about urban development issues.

My SLS partnership has allowed me to host two community partners as guest speakers, Justine Schwartz from the Grove Park Foundation and Garry Harris from the Center for Sustainable Communities. While the comics we have read as models focus on cities like New York, Chicago, and Tokyo, the guest speakers helped students understand local issues, while also serving themselves as assets of their communities.  Through these speakers, students have begun to understand that local community participation and input is vital for responsible urban development. Two of the student groups will have an opportunity to work with our community partners as clients while making their comics for the exhibition. SLS support will fund a print run of these comics, which community organizations plan to use to educate broader audiences--including members of the communities they serve--about what they do. Thus, SLS helps move research off of the page and into the world, showing my students how comics can serve local communities.

Locating the Institution in the Community: Service-Learning for Non-Profit and Community Partners In Professional Communication (Joseph M. M. Aldinger, PhD)

My LMC 3403, "A Humanist Approach to Business Communication," is designed to introduce students in Scheller College of Business to the kinds of communications and documents that they will produce in the workplace. My interdisciplinary approach introduces my business students to humanist methodologies and modes of criticism such as: ethnography, disability studies, ecocriticism, cultural criticism, and film studies. As a humanist practicing in the business world,  a partnership with SLS reified the interdisciplinary threads in my course. Through my SLS affiliation I was able to partner with nonprofits and other community partners such as the Environmental Protection Agency so that students could put their skills to work as communication consultants. For instance, students applied the design principles, visual analysis skills, and storytelling techniques learned in class to create a range of professional documents for YELLS (Youth Empowerment through Learning Leading and Serving) a local non-profit. Students in the past have also done qualitative consumer market research for the Serve-Learn-Sustain Center's marketing and communication team. These students conducted depth-interviews of college students and then created short films that highlighted their original insight into consumer behaviors that could guide their clients actionable based marketing and communication strategies. Engaging with equity at the community level, my students have also designed promotional videos and an informational handout for the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Chinese Americans (NACA). Their material was used during NACA's New Year celebration.

A future sustainability project that I'm excited about working on is with CHaRM (Center for Hard to Recycle Material) and the EPA. This joint venture involves consulting work that will take place over the course of several semesters. Students will create a wide variety of business documents for CHaRM including: signage, instructional videos, informational pamphlets, pricing sheets, website content including social media, and help develop a business plan for expansion. My students are very excited about this partnership because it puts to use the technical skills they've learned in Scheller College of Business and the communication skills they've learned in LMC 3403. 

Communication Ethics: Service Based Collaboration with CHaRM (Russell Kirkscey, PhD)

Many genres of technical and professional communication incorporate the production of public-facing documents such as business proposals and project reports. I often base my course assignments on the constraints and affordances of external communication opportunities, so working with SLS is a good fit for the needs of my students in technical communication courses. One of my research areas is communcation ethics, and the SLS focus on environmental issues allows me to provide practical applications in the classroom. 

This semester in LMC 3403: Technical Communication, my students have collaborated with the director of the Center for Hard to Recycle Material (CHaRM) in Atlanta to provide instructional videos for the center's website. In the process, students study the criteria for adult learners and create project proposals based on the client's requests. The proposals give them experience in analyzing audiences and markets, creating timelines and workflows for deliverables, and producing a multi-part, formal business document that they can use in their application portfolios. The video project entails the creation of storyboards and heuristic testing necessary to develop the final product and builds competencies that students can use in employment materials. The complete project aligns well with the LMC goals of multimodal communication and the SLS goals of contributing to sustainable living. The students' knowledge that their videos support environmental sustainability gives them a meaningful course experience. 

Making a Splash: Water Quality in the Technical Communication Classroom (Rebekah Greene, PhD)

In teaching Technical Communication, I’m tasked with the challenge of creating a classroom open to all majors that introduces students to common workplace communication genres. My approach to scholarship and to pedagogy has always emphasized “learning by doing.” One of the things that drew me to SLS was that the staff share the idea of “learning by doing” as an important pedagogical practice. They encouraged me to think of things that might unify my disparate majors into a solid, cohesive classroom. Ultimately, as I went through this process, I found myself thinking more and more about where I grew up, an area heavily reliant on water for our two primary economic streams: agriculture and tourism. What fascinated me during my first semester teaching at Tech was the fact that the state of Georgia was in the middle of a major drought—we went for almost a month and a half with no measurable rainfall. As someone originally from the Great Lakes region, I was horrified by this and mentioned it in class one day. A class-wide conversation emerged and in listening to students share their concerns about water quality on and off campus, I realized that linking water quality to technical communication was a natural fit for some of the “Big Ideas” that I’ve always been interested in. Through my SLS affiliation in Spring and Summer 2017, my classes were able to learn more about water quality testing, Atlanta-area charities and public organizations devoted to improving water quality and access for all. They were able to produce a variety of documents, including infographics, presentations, and feasibility reports, all relating to water quality topics which were displayed on campus at venues such as a Social Justice Art Show and a campus symposium on the Standing Rock protests. Importantly, these students were able to learn more about the Atlanta area community and public health issues relating to water crises and were able to develop educational materials shared with SLS and a range of public partners, including the Fulton and Cobb County library systems and the City of Atlanta.

In a new variation of the class, taught this fall and spring, I’m emphasizing the theme of community and STEAM. A new variation on an old project invites students to think more about Georgia Tech and the surrounding neighborhoods. Using data from organizations such as the Westside Community Alliance and the Institute’s Parking and Transportation Services department, among others, we’re looking at ways to make campus more sustainable, thinking about environmental, economic, or social equity improvements that can easily be made. A recent group, for instance, wanted to look at the pollution put out by our current trolley routing system. After finding out plans were already in the works to reduce pollution, they elected to spend an in-class meeting listening to one of their peers who regularly faces challenges getting to and around campus. (Elevators don’t always work, buildings don’t always have ramps, curbs don’t always have indents, and bus lifts only function a part of the time.) Based on their listening session, they retooled their plan to focus instead on improved access for disabled students, faculty, staff, and visitors throughout campus. Another group, for the same project, decided to pitch potential clothing and shoe donation boxes for high student density housing areas, suggesting that many students simply dispose of their old clothing and shoes because they don’t have easy access to off-campus donation sites, a suggestion they based off of a very well designed student survey administered both in-person and online. They’re now working with Greek Life and with 2 local charities to try to get their donation box project off the ground.

I’m continually intrigued by Tech students and their very easy and very affordable solutions to some incredibly common problems! In creating a variety of technical communication documents such as instructions (written and video), infographics and posters, surveys, and feasibility reports that highlight the issues community and campus partners are trying to address, students are able to concretely demonstrate what they’ve learned about course content, their community partners, and most importantly, themselves.

Food Literacy of Atlanta: The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How in Aesthetics and Poetics of Foodways (Darcy Mullen, PhD)

My course, Food Literacy of Atlanta (ENG 1102) is designed to give students the tools to understand and engage with the food culture of this space—in the past, present and future. In learning how to read the story of Atlanta through a lens of food, I work within a pedagogy based on sustainable communication. Through an organizational logic of community literacy, this SLS Level 1 Affiliate course focuses on the role of food systems thinking, and food justice. Moreover, this course is also affiliated with Poetry@Tech. Throughout our work, we keep the poetics of recipes in juxtaposition, and likewise, we want to ask what can be gained in considering a recipe-aesthetic in poetry. We were lucky to extend this discussion in a skype Q & A with the brilliant Julia Turshen (author of Feed The Resistance).

In our first unit, students produced infographics that tell the story of material resources in this area (from the Moundbuilders through today). Students learned multiple methods of research in order to the story of material resource like pecan trees, squirrels, crustaceans, leafy green plants, and birds. This is a dive into the “when” of our foodshed. Our next unit, “Mapping Recipes,” builds on the expertise gained by digging into the ecological stories of this Atlanta. Students worked together to map recipes special to this place (pecan pie, potlikker, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and pecan pie). These maps tell the narrative, and quantitative, stories of the “where” and “why” of food in Atlanta. The maps were group efforts, and paired with individual student reflections—op eds, artist statements, or short stories/poems from the point of view of ingredients from the recipe maps.

In our current unit on Food Deserts/Food Swamps/Food Oases, students are preparing presentations for our SLS partner, Mario Cambardella (the Urban Agriculture Director for the Office of Resilience in the City of Atlanta). Students are working on proposals for how to ameliorate a problem of food access in Atlanta. This unit is asking us to consider the “who,” and the “how” of contemporary food here. With feedback, and continued with the office of resiliency, we are excited to see if proposals can continue to support sustainability within our community. The last unit “Food Taxonomy and Lexicons” takes us through the last of the proverbial 5 W’s to ask “what” words might we want to revise, reconfigure, reinvigorate, or remove from our conversations about food in Atlanta. Students will present their stories through podcasts, which will take their cues from Gravy, the podcasts from The Southern Foodways Alliance. 

Affecting Change in Atlanta Using Rhetorical Skills (Matthew Dischinger, PhD)

My ENGL 1102 course, "Atlanta Studies: Reading, Documenting, Digitizing," allows students to use the modes and methods of a first-year writing course to affect change in their local communities. More specifically, we have partnered with stakeholders from both local and campus communities interested in the watershed health of Proctor Creek in northwest Atlanta. We build from a foundation of Atlanta-focused film, television, and literature in order to gain a greater sense of how representations of the city have represented contact zones between its various communities before producing work that will occupy those zones: first, a book meant to help community partners understand efforts to test the water at Proctor Creek already underway at Georgia Tech; then, a digital map including oral history interviews, video, and historical data meant to help faculty, students, and staff at Georgia Tech better understand the communities in which they work. Through my SLS affiliation I was able to partner with community partners such as the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance as well as Dr. Emily Weigel, an Academic Professional in the School of Biological Sciences who teaches students how watershed testing is conducted and why it is essential. The books my students produced will document the work conducted by Dr. Weigel and her students in Fall 2017 and be distributed using the help of our community partners.