Anne Stone and Bruce Stephenson take top honors from a group that promotes civic engagement in learning and research.
Two Rollins College professors recently won prestigious awards for creating learning opportunities beyond the bounds of the classroom while applying academic knowledge in community service settings.
Anne Stone, assistant professor of communication, won the Engaged Scholarship Faculty Award from Florida Campus Compact. And Professor of Environmental Studies Bruce Stephenson won the group’s Graham-Frey Civic Award, which is named for former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and former U.S. Rep. Lou Frey.
This is the eighth consecutive year that Rollins has won awards from Florida Campus Compact, which describes its mission as one that “advances the civic purposes of colleges and universities by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.”
“Community and civic engagement are key to a Rollins education,” says Micki Meyer, Lord Family assistant vice president for student affairs and community. “These awards signify our commitment to service-learning on a state level. Anne and Bruce’s work with students models the very best of engaged scholarship and service in central Florida.”
Learning from Those with Memory Loss
Assistant Professor of Communication Anne Stone (Photo by Scott Cook)
Stone’s award-winning project involved having her students apply principles of communication to help them learn from and assist older adults who were showing early signs of memory loss.
To do so, she arranged for the students to meet with groups that were participating in a local Brain Fitness Club. The club members’ ages ranged from the 60s to the 90s.
“I think the students were a little apprehensive at first, especially since they were dealing with people who had early memory loss,” Stone says. “But these are people who had lived amazing lives and still had a lot to give. It was great to see the relationships that developed.”
The conversations began with students asking where the club members had lived, what their children did, and what pets they had—all designed to prod memories. Despite an age difference of 50 to 70 years, the students and the members of the Brain Fitness Club found they had a lot to learn from each other.
The older adults wanted to know about the students’ families, their favorite classes, and their high-tech phones. Some also wanted suggestions on how to better communicate with their grandchildren. The students heard stories about life paths, risks that the adults had taken in their careers, and changes they had witnessed in the world. One inspired student said the experience gave her the courage she needed to try her own luck at a career in New York.
The students also made mementos—a word cloud and photo collage—from the stories they elicited from the lives of the older adults. Those mementos may function as a memory aid for the adults as they continue to age. They may also serve as a summary of their lives that future health-care workers can use to get a sense of the patients they are caring for.
The students’ reports showed they enjoyed learning in a setting outside the classroom. “They are so much more motivated,” Stone says, “if they can see some application beyond studying for a quiz.”
Students Help Cities Make Greener Plans
Professor of Environmental Studies Bruce Stephenson (Photo by Scott Cook)
As a college student, Bruce Stephenson’s favorite classes involved applying his academic knowledge to a variety of civic causes.
When he became a professor, he realized that his students also shared a passion for acting upon their knowledge. Trained as a city planner, he used that knowledge to teach his classes to create professional-quality studies for cities, towns, and agencies, saving the publicly funded groups thousands of dollars in consulting fees.
Over the years, those projects have included bike trails such as Cady Way in Orange County, the Genius Preserve and Central Park in Winter Park, and a potential development plan for Rollins at Lake Nona Medical City.
“I want students to step beyond the campus and participate in a way that improves the quality of civic life,” says Stephenson, who recently completed writing a biography about John Nolen, a famous American landscape architect.
Indeed, it was his discovery that Nolen had created plans for a St. Petersburg, Florida, water system that sparked Stephenson’s ongoing interest in combining academic research with pragmatic application.
His students’ work has won the admiration and appreciation of officials and developers, including Craig Ustler, who is helping lead the development of the Creative Village in downtown Orlando. The village, which will be built on the former site of a sports arena, is an innovative concept that will bring together high-tech and digital companies along with a diverse mix of residents in a community setting.
The students’ reputation for good work attracts interesting and successful professionals to his classrooms, reinforcing the connection between academics and civic engagement, Stephenson says. “If I get people such as Craig Ustler in the classroom, the students win.”
“Rollins values engaged scholarship and is committed to community and civic engagement as an intrinsic piece of the College’s core identity,” says Meredith Hein, director for the Center of Leadership and Community Engagement. “Anne and Bruce’s dedication to developing and teaching community-based, service-learning experiences, truly ignite a life of service, leadership, and passion within our students.”