Saturday, May 12, 2012

ACCT International: Background

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ACCT International student leader, along with Dr. Ann Marie Thomson (program co-director), Chemain Slater (SPEA Abroad), Associate Dean Reingold, and MPA program director Dr. Rushton at the SPEA Awards Ceremony. Sarah Perfetti, Ruth Pollak, Sarah Jene Hollis, and I received the Excellence in Service Award.

Soooo....I may have failed to mention that we are going to Kenya this summer. We leave on Monday. Before we leave, I thought I would explain why.

Back in late January of 2011, I had a phone conversation with Sarah Perfetti. She was interested in creating an international service-learning program at SPEA and was looking for other interested students. Someone had recommended my name and so we chatted on the phone. I planned to meet her and other interested students at the Runcible Spoon in early February.

At that fateful meeting Sarah Perfetti, Ruth Pollak, Sarah Jene Hollis, Dr. Henry Wakhungu, Dr. Ann Marie Thomson, and I sat down and began the long journey that resulted in the program that is sending me to Kenya this summer. I laugh when I look back at that meeting. I thought I was coming to learn more about Sarah P.'s idea. However, as the meeting progressed, I quickly realized that this was the team that intended to create a new SPEA program...and I, apparently, was a member of that team.

And what a team it was. In the next year and a half, we researched similar programs at IU and other universities across the country, presented out half formed ideas to the SPEA Abroad board, conducted a survey of SPEA students to determine interest, spent months developing a program concept we submitted in a 24-page program proposal to the IU Office of Overseas Studies, created a budget, recruited student participants, interviewed applicants, and accepted 15 students into the program. All the while we were forming relationships with seven Kenyan partner organizations. Sarah P. and Dr. W made a summer trip to Kenya to develop these relationships and gather data for our program.

When I try to summarize this past year into a paragraph it seems so simple. However, it has been a long, complex process that I have enjoyed immensely. Being part of this team has been the most educational and beneficial part of my master's experience at SPEA. Learning-by-doings means we have made many mistakes along the way, but we all have a much clearer understanding of what goes into creating and managing a program like this.

And so, more than a year and a half in the making, I give you: ACCT International - Kenya.

Advancing Community, Collaboration, and Training (ACCT) International combines an academic service-learning course with an on-site internship for full-time graduate students in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. ACCT International’s mission is to foster collaborative, applied learning and community engagement by applying course instruction to practical issues development professionals face, thereby increasing the knowledge, skills, and capacity of students and international community partners.

In addition to course work, IU students will partner with local development professionals to develop an internship project that will contribute meaningfully to the work of a local Kenyan partner organization and the communities where students will live and work for 6 weeks. Local development professionals will also play a mentoring role as they work with IU students assigned to their local organizations.

For the next 10 weeks, we will be in Kenya. I plan to blog the best I can about our experience while also filling in the details on the ACCT International program.

Tune in next time for tales on the first week of class that was held in Bloomington from May 7 through May 11.

— Sara

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