Partnership for Integrated Community-Based Learning: A Social Work Community-Campus Collaboration

By Ishisaka, Hideki A.; Sohng, Sung Sil L. et al. | Journal of Social Work Education, Spring-Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Partnership for Integrated Community-Based Learning: A Social Work Community-Campus Collaboration


Ishisaka, Hideki A., Sohng, Sung Sil L., Farwell, Nancy, Uehara, Edwina S., Journal of Social Work Education


A MAJOR CHALLENGE facing contemporary higher education is to enhance its relevance and connection to the pressing issues and problems faced by local communities. Bok (1990) and Votruba (1996) observed that the separation of universities from communities and their aloofness from real-world problems have deprived universities of a necessary source of genuine creativity and academic vitality. In his final essay, Boyer (1996) challenged universities to become more vigorous partners in the search for answers to our most pressing social, civic, economic, and moral problems and to reaffirm their commitment to what he called the scholarship of engagement. There is increasing advocacy for strengthening the university's public engagement. Most recently, the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities (1999) issued its third report entitled, Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution. The report asserts that:

   The clear evidence is that, with the resources
   and superbly qualified professors and
   staff on our campuses, we can organize
   our institutions to serve both local and
   national needs in a more coherent and
   effective way. We can and must do better.
   (cover page)

Collectively, these arguments suggest that universities and communities, working together, can have a profound impact on improving the lives of people while at the same time moving the university to a larger sense of its own mission and purpose. Perhaps reflecting this movement, there are increasing examples of partnership projects in university campuses in the United States (Chibucos & Lerner, 1999; Benson, Harkavy, & Puckett, 1994, 2000; Maurrasse, 2001; McCroskey & Einbinder, 1998; Sherman & Torbert, 2000). In the past decade, several notable models of community-capacity building and collaboration have been developed, particularly those emphasizing community empowerment, coalition building, and the promotion of community health (e.g., Berkley-Patton, Fawcett, & Andrews, 1997 and Fawcett et al., 1995).

The call for increased community-university collaboration is compelling for social work education. Modern social work, which developed from the political and social reform movements at the turn of the 20th century, has been torn between achieving professional and academic prestige--including disciplinary specialization and competition for interprofessional jurisdiction--and practical and effective applications in community settings (Harkavy & Puckett, 1994; Reuben, 1996). While turn-of-the-century settlement houses provided a "real world" base for early social work leaders, educators, and activists, latter-day academically-based social work educators, and researchers have often been more concerned with their academic reputations and with advancing social work's professional project than with seeking community partnerships to address issues of significance in community settings. Critics suggest this has resulted in less effective research, teaching, and service. All three missions have been impoverished by what might be termed a "false trichotomization" of university mission (Harkavy & Puckett, 1994, p. 308).

In this article, we describe the Partnership for Integrated Community-Based Learning (hereafter the partnership) as an example of such university-community collaboration. The partnership is an integral component of the University of Washington (UW) social work education program's curriculum transformation project. A key objective of this partnership was to relocate critical aspects of teaching and learning from academic to community settings and to generate synergy across the program's teaching, research, and service missions. The partnership initiative conceptualized such a recentered, revitalized, and synergistic curriculum as key to the development of an "engaged" social work scholarship that fosters public-spirited and culturally competent leadership and community-capacity building--particularly with economically and culturally disadvantaged populations and communities of color (see, for example, Boyte & Hollander, 1999). …

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