Photos courtesy of Kalyn McDonough | Artwork by Cindy Dolan
September 02, 2022
When she helped start the Ferris School for Boys lacrosse team in 2017, Kalyn McDonough knew she was onto something good. As co-head coach at the Wilmington, Delaware, secure care facility for men ages 13 to 18 committed in court, McDonough was proud to associate success on the court with the most important achievement of cultivating strong relationships with young men and playing a positive role in their development.
Despite the wealth of experience, she didn’t realize how far it could take her until she enrolled in the University of Delaware’s graduate certificate program in community engagement. Introduced in 2020, the nine-credit certificate creates a scaffolding through which scholars integrate their academic studies into community engagement experiences by participating in coursework, community-focused graduate research, or creative work and practice. practice.
“The certificate gave me the opportunity to turn my passion into a profession,” McDonough said. “I have received training through courses, professional development opportunities and mentorship, which have helped me improve and expand my work by grounding my practice experiences in the broader literature, ensuring that my research be informed by the expertise of the community of practice and by learning the art of conducting community-oriented scholarship that intersects with my teaching, research, and service.
Faculty committed to community engagement
Led by Nancy Getchell, Professor of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, and Lynnette Overby, Professor of Drama, the certificate was developed when Senators from UD’s Graduate Student Government expressed interest in having a community engagement program like the one offered to undergraduate students.
“We modeled it on the undergraduate curriculum in that we have an advisory board and the students do an e-portfolio, but then we focused more on careers,” Overby said. “Thinking that many of them may go on to higher education and want to be engaged academics, we cover what they need to know to be able to succeed in that environment.”
Getchell has used community teaching throughout his 21 years at UD and has found it to be an effective way to demonstrate concepts that also impact the wider community. She began her involvement in community engagement when students in her motor development class developed a successful movement education program for an early learning center.
Overby learned a lot about community engagement at Michigan State University, where she was a professor and associate dean for outreach and engagement. She integrated service-learning into her courses at Michigan State and launched a fellowship program as associate dean. Working in the field of arts at UD since 2008, she coordinates interdisciplinary productions related to history and the humanities. In addition to performing, participants, including community members, hold workshops in schools and elsewhere.
All invited graduate students
Open to any UD student pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree, the Graduate Certificate Program in Community Engagement has welcomed students from a variety of study programs, such as the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS), behavioral health and nutrition and art.
“Students from all backgrounds and disciplines can enroll in our program and learn about community engagement,” Getchell said. “It’s designed for anyone in any major. Any student just needs to think about how they can make this work for their own major.
The introductory class provides a roadmap
The program begins with Introduction to Engaged Scholarship, a course co-taught by Getchell and Overby.
“The course is really an introduction to all aspects of community-engaged research,” Getchell said. “We start by introducing the topic, then we look at community engagement partnerships with the University of Delaware. We talk to community partners to get a good idea of what they are looking for in a partnership with someone at UD who wants to do research with them.
Introduction to Committed Scholarship also covers how to disseminate work to the public and scholars, the institutional review board process, promotion and tenure, and other topics to provide students with the knowledge of base.
“The courses were essential and formed the foundation,” said McDonough, who described the course as a roadmap for the rest of the program. “You are introduced to a lot of seminal work in the field and the frameworks and theories that were used. For Dr. Overby and Dr. Getchell, it’s an opportunity for them to work with students to explore how community-based approaches can be adopted in their discipline.
Chart your own course
The next two segments of the certificate program consist of other university-level courses with a community component or community projects. At this point, students have considerable freedom to steer their pursuit of the certificate in a direction that closely matches their interests. Getchell said there was no set plan for the route students should take and they were encouraged to explore many options.
McDonough, who was finishing his doctorate. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration at UD at the time, completed the second part of the certificate at an undisclosed location away from home and the third component in a very familiar road setup.
As part of the Winter 2020 Comparative Public Administration and Collaborative Research Experience team that visited Romania, McDonough worked with other graduate students from Babes-Bolyai University. Together, they designed a study on access to education for young prisoners in Romania.
For the final part of the certificate, she was able to incorporate the work she was already doing with the Ferris School lacrosse team by completing a preliminary evaluation of the program. She has also designed a community course that she hopes to implement one day.
Integrate the experience into ongoing studies
“Students have asked me about the certificate and how long it lasts,” McDonough said. “They think as graduate students they don’t have time, but I tell them it’s a supplement that helps you do what you already do, but in a more enhanced way with the guidance of community engaged academics.. You can choose your own path and they give you the tools to chart it.
While students who complete all three components receive the certificate, Overby said the most important thing is to acquire the knowledge and be able to apply it in their work.
“We want them to be able to have a deeper understanding of what it means to work with, not on, not in, but with a community partner to be able to look at issues in a community that they could connect with their majors. academics and, together, problem solving can occur and is mutually beneficial, not only for the community, but also for the student and future professionals,” said Overby.
Finding life’s work
McDonough, who also earned a bachelor’s degree in urban affairs and public policy at UD – where she was an outstanding lacrosse player – and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, will travel to Australia at the end of the year on a Fulbright scholarship. She said the community training she received at UD was a critical component in her selection for the scholarship, as her work showed her ability to build relationships with community partners. Upon her return, she will do postdoctoral work at Virginia Commonwealth University and then enter the workforce. Through the certificate program, she knows she would like to continue combining academic research with community involvement.
“I can’t say enough good things about the University of Delaware Graduate Certificate in Community Engagement program,” McDonough said. “If I can keep doing this for the rest of my life, I would be very happy.”