Connecting Classrooms with Communities: How CDAE is Creating Real Change Globally and Locally

To be published in the University of Vermont’s Community Development and Applied Economics Newsletter:

“How do we help people make the change they want to see in their community?” poses CDAE Lecturer Thomas DeSisto.

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Photo by: Shea Caligari

He continues, “One of the problems with high schools or universities is the fact that we’re all in different departments and that everything is topically focused.”

DeSisto teaches courses on computer literacy, research methods, and sustainable development, enabling students to create their own solutions to “real world” problems – specifically through service learning.  

CDAE students are encouraged to look at situations from a “broader, more holistic” perspective, and act on it. DeSisto reflects that, as an undergrad, he was always frustrated by how professors presented problem after problem, offering few – if any – solutions.

DeSisto’s flagship service learning partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia  provides students with the opportunity to work with community members in the small island state to create the change they want to see.

Shelley Nhan, a senior Public Communications major, reflects on her time in St. Lucia, “I loved learning about the St. Lucian culture and working with the students at the Rivere Doree school.”

She recommends this course to anyone looking to “make a difference and gain hands-on experience through CDAE.”

DeSisto has been leading the service-learning trip every January since 2005, and finds it rewarding to see students “realize what they can do with what they already know.” DeSisto teaches courses on computer literacy, research methods, and sustainable development, enabling students to create their own solutions to “real world” problems – specifically through service learning.  

CDAE students are encouraged to look at situations from a “broader, more holistic” perspective, and act on it. DeSisto reflects that, as an undergrad, he was always frustrated by how professors presented problem after problem, offering few – if any – solutions.

DeSisto’s flagship service learning partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia  provides students with the opportunity to work with community members in the small island state to create the change they want to see.

Shelley Nhan, a senior Public Communications major, reflects on her time in St. Lucia, “I loved learning about the St. Lucian culture and working with the students at the Rivere Doree school.”

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Photo by: Molly O’Shea

She recommends this course to anyone looking to “make a difference and gain hands-on experience through CDAE.”

DeSisto has been leading the service-learning trip every January since 2005, and finds it rewarding to see students “realize what they can do with what they already know.”

To replicate these efforts in Burlington, DeSisto developed a course called “Local Community Initiatives” in which students work with low-income entrepreneurs in the North End to help improve and expand their businesses. Similarly, Kelly Hamshaw teaches a separate section of the course focused on rural Vermont, specifically the town of Bristol.

Although DeSisto finds the learning, teaching, and community-building opportunities in CDAE rewarding, he considers working with UVM students to be a bittersweet experience: “The best and worst part about teaching at UVM is you meet all these great people and they go off and do all these great things. You are really excited for them, but you miss them.”

  

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