Michigan’s Engaging Community through the Classroom (MECC) — a “grassroots” initiative developed by a group of Michigan instructors, department chairs, and program managers, including the School of Public Health’s Ms. Trish Koman, senior project manager for the SPH Practice Office — has received a $938,000 Third Century Initiative grant.
MECC seeks to explore possibilities for coordinating multidisciplinary, experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing professional careers that involve direct public service or engage work on behalf of public clients and nongovernmental organizations, such as public health, public policy, urban planning, and engineering. Ultimately, these projects aim to develop a workable plan for advancing a classroom-community collaboration, helping to integrate research, teaching, and public service in innovative ways.
Its goal is to leverage ongoing community-oriented professional undergraduate and graduate courses that are offered routinely at the University of Michigan by coordinating a selection of those courses on a given locality and set of related problems. The initiative also seeks to simultaneously improve the learning opportunities for the students involved and the outreach service provided to the communities involved.
For instance, a MECC-sponsored course offered in winter 2013 allowed Ms. Koman, who is also pursuing a PhD in environmental health sciences (EHS), to teach EHS and health behavior and health education students how to develop health impact assessments in the notoriously polluted Willow Run Airport site. She worked alongside faculty and staff from U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Ford School of Public Policy, and the College of Engineering, as well as a long list of community partners.
The Third Century Initiative grant will further “expand practice-based educational opportunities at the School of Public Health,” Ms. Koman says. “Initiatives like MECC are a way to ensure that graduates are ready to solve complex public health problems.”
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