Written by Michael Carlisle, Arley Cornell, Sarah Dothager, Jamie Harling, and Kate Leenerts.
In 2004, Greenville College implemented a senior capstone course known as COR 401. When founded, COR 401 was an advanced integrative studies course that required students to research an issue and work with others in different fields of study. Since then, it has transformed into a class, which still requires integrative study, yet also requires a product. Thus, students’ mindsets have shifted while enrolled in COR 401; they no longer focus on the process of integrative research, but rather, focus on their “project” and how they might “make a difference” through addressing community needs.
Group 17 found the problem to lie within this project. As Christians, we often serve through short-term missions, and this may be harmful if done without using a model and careful thought. If students are not informed about the people, community, or culture they will be working with and fail to consider the duration of their work, there can be many damaging effects. These short-term projects are not always bad, though. They can be really beneficial and helpful to those in need, but only when a model of sustainability is followed. Two models that Group 17 discussed were the Transformational Development Model and the Betterment vs. Development Model. Either model serves as a guide for people going out to serve and work with others for a short period of time.
The COR 401 project is often done with little care and consideration for those involved, causing broken and damaged relationships. Group 17 suggested that some ways for the COR 401 course to prevent this could be seen by implementing a rubric for the project portion of the course, showing the sustainability video at various events on campus and other functions, and implementing more formal education on service throughout the duration of COR. Currently, there is no rubric for the project portion of the course and by creating and using one, students and faculty mentors will have a clear set of expectations for the project as well as guidelines for creating a project that is not harmful to the community. The sustainability video, created by Arley Cornell, will be showed at the COR 401 retreat this spring and hopefully at other events on Greenville College’s campus and potentially other institutions. All Greenville College students are required to take several COR courses throughout their education, and during these courses faculty could better educate students about service and ways to serve without harm.
As Christians, we all, at various times, feel called to serve. As a student body, it should be our goal to invest in the Greenville community throughout our college experience, not just during the final semester of our college career. When we spend time working with and learning about the people in a specific community, we become aware of their legitimate needs. Group 17 concluded their presentation with a simple saying: “People are more important than projects.” As a campus, we must take this saying to heart, not only in the projects that seniors work on for COR 401, but in everything we do.