Whether Dr. Kristie Loescher is teaching a course in business communications, leadership issues, or strategic human resources she always incorporates a component of academic service-learning as a way to make the material to “come alive” for her students.
A professor in the McCombs School of Business and a 2012 Tower Award recipient, Dr. Loescher understands the importance of allowing students to work within the real world where experiences are more organic. Her students have worked with non-profit partners like Communities in Schools and the Austin VICTORY tutoring program where they gain management, communication and leadership experience while serving a community in need.
Viewing herself as a consultant and partner in problem-solving Dr. Loescher said, “I guide my students through real-world issues.” She told of an instance where a student group ran into difficulty with their project after learning their main client at a local non-profit was fired. The group worked to troubleshoot using their knowledge of human resources from the course materials and also consulted Loescher for feedback. “They learned how to deal with these situations while ethically and wisely giving back to the community.”
Dr. Loescher believes that service-learning can be a powerful pedagogical tool that promotes civic engagement and allows students the opportunity to build their confidence. “They have the courage and convictions to understand that what they’re learning in school will give them skills, abilities and knowledge to help them solve real problems in the world and make a real difference.”
When asked to share advice with other instructors about service-learning, Dr. Loescher recommended incorporating service-learning into a tried and true assignment. “Allow it to get its sea legs,” she advised. She also encouraged instructors to find a faculty mentor, to identify a real fit between community partner needs and class assignments, to be flexible, and to challenge the traditional teaching model. “Almost any discipline taught at UT could incorporate service by mentoring in the Austin school system,” she said. Connecting to the community with skills and knowledge is key.
Thank you for your commitment to service-learning, Dr. Loescher!