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SPAN 303 SL Students Learn with Prisoners

Boise State students visit the Idaho State Correctional Center as part of their Service Learning Advanced Spanish Conversation and Composition class.

 The Boise State Advanced Spanish and Conversation students visited the Idaho State Correctional Center last Thursday April 9th, 2015 in order to learn about the education programs that take place there and also to meet the prisoners who worked on their Service Learning project.

Prision 1

From left to right:  Priscilla Stone (teacher at the ISCC), Izaskun Kortazar (BSU Spanish lecturer), Guadalupe Fonseca, Rosalba Loera, Maddie Cullen and Isaac Helton (BSU students).

BSU students translated letters written by Hispanic inmates so they can be published in English on the American Prison Writing Archive webpage, a project initiated by Professor Doran Larsen who has already published a book with the writings of incarcerated people. The book is called Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America. The American Prison Writing Archive webpage allows researchers and citizens the opportunity to take an inside look into the reality of the incarceration system in the Unites States. The goal of the project is to challenge common stereotypes and allow researchers, lawmakers, and legal advocates the ability to make more informed decisions about the prison system.

Students learned about an accredited industry-based education program that provides inmates a variety of job skills so when they leave the prison, they will have less difficulty finding employment in trade industries. Inmates also receive help creating a resume and learning about job interview skills.

Students also visited the library where they have 16,000 books (mostly donated from libraries and schools). However, the librarian let us know they were lacking language books. That is why the department of World Languages donated books in several languages to the correctional institution.

Prison 2

Nicole Dewey, Alejandro Hortet, Connor Skibeness. Behind on the right corner: John Stull

Prison 3

Left to right: Izaskun Kortazar and Guadalupe Fonseca.

In addition to the trade program, inmates can attend English language classes in order to attend general education classes in English. These classes go from primary school to the GED diploma. (The Pell Grant program that allowed inmates to study at the University level was banned in 1994 with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act). In these classes, the teachers train more proficient inmates to help less proficient inmates and that way they get one-to-one instruction and practice. From what I observed, they were very dedicated tutors committed to the success of the program.

Prison 4

Left to right: Miguel Juárez and Ashley Potzernitz

Two of the students, Ashley Potzernitz and John Stull also received the ¨Best of Show¨ award for their reflections about this experience at the BSU Service Learning Faculty/Community Partner Mixer.


From left to right: Izaskun Kortazar and Ashley Potzernitz  (Best of Show Poster)

prision 6

From left to right: Izaskun Kortazar and John Stull

Izaskun Kortazar received the Outstanding Faculty Award for this project.

prison 7

Left to right: David Mehlhaff (ISCC Education Program Manager), Izaskun Kortazar (Spanish Lecturer at BSU), Priscilla Stone (English teacher at the ISCC). At the back: Mike Stefancic (Service Learning Coordinator at BSU)

I would like to end with a reflection of a BSU student and a ISCC student:

I would admit that I fell into the stereotypical mindset that people in prison are somehow different from other people who populate society, that the majority of them are probably reckless and dangerous criminals. My experience with Service Learning has shown me how wrong I was. Something about translating the exact words of fellow human beings breaking a cultural and societal barrier by relying their thoughts and struggles in another language, has proven to be quite enlightening. I am grateful to have the opportunity to help speak for others who are in need of a voice. Not only has it helped me improve my Spanish skills but it has shaped my mindset and challenged stereotypes. It has given me a new lens to view the situation through.

At the beginning of this course I had a very limited knowledge of the prison system in the USA and therefore I did not really have any grounds to form an opinion on; nor did I have any ideas for how to improve their circumstances.

Now that I have translated letters and learned more about what Service Learning really is, I feel that education is really the key to better the lives of those in prison who really do want another chance in life and who simply made mistakes.   By Nicole Dewey, Spanish 303, BSU

A student of the ISCC:

Prison 8




by Izaskun Kortazar

Lecturer of Spanish Advanced Conversation and Composition at BSU



Taking the Next Step

Tyler Johnson’s Kinesiology 305—Adapted Physical Education uses Service-Learning to provide education majors a hands-on and authentic experience working with adults with disabilities. Through the application of best practices in a least restrictive environment, students worked with disabled individuals on a range of activities, from food preparation and nutrition, to adaptive physical education. Community partners included local high schools, and the adaptive programs offered through Boise Parks and Recreation.

The value of the experience is best captured by the poignant reflection of one student, who remarked,

Our hope is that others will realize the many ways that individuals can give back to the community and those with specific needs. We were surprised to find that volunteering one hour a week, we could positively touch someone’s life and gain a sense of personal satisfaction.

Kinesiology 305 not only introduced students to the theories and best practices associated with adaptive education, it also instilled in them the significance, value, and importance of volunteering one’s time in the community. For James Reneau, John Cassels, and Billal Sultani, three students who took the class last fall, Kinesiology brought to light the obstacles facing both physical educators and adults with disabilities in Idaho, and inspired them to take the next step and see what they could do to make a difference.

image of Boise Community Adapted Education Club

James, John, and Billal decided to establish the Boise Community Adapted Education Club after consulting with Dr. Johnson, who now serves as the club’s faculty advisor. Unlike most student clubs, which primarily serve students, the focus of the Adapted Education Club is to serve the community through students. The club’s mission is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through any and all forms of traditional education. To accomplish that goal, the club partners with organizations working with adults with disabilities. Currently, the club collaborates with the Boise Independent School District’s STEP program, which works with adults 18-21 years of age.

image of students lifting weights
For James, the club provides a “pathway to volunteering.” Getting people out into the community, he says, is “what it’s all about.” The success of the club, he notes, is intricately tied to increasing the number of student volunteers. While the club is always looking to expand the number of organizations with which it partners, the impact of the club hinges on the number of dedicated students willing to devote a few hours a week to serving in the community. However, James acknowledges that it can be difficult to motivate students. For various reasons, students are often reluctant to volunteer, but James points out that even one hour of volunteering a week can have a tremendous impact on the community.
 image of physical education session

The club is seeking students in all majors, not just those studying education. Physical education is only one part of a larger goal to assist disabled individuals in learning life skills and general knowledge. The STEP program, for example, is looking for students to come in and give 15-30 minute presentations on everything from personal finances to animal care, and everything in between.

To learn more about the Boise Community Adapted Education Club and find ways to get involved, please contact James Reneau at

– Sam Wonacott, Boise State University Service-Learning

Microgravity students make STEM Service-Learning a Priority

Boise State University students make a difference in our community and will represent Boise State University on the national stage.

Dr. Elisa Barney Smith, Barbara Morgan, and Dr. Julia Oxford are guiding ENGR 475 Microgravity University students on a yearlong journey, as students propose, design, fabricate, fly, and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment for NASA’s Reduced Gravity Educational Flight Program. Their chosen topic must align with NASA’s priorities for future research, outlined in NASA’s Strategic Knowledge Gap (SKG) and Critical Technology Developments (CTD) documents. Like research proposals for the National Science Foundation, an important aspect of their research proposal is their outreach plan.

student running science table at conventionstudent showing kid an experiment at convention

In December, the team learned that they had been chosen by NASA to conduct their research on “Gravitational Effects of Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure and Flow in an Anatomically Representative Model,” at Johnson Space Center. Their flight day is set for June, so there is much to do. This spring semester the students will not only get their experiment ready, complete supporting documentation, and fabricate the physical model used in their experiment; they will be out in the community conducting service-learning. Students in ENGR 475 have developed STEM service-learning opportunities with several community partners throughout the Treasure Valley. Their first service-learning event involved area elementary teachers in a workshop focused on connecting science and engineering to the Common Core State Standards.

students posing in a classroom

In their most recent outreach event, they participated in the STEM Exploration Day at Boise State University. This opportunity engaged these undergraduates in educating the public about their microgravity research and providing opportunities for children and adults to engage with Toys in Space microgravity experiments, and in constructing and launching Stomp Rockets. Additional upcoming outreach activities include: a STEM day with the Girl Scouts, a Mini-Microgravity University Competition at a local elementary school, and a STEM day with young mothers and toddlers at Marian Pritchett School.

student showing kid the science behind a spinning topstudent showing kid the science behind how a fish swims

This semester is going to be busy as these students carry full academic loads, in addition to their reduced gravity research project. The students are enjoying engaging with the community and have found their experience rewarding on many levels. They will represent Boise State University as one of only 18 university teams selected to participate in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. These students from Boise State University will conduct research alongside NASA researchers and students from Purdue University, Stanford University, and Texas A & M University, to name a few.

student helping a kid build a rocket

To learn more about these students’ academic journey, please visit the Boise State University Microgravity Research Team’s website at

– Jill K. Hettinger, Boise State University Service-Learning

Boise State — Instilling a Spirit of Service

A new report, released a few weeks ago by the United States Department of Labor, indicates that volunteering declined in 2013, to its lowest level since data was first collected ten years ago. Nearly 62.2 million Americans volunteered at least once between September 2012 and September 2013, falling 1.1% since the year before. The report provides no indication as to the forces driving the decline, and it is unclear whether the decline represents a temporary blip or an unwelcome trend.
student volunteering at the Idaho Foodbank

When measured by age, adults 18-24 exhibited the lowest levels of volunteer participation, running a great deal below teens and those over 30. Although this number is disheartening, it is likely that the time-consuming nature of college, which can act as a barrier to potential student volunteers, is one culprit. Understanding and reducing this barrier could provide a great opportunity for universities to become a gateway to volunteerism.

Fortunately, for Boise State students, Boise State University has embraced this opportunity. Boise State University has become a gateway to volunteerism, offering a plethora of opportunities to get involved and volunteer within the community. Idaho is a tremendously volunteer-friendly state; in 2012, its volunteer rate put it at third in the nation. In other words, volunteer opportunities abound, and many exist just outside the steps of our beautiful campus.

To assist students in connecting with community organizations seeking volunteers, Boise State University Service-Learning has created the Community Engagement portal in OrgSync. This helpful and continually updated page provides a friendly list of volunteer options around the Treasure Valley. There are one-time events, as well as options for those seeking an ongoing volunteer experience.

In addition to the Community Engagement portal, students are encouraged to participate in Service Saturday, a monthly event orchestrated by the Student Involvement and Leadership Center. Service Saturday provides all Boise State students the opportunity to spend a few hours positively impacting the community. As students who have participated in the past can attest, Service Saturday is a fun and meaningful way to spend a Saturday morning. Plus, everyone involved gets a free breakfast. Any college student would be hard pressed to say no to that.

students volunteering with the Department of Labor

In many ways, this country depends on the efforts of volunteers, which is why the Department of Labor’s report is a somewhat gloomy one. While the sheer number of volunteers (62.2 million) is undeniably praiseworthy, the decrease in the volunteer rate represents a lot of valuable work that isn’t getting accomplished. Just how much do volunteers contribute? The question is difficult to answer, because volunteers provide a host of intangible benefits.  A coalition of 600 nonprofit organizations has attempted to calculate the dollar value of total volunteer work in the country. The number they found is staggering. In 2011, volunteers gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service worth $171 billion. That’s quite the breathtaking figure, and there’s no doubt it fails to capture—and thereby understates—the positive impact volunteering has on our communities.

Volunteering is good for the volunteer, too. As it turns out, volunteering is good for your health. A review of the research, which you can read here, shows that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression. Along similar lines, a study published in Social Science and Medicine found that volunteers report higher levels of well-being. In other words, volunteering makes you happy!

The benefits of volunteering, to everyone involved, are clear and the importance cannot be overstated. There’s only one question that remains—what will you do to serve your community?

– Samuel Wonacott, Boise State University Service-Learning

Service-Learning, Literacy, and Boise State

For homework this semester, a group of Boise State English 101 students spent some quality time showing elementary students at Garfield Elementary School how to say “friend” and write letters in Arabic, Chinese, Persian, and other languages.

student working with elementary school student


Your Service-Learning Class

students walking in a field

Service-Learning (SL) is a way to learn course material by serving in the community. You can learn more about Service-Learning by watching this short video or you can click the following link to read about the benefits of participating in a service-learning class.

You can view basic information about how SL will be integrated into your class by going to SL Historic Courses and selecting your course. Your instructor will provide you with more information once you begin class. Please direct any questions you have about the syllabus/course assignments to your instructor.

The role of the Service-Learning Program is to support students, faculty, and community partners in all aspects of the experience. In other words, we are here as a resource and support for YOU! Check out the resources available to you!

Of course, we are always available to assist you! You may contact the Service-Learning Program office at,  call 426-1004, or visit our office in Simplot/Micron 226 with questions about finding a service project.

Request Classroom Support via this form

Do you want a SL staff member to help explain SL to your class? Please take 2 minutes to complete the form at this link to tell us what type of support you would like for your students. Our office is available to help with:

-explaining/”making the pitch” about SL and its benefits by presenting in your class the first week
-providing you syllabus language and Blackboard links with resources for student success
-training of Teaching Assistants

A member of our staff will follow up with you to confirm and discuss specifics. 

Additionally, our office sends an electronic student newsletters to all service-learning students during the first week of classes and then at important times in the SL semester. These newsletters include essential information on how to get registered, tips for success and ideas for deepening the student experience. Please encourage students to refer to these newsletter throughout the semester in order to have the best SL experience possible.

President Kustra highlights SL as ” innovative teaching”!

Your Service-Learning efforts are valued!  See Service-Learning highlighted in the President’s email to donors last November.

Boise State University

November 25, 2013
Dear Friends:

Today’s university students have lived through the worst recession since the Great Depression. These digital natives are at once more connected and isolated than any before them. They have experienced significant changes in testing and teaching in their 12 years of primary and secondary school and they’re told that the jobs they’ll be competing for when they graduate may not even exist when they choose their major. Here at Boise State, we think it is incumbent on the university to adapt to these changing needs and offer far more than a traditional college may have in the past. We need to be innovative in the classroom, incorporating technology, service learning and other ways to boost outcomes. We need to create a welcoming, safe and encouraging campus home. And we need to continue to offer experiences that students can find nowhere else.This is why we’ve reached out to Boise’s vibrant and growing software industry to join us in a public/private partnership to double the graduates from our coveted computer science program while giving students unprecedented on-the-job experience and creating a reliable and talented pool of future workers and leaders. That is also why we are piloting a Venture College, which will give our most entrepreneurial students a chance to learn from more than 200 of the state’s top business and community leaders. And it’s a major reason I’m proud to tell you about our newest addition to the Boise State family: The co-CEO of the worldwide organic food company Whole Foods.Walter Robb is our first “Professor of the Practice” — a new program launched to identify talented and accomplished business, scientific and artistic leaders, and invite them to Boise State bring world-class experience and excitement to our students. Each recipient will provide unique opportunities for Boise State students to expand their learning and their horizons. Each will find their own unique ways to interact with students. Robb is already making an impact — he impressed students and faculty at the College of Business and Economics with his enthusiasm and willingness to engage in a recent visit.

We’ll have more to announce soon, and I am excited about the opportunities that await our students.

As always, thanks for everything you do for Boise State University and our more than 22,000 students. Happy Thanksgiving and Go Broncos!


Bob Kustra

Here are a few recent or upcoming items of interest from Boise State University:

Boise State’s freshman class is more diverse, better prepared, more focused on earning a degree, and more likely to stay in school and graduate in a timely manner than ever before, new student demographics and statistics show. Almost 90 percent of these freshmen are coming straight from high school. Nearly 95 percent of them are full-time, degree-seeking students. Meanwhile, retention rates for freshmen the past two years are at an all-time high, and graduation rates of recent cohorts have jumped by as much as 28 percent. The make-up of this new class indicates that Boise State will continue to lead the state towards its goal of awarding diplomas to 60 percent of all Idahoans ages 25 to 34 by 2020. The overall number of enrolled students dipped by less than 3 percent, to 22,003 from last year’s 22,678, but the composition of the student body shows the success of Boise State’s transformation into a metropolitan research university of distinction.

Boise State began offering classes for three new doctorate-level programs this fall. The new Ph.D. in nursing prepares current nurses to assume leadership responsibilities in education and the clinical work force. It is taught fully online and it is self-supporting, which means it is financed by tuition and doesn’t receive state funds. The new Ed.S. (educational specialist) degree in educational leadership is designed to help meet the increasing need for educational leaders at the district level, especially superintendents. It, too, is self-supporting. The university’s new Ph.D. in public policy fosters the next generation of public affairs leaders and furthers Boise State’s mission as the state-mandated leader in public affairs research and education. Focuses on ensuring that Boise State continues to serve as a top resource for those at all levels of government and nonprofits, as well as for citizens who seek improved public policy development and implementation.

Six outstanding Boise State alumni were honored during Homecoming week (Oct. 13-19)for their exemplary professional and personal contributions that result in national or international visibility both for themselves and for Boise State. Each were recognized Oct. 18 during the sixth annual Presidential Alumni Recognition Gala during half time of the Homecoming football game victory against Nevada on Oct. 19. Distinguished Alumni Award winners were: Jennifer Ralston Blair, ’77, a retired advertising agency owner; Tom Carlile, ’73, CEO of Boise Cascade Company; Boo Heffner, ’86, President and CEO of Falck USA; Marti Wiser, ’99, ’00, social worker and executive director of Special Needs Adoption and Permanency Services, Inc. (SNAPS). Distinguished Alumni Service Award winners – recognized for their extraordinary dedication and commitment to volunteer service to the university and the Alumni Association, were: Matthew Broomhead, ’95, HSQE Manager, Kirby Offshore Marine (Puget Sound Alumni Association Chapter President) and Travis Burgess, ’98, Partner, Eide Bailly (Past Alumni Association Board President, Current Treasurer For The Past Alumni Leaders Chapter).

1910 University Drive    Boise, Idaho    83725-1000
Phone (208) 426-1491    Fax (208) 426-3779

Do you have questions about cancer?

Do you have questions about cancer?

Would you like help deciphering technical terms, complicated treatment options, and prevention possibilities? Do you just want someone to talk to?

You can get your questions answered about cancer at a personalized and detailed level.  Boise State cancer researcher Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk and her students will research topics related to the biology of cancer, and then explain them to you in lay terms during casual one-on-one conversations.

Image of cancer cellsThis service is part of a Service-Learning course, “BIOL 441/541, Molecular Biology of Cancer, Service Learning Lab”.  This teaching opportunity gives the students another way –and another reason– to learn about biology, and another method to practice the skills beyond those required by research.  Students will practice communicating, listening, translating technical information into lay terms, and relating to diverse people.

WHY IT WORKS: The faculty screens the potential “clients”, making sure they understand what the students can do and cannot do.  Students can research cancer topics, provide information, and translate technical information into lay explanations. They do not offer advice and do not counsel; the explanations they offer are not a substitute for professional medical consultation.

HOW IT WORKS:  Students meet with their “client” (any member of the campus community) three to four times over the semester.

  1.  At the first meeting the student listens to what their client knows about cancer, and offers personalized explanation of the basics of the biology of the type of cancer in question.
  2.  At the second meeting, the student provides explanations supported by copies of articles or websites.  Often the student will draw pictures or offer analogies to help the client understand the technical aspects of chemo or radiation, or the progress of cancer through stages.
  3.  At the third (and fourth) meeting the student provides additional resources that highlight prevention, future research, best sources for more information, and a list of local organizations that offer more specialized assistance.

More information on the course and the consultation service, contact Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk, Department of Biology, 426-4287,

Faculty Development Opportunities for FA13

The Service-Learning Program provides several professional development and grant opportunities to faculty and staff to support service-learning and civic engagement. This semester we have some amazing opportunities for SL faculty to build community, strength their research and broaden their understanding of Service-Learning as a pedagogy.  Find a list of our Fall 2013 workshops and events. And don’t forget the Service-Learning Back to School Party for Faculty on August 20th. We hope you can join us to start the 2013-2014 year off right.