Civic and Community Engagement

A round table discussion entitled Relevance of Civic and Community Engagement – a Local and Global Viewpoint, organized by the University of Rijeka and Rijeka City Library was held on Friday, March 30, 2018, in the American Corner section of the Rijeka Library at the Youth Hall ''Trsat''. The round table discussion was organized as one of many activities within the framework of the nine-day stay of the student delegation from The State University of New York - Buffalo (SUNY) led by Professor Christine A. Lai, Ph.D., and gathered a significant number of participants and guests, thus providing a lively discussion.

In addition to the SUNY-based Professor Christine A. Lai, Ph.D., and the group of SUNY-based students: Ashley E. Balicki, Alexis R. Lewis, Kacper Kozminski, Vadim V. Lebedyuk, Nakia C. Hock and Amber L. Martinez, also present in the discussion were the following Rijeka-based persons: Associate Prof. Bojana Ćulum, Ph.D., from the Department of Education at the UNIRI Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jolanda Todorović, Head of the Program Coordination Service of the Croatian Cultural Centre ''Sušak'', Marko-Luka Zubčić, Coordinator of volunteer activities on the ''Tourism Valorisation of Representative Monuments of Rijeka Industrial Heritage'' project, Associate Prof. Sarah Czerny, Ph.D., from the Department of Cultural Studies at the UNIRI Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dejan Gvoić, student-volunteer from the UNIRI Faculty of Health Studies, Ms. Pegi Pavletić, President of the UNIRI Student Body Government, along with Ms. Iva Tijan from the UNIRI International Unit as moderator.

The main purpose of the gathering was to look at the challenges of social engagement, both in the community and service learning, research and volunteering. Unlike volunteering, service learning and research as a pedagogical approach, provide, among other things, the opportunity of learning for students.

The students presented different but in many ways similar perspectives, activities, and suggestions, by comparing and contrasting the experiences of American students and their fellow students in Rijeka.

Ms. Pegi Pavletić, President of the UNIRI Student Body Government, pointed out the activities of various civic, sports and student associations as an opportunity to engage in activities that represent community service. However, she also pointed to the lack of such year-long programs, as well as the support system needed for their implementation. The concept of service learning at the University of Rijeka aimed at establishing connections with the community, local or global, will surely be further promoted by exchanging these experiences and opinions.

By gathering the impressions from both sides, this meeting concluded by posing an important question: What can the University of Rijeka adopt and accept from American colleagues in the field of service learning, and what did the American delegation learn during their stay at the University of Rijeka?

Professor Christine A. Lai emphasized that students will return to the US with memorable impressions of the Rijeka community. Here they witnessed that student-volunteers contribute to their immediate community as needed, regardless of the narrow scope of a particular study program, while at The State University of New York Buffalo students contribute to the community in narrow(er) relation to their field of study.

Professor Bojana Ćulum concluded that we can learn a lot from the American colleagues while emphasizing that we must not disregard the volunteer network of students developed through the ''Students and the Community'' course that she holds at the Department of Education at the UNIRI Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. She believes that, in accordance with a formerly validated concept, it is possible to connect the studies and community service among the students of other University constituents, as well, by including the elaborated American model of service learning narrowed down by any given field of a respective study program.

Student Tino Vodanović, from the Office for Students with Disabilities, highlighted the importance of inclusion of students with disabilities in the concept of service learning, emphasizing that they also want to be included in such programs, thus contributing to the community. Everyone present agreed and supported this significant initiative.

The meeting also provided all present to get to know each other better and contributed to an open dialogue, likewise opening opportunites for possible exchange programs in regard to civic and community engagement topics.



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