More Than Just an Education: Applied Learning at Community Engagement Institute

The WSU Community Engagement Institute (CEI) is dedicated to providing applied learning opportunities for students that include graduate assistantships, practicum placements, service learning engagements, volunteer roles and paid positions directly assisting organizations and communities. Over 100 students have served with CEI since 2015 with opportunities to work with nonprofit organizations, state government, community coalitions and private businesses. Students engage in experiences with applied research, consulting, training, facilitation, business operations, communications and project management.

Students appreciate the hands-on direct professional experience they get through their involvement with CEI. Kaitlin Boger, EdD, LMSW, LMAC is Director of Integrated Care at Hunter Health Clinic and notes “The work that I did with CEI set me up for a career that appreciates innovative, patient-centered, and trauma-informed care. My current role calls on me to engage with patients, colleagues, and the community, and I frequently draw on my experiences as a student at CEI, where I was given a chance to work as a colleague with area experts in leadership, behavioral health, and organizational planning. CEI is innovative in recognizing student strengths and helping students enhance their skills while preparing them for meaningful careers.”

In addition, CEI is committed to the professional development of students in order to strengthen the impact of our efforts now and into the future. WSU students serve as professional team members contributing to projects being delivered to customers in real time. Shyla Thompson, MSW practicum student and Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) with our Prevention Initiatives Team says, “Although I am not a direct Wichita State University employee, I am still treated as a member of the team. My contribution, thoughts and input are welcomed even if it is outside of my assignment.” CEI is committed to applied learning as a real world experience with supportive guidance along the way. Hannah White, a Graduate Research Assistant with our Center for Applied Research and Evaluation states, “I realized that working in an applied, community setting was going to demand more adaptability and flexibility than I had practiced in school. Even so, I was met with a patient working environment where I was able to strengthen skills I was originally unexperienced in, and, all the while, I was still treated like a competent professional who brought value to the good work that is happening here.”

We are continually searching for and implementing ways to engage students in the work we care about in organizations and communities. Whether it be serving as a VISTA in poverty-serving organizations across Kansas, a Graduate Research Assistant focused on Early Childhood Initiatives, an IMPACT Lab student assisting with preparation for a large community event or a Leadership Fellow facilitating a learning experience, our students have unique opportunities to contribute, develop and connect with others from their field as well as other disciplines. To find out more, contact Teresa Cornejo, Director, IMPACT Center at teresa.cornejo@wichita.edu or visit our website at http://communityengagementinstitute.org/center-and-initiatives/impact-center