The International Service Learning (ISL) initiative, at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, represents a unique type of student global and international engagement. It combines relevant academic work with opportunities to work closely with local communities. These experiences expose students to diverse languages and cultures and increase their awareness of differing global and international concerns.
The ISL is an expansion of international undergraduate and graduate education at Rutgers. ISL joins academic study with experience rooted in community outreach. The ISL Presidential Initiative is aimed at expanding the global experiences of Rutgers students through ISL programs. Since 2011, the university has committed funds through a Presidential Initiative to provide scholarships for students participating in ISL programs and for faculty who are interested in designing new ISL programs. ISL enhances Rutgers’ national and international visibility as a key leader in building strong connections with communities around the world.
At present, the Rutgers ISL Program consists of seven short-term, faculty-led summer courses, and one semester-long ISL course. A crop of new programs are in development as well for deployment in 2014 and 2015. ISL programs are currently offered in the following countries:
- Argentina, where Professor Nydia Flores (GSE Dept. of Learning and Teaching & SAS Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese) runs a course on language education, targeted to students preparing to meet the increasing needs of bilingual school systems. The program partners with the Universidad del Centro Educativo Latino-Americano (UCEL) and public school systems in underserved neighborhoods of Rosario, Argentina.
- Brazil, where Professor Susan Norris (School of Nursing-Camden) leads a two-week program that focuses on urban healthcare initiatives in Salvador. The program partners with Cross-Cultural Solutions, and various NGOs addressing the urgent health needs of the city's lower income populations.
- China, where Professor Chien-Chung Huang (School of Social Work) conducts a course on comparative welfare systems in China and the United States. The program partners with the Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University, and offers students the opportunity to work with migrant youth and mental health patients.
- Costa Rica, where undergraduates will have the opportunity to explore the cutting-edge world of renewable energy as practiced in one of the greenest countries on the planet. The program is run in partnership with GREEN (Global Renewable Energy Education Network), a program co-founded by Rutgers students that specializes in educational tours on renewable energy and sustainability.
- Cuba, where Elizabeth Amaya-Fernandez (Health Services, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy) leads a trip to explore the Cuban healthcare system. Students will have access to local faculty members and will volunteer with a variety of government health agencies that deal with sex education, HIV/AIDS populations, and infectious disease control. The program partners with the National School of Public Health (ENSAP).
- Dominican Republic, where Professor Carlos Decena teaches about transnational migration and social justice at the intersection of research and action. The program partners with various NGOs and health organizations based in and around Santo Domingo.
- France, where Professor Catherine Healey (Center for Global Education Resident Director, France) co-teaches a course on transnational perceptions of social justice and diversity, with a focus on the first-generation immigrant youth of Paris’ 18th arrondissement. Rutgers partners with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) to place students at Le Club Barbès, an after-school academic and personal enrichment program in the low-income, extremely diverse neighborhood of la Goutte d’Or.
- Ghana, where Professor Abena Busia (SAS Departments of Women’s & Gender Studies and English) teaches a course on interventionist work with grassroots women’s organizations. The program partners with various NGOs and health organizations based in and around Accra.
- Greece, where Professor Stephen Reinert and Mrs. Katerina Kourti-Gavalas oversee a two-tracked program in partnership with the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT). On Track 1, high-achieving students (3.5+ GPA) pursue intensive classroom and internship study of environmental and immigration issues, combined with mentoring of gifted Greek youth. On Track 2, students focused on “modern Greek society under stress” engage in organizations dealing with challenged youth, health and medical issues, social displacement and urban poverty, and heritage preservation in the local Jewish community.
- Mexico, where Professor Peter Guarnaccia (SEBS Department of Human Ecology & Center for Latin American Studies) leads a course on community health issues in Oaxaca. Our service partner here is SURCO, which coordinates volunteering opportunities with a variety of healthcare clinics in the greater Oaxaca area.
- Romania, where Professor Rebecca Davis (School of Social Work) oversees a course on child welfare practices in child welfare in Transylvania. Our service partners here are various social welfare organizations and community centers in Cluj-Napoca.
- Senegal, where Professor Ousseina Alidou (SAS, Center for African Studies) conducts a service-learning course that explores youth culture and artistic expression in the Western Sahel. Students will experience the vibrant culture of Senegal through a variety of artistic lenses, visiting and working with communities in both Dakar and Toubacouta. Our service partner here is Kaay Fecc, a cultural center that specializes in traditional and contemporary dance choreography.
- Thailand, where Professor Mark Robson (SEBS, Entymology) takes students on an intellectual and experiential journey through the culture, history, and contemporary issues of public health in Bangkok. The program is puts students in direct contact with healthcare providers and educators in Bangkok through daily service placements. The program is offered in partnership with Cross-Cultural Solutions.
- Turkey, where Professor Robin Brumfield (SAS, Agriculture Extension Specialist) leads a course that explores the role of rural women farmers in local agriculture through a workshop that trains women in farm management skills and basic business principles. The program is deployed through Suzanne's Project, a joint effort between Rutgers University and Akdeniz University in Antalya, Turkey.