The Advocates Blog

Welcome to the Advocates blog! This is the place where we share our stories about successful academic experiences. We hope that you find our stories, strategies and resources timely, engaging and valuable. The blog includes voices of educators, students, and others in the educational community. Resources like links off to faculty resources, study skills websites, research and conferences will also be included. There will be Q and A with the founding members of the Faculty and Student Advocates. We plan to feature a series of student videos called “Student Voices” throughout the blog to bring the student perspective to life and provide a multimedia blog experience. Both educators and students may submit blog entries for consideration. Any and all comments are welcome. We hope you enjoy this content and find it valuable.

Bringing Professional Experience into the Classroom

Student Perspectives:

Politics in and out of the Classroom - Brianna Pomatico, New York University, New York, NY

As I continue to progress through my college career, more and more often I find myself encountering professors who call upon their professional life and experiences to enhance the classroom dynamic. An early experience like this came during the first semester of my freshman year, when I enrolled in an honors seminar on U.S. government that focused on the impact of a politician’s personality on resulting policies. Our professor was a former New York City politician who had held public office earlier in his career, and he was able to use his unique standpoint to the benefit of the class. Aside from being able to provide us with direct insight into local government and the process of running a campaign, he was able to treat the class to guest lectures from newspaper editors, local politicians and journalists—all friends and acquaintances of his. These fascinating perspectives provided us with the perfect compliment to all the reading and discussion that the class focused on. Towards the end of the semester our professor was invited to provide political commentary for a local news station, and he surprised us all with an invitation to watch him tape the segment at a studio with New York City politicians. Through this unique experience, we all found ourselves completely engaged and immersed in our coursework, eager to take in as much as we possibly could from the class. Thus, aside from professional experiences making for riveting classroom discussion, these experiences encourage students just like me to take our education to the next-level and reinforce just how relevant our studies are to the future professions that lie ahead of us.

Real life Accounting - Brendan Chan, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

On any given day, if you ask me what I’m worst at when it comes to school, the answer would probably be accounting. I’ve taken two accounting courses at school: Financial and Managerial Accounting. I won’t go into details about my feelings for Financial Accounting, but you will hear me say nothing but positive things about my Managerial Accounting class, and more importantly, about my professor.

I will be the first to admit that I struggled a lot in my accounting courses. But in Managerial Accounting, I learned an incredible amount about accounting because of my professor. My university has an integrated Master in Professional Accounting program, which means you can get your Bachelor’s and your Master’s in five years, rather than in the traditional six. My professor graduated from this program and went out into the real world, doing accounting work for several years in completely different industries, companies, and business sectors.

Accounting is, at least in my opinion, a rather dense subject, but with the right amount of enthusiasm and energy, a professor can transform the subject into a fascinating discipline. I certainly have huge respect for those who excel at accounting, and I am so glad that I took my class with that professor. His knowledge of real world accounting practices revolutionized the way I approached the subject, and I can honestly say that the only reason I did alright in the course was because of my professor and his extensive knowledge.

As an anecdote, one of the companies he worked for produced frozen dinners, and one day, as an incentive for students to participate and answer questions, he brought a few frozen dinners to class. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of microwaveable food, but this company’s food is absolutely delicious! Needless to say, that woke up the class that day and not only did we learn about crucial concepts applying to the frozen dinners, but some of us got a meal out of it, too!

What my professor brought into the classroom made a world of difference. Because he had experienced what it was like to actually execute the concepts he was talking about in a real-world context, he knew what was important to emphasize to his students. His ability to give examples that he himself experienced allowed us to really get a sense of what it was like to do accounting in the real world. Even if I can’t fully understand accounting, because of my professor, I can certainly appreciate it.

Service Learning

Faculty Perspective:

Questing for Literacy: Guiding Middle Schoolers in the Search for
Wisdom Within and Without
- Al DeCiccio, Southern Vermont College, Bennington, VT

In response to a critical need in education, Southern Vermont College (SVC) has arranged a section of its first-year seminar program, Quest for Success, to prepare middle-school students for producing effective writing and for comprehending valued texts.   This service learning course is one of a number of options in the College’s Quest for Success program that was launched in 2007 as a response to the nation’s call for increased civic engagement. This fall, carefully prepared SVC students are working closely with selected middle-school students in one-on-one and partnered relationships focusing on the literacy of self-understanding and the passion for the printed word.  Using a weekly journal and interactive learning activities, middle schoolers are becoming engaged in a wide range of activities led by 18 SVC students and their professor, Robert Consalvo. “So far this fall,” according to Professor Consalvo, “the focus has been on sharing stories with one another:  first, about ‘self,’ and then leading into exploring and discovering authentic interests through reading, reflection, and writing.” Clearly, the middle-school students are developing their literacy skills; they are also strengthening their social skills, as friendships have been built through learning collaboratively about the power of the printed word as it relates to their own passions and questions.  In addition to reflections about the subject matter in each text, SVC students are helping the middle-school students to read and understand books such as A Soldier’s Heart, by Gary Paulsen, and Tangerine, by Edward Bloor. While the majority of this service learning project has taken place on site at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School in Bennington, Vermont, there will also be the opportunity for the middle-school students to visit Southern Vermont College.  At the SVC campus, the middle-school students will learn about registering for classes, visit the College’s residential spaces, share a meal with the SVC students, and participate in appropriate writing classes.  Assessing the benefits of this unique course will confirm whether or not SVC’s serious commitment to civic engagement, in general, and to developing literacy skills, in particular, may be a replicable model that other higher education institutions may want to adopt.

service learning at southern vermont college Is your school working in the community? Have you built service learning into your curriculum? Please share your stories with us by commenting on this story or submitting your own. Thank you!

Student Perspectives:

Service Learning in Peru - Brianna Pomatico, New York University, New York, NY

International travel colloquia is one of the main elements of my scholars program at NYU, and thus during the winter break of my freshman year, I was given the opportunity to travel with an outstanding group of peers to Urubamba, Peru, to participate in a service learning project.  To prepare for our ten-day excursion, we enrolled in a Scholars Seminar class that met once a week throughout the fall semester.  In the seminar we researched and discussed social issues existing in the region, as well as participated in team-building exercises designed to enhance the group dynamic of the forty scholars.  Upon our arrival in Urubamba, we traveled to the poverty-stricken outskirts of the city, and worked on projects that included helping at a makeshift hospital, building a school bathroom, and installing stoves in family homes.  I was a member of the stove-building team, and it was immediately apparent that building a stove out of mud and bricks was no easy feat. However, witnessing my peers put their hearts into the project proved to be enough inspiration to get me through the ten exhausting yet exhilarating days.  Upon our last day of work, the village threw us all a feast to show their genuine gratitude and invited us to dance with them as the evening came to a close—this experience in itself was enough to make our contribution worth every last bit of the effort.  Overall, while the experience did achieve its purpose of educating us on the social climate of this incredible city, what we gained was far greater than any of us could have imagined.  We emerged with a life experience like no other, and a new global outlook on our education, all the more eager to continue to advance our education in order to help more communities and people like those of Urubamba in the future.

service learning in Peru Are you a student and working in the local community too? Is service learning part of a course or program you are involved in? Please share your stories with us by commenting on this story or submitting your own. Thank you!

The Clinton Global Initiative University Program - Brendan Chan, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Last year, the Clinton Global Initiative University program took place at my university. If you haven’t heard of CGI U, I really encourage you to learn about this amazing program and all that it has to offer. CGI U is geared towards students who are attempting to do service learning projects all around the country. Their website states that CGI U “is a growing community of young leaders who don't just discuss the world's challenges -- they take real, concrete steps toward solving them”, and as a former participant, I can say that it is true. The aim of the annual conference is to bring together these young leaders to help them learn how to better engage in service learning projects throughout the communities of their schools and universities.

I met a lot of really interesting people at this conference. Everyone had completely different “commitments to action”, which are projects that people try to implement in their local communities. Some even go beyond and attempt to solve problems on a larger scale. The purpose of the conference was to bring together applicants and host panels and discussions on how to make their commitments come into fruition. On top of all of the amazing programs that we got to attend, we got to see former President Bill Clinton speak, along with Natalie Portman, Blake Mycoskie (the founder of TOMS Shoes), and many other amazing people.

I had a team project with a few of my friends that we got a lot of information for. It was great to see different peoples’ interests take form in their projects. It certainly strengthened my belief that community service, service learning, and volunteering are vital parts of having a well-rounded and meaningful undergraduate experience. What we learn as students in the classroom is quite important, but what we do and learn outside the classroom is just as important, if not more.

CGI U 2010 is in the University of Miami this April, and you can get more information about it at

service learning with the clinton global learning university Are you a student and working in the local community too? Is service learning part of a course or program you are involved in? Please share your stories with us by commenting on this story or submitting your own. Thank you!