A partnership with the Johnson City Police that allows students to shadow officers.
A project with Bristol’s Steele Creek Park where students organized a natural history of the park.
Work with the ETSU Research Corporation that afforded students the opportunity to create webpages and produce videos and social media advertisements for a large-scale event.
For those who think college is all about required reading and lectures, East Tennessee State University is urging them to think again.
These projects and many more are at the center of ETSU’s focus on providing community-engaged learning opportunities as part of the institution’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). This large-scale initiative is called Go Beyond the Classroom.
“ETSU was founded to serve this region and to uplift the people in this region,” said Dr. Susan McCracken, vice provost for Community Engagement and director of the QEP. “The sense of service and being connected to the community is part of who we are. In recent years, there has been a lot of conversation on campus about how we do that in a more intentional way.”
The goals of Go Beyond the Classroom are straightforward.
Students will link their coursework to the community, reflect about how their community work will influence their future and be able to articulate how such community-based experiences prepare them for a diverse society.
Across the university, a key goal is to help students shift seamlessly from enrollment to employment.
That has played out in a variety of ways on campus.
For ETSU’s criminal justice and criminology program, for example, it means 200-400 hours of field experience. During the summer, seniors complete work hours with an array of agencies, including police departments, juvenile courts, private security agencies and prosecuting attorney offices at the local, state and federal levels.
A recent graduate course in biology featured a partnership with Steele Creek Park. Students created a natural history of the park, as well as digital tabs about trails, including details on length and elevation, and a maintenance survey that allows employees and visitors the chance to report any issues.
A capstone project in brand and media strategy allowed students to complete work for a fall 2022 event called “Growing the Future: Symposium on Innovation and Education for the Bioeconomy.” The symposium brought together national leaders in education, government and industry to highlight global bioeconomy opportunities and initiatives in the Appalachian Highlands, and students crafted and launched a full-scale marketing campaign – one that resulted in attendance of more than 200, surpassing the class goal by 30%.
“What I would like students to know about our community-engaged learning initiative,” said Dr. Kimberly D. McCorkle, provost and senior vice president for Academics, “is that this is going to broaden the opportunities that they have at ETSU to participate in internships, capstone projects, study abroad and study away at all levels of their undergraduate education.”
She added: “The legacy of Go Beyond is that community-engaged learning becomes the hallmark of the ETSU undergraduate experience.”