When we applied for Creighton's Encuentro Dominicano program in the Dominican Republic, we knew that the program strives to connect learning inside and outside of the classroom. Many of us were drawn to the program because we knew we would be able to study and participate in service... we saw opportunities to grow in our academics, our understanding of service, our faith, and our sense of community. One of the ways the program helps us combine these aspects is through the mandatory class -- EDP -- taught by our Academic Director, Mary Bean. This class includes involves weekly service service, and we study the sociology, history, theology and economics of the Dominican Republic.
EDP gives us a well-rounded view of the Dominican Republic’s history, culture, and development. Our semester is split up into three blocks (with campo immersions separating each block). In our first few weeks, we studied the history and sociology of the Dominican Republic. In the next section, we studied theology and had many discussions about discernment, vocations, and living according to “agape,” or self-giving love. In our last block of the semester, we analyzed the country’s economics and debated the ideas of Jeffery Sachs and Peter Collier. This class was extremely helpful in giving us insight into the culture and country in which we are living and introduced each of us to new ideas and concepts. Mary is a great teacher and her own experiences in the DR added depth to the class content.
In addition to the reading we do for class, each week we participate in a discussion online where we post current events from the Dominican Republic and connect these events to what we learn in class. These assignments easily help us draw connections between the Dominican Republic’s history and current issues. These discussion posts spark conversations within our community about current events.
Because Encuentro is a service-learning study abroad program, we take our learning outside of the classroom and work at service sites twice a week. At the beginning of the semester, we were allowed to pick which site we wanted to give time to. These sites include:
· Hospicio- a nursing home
· Caritas Licey- a before/after school feeding program in Licey
· Caritas Cienfuegos- a before/after school program in one of Santiago’s barrios
· Cienfuegos School- working in classrooms
· Batey Dos- a preschool in a Haitian community
· Acción Callejera- organization that works with street boys of Santiago
· CONANI- a home for people with disabilities
Each day, before we begin EDP, we go around the room and the 19 members of Trece share our highs and lows from the previous day at service. This is an activity that keeps us updated on each other’s experiences, but it also reminds us each to examine both the joyful and difficult moments in our service. Our “highs and lows” also help us keep our service experience present in our academic work, as well. Once we have begun the class with these reflections, we can easily drawn connections between what we read and discuss for class and what we experience in our service sites.
Another way we connect our studies and experiences is through our weekly assignments for EDP. Each week, we submit a “service-learning journal” in which we write about our experience at service that week – realizations we made, moments that challenged us to grow, or opportunities we saw to live out our faith or Jesuit college values. These papers help us gather our thoughts about our times at service and, looking back, remind us each of our struggles, challenges, growth, and moments of joy.
Mary’s class gives us the knowledge to understand the culture, problems, and society we live in, and encourages us to apply this knowledge to our entire Encuentro experience. Whether we discuss vocational pursuits, economic plans for eliminating extreme poverty, or examine the historical racial tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, EDP is a culminating class that connects our academic lives and our experiences outside of the ILAC classroom.
written by: katie garrity & gretchen stulock