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Communication will drive IPSL gathering in November

By Daphne Mack

IPSL student helps a Mexican woman.    

[Episcopal News Service]  The International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership (IPSL) will hold the first joint meeting of its board of trustees and graduate and undergraduate program directors November 16-18 at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City.

"There are a number of very practical tasks that we need to initiate," said Nevin C. Brown, IPSL president. "But a great deal of what this meeting will be about is communication."

IPSL, a worldwide association of universities, colleges, non-governmental and related organizations united to foster service-learning, is headquartered in the Episcopal Church Center. It is a not-for-profit educational organization governed by a board of trustees that consists of leaders in education and the community service sector from around the world.

"We believe it is important for our program directors to have some time with the board of trustees," Brown said. "We have not offered sufficient opportunities in the past for persons on the ground in our programs to communicate both the successes and challenges of learning and service in different cultural settings."

One hoped-for result, he said, is that the board of trustees will remember the impact of organizational policies on programs in diverse cultures, while the program directors will understand some of the reasons certain policies need to be put in place regarding issues such as security, safety, and financial accountability.

Founded in 1982, IPSL's mission remains to promote service-learning through publications, conferences, research, and training opportunities for faculty and service agency staff; and to offer international programs for undergraduate and graduate students from institutions of higher education around the world.

Offering 16 undergraduate service-learning programs in 14 nations -- Czech Republic, Ecuador (Galapagos), Ecuador (Guayaquil), Ecuador (Quito), England, France, India, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, Scotland, Thailand, and the Lakota Nation (American Indians of the Northern Plains) -- IPSL has had more than 2,000 students from more than 400 universities or colleges in the U.S. and 25 other nations participate.

The Master of Arts in International Service program, developed in cooperation with partner universities in Jamaica, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, prepares graduates for careers in international non-governmental relief and development agencies. 

Both students and the host communities benefit from the substantial service each student gives. By studying at a local university and serving 15-20 hours per week in a school, orphanage, health clinic or other agency addressing human needs, students find their knowledge of the host culture -- and of themselves -- takes on greater depth and meaning.

During the November gathering, every program will be represented. Brown said one major topic of discussion will be the difficulty many American students are having in adjusting to another culture.

"We hope we can develop strategies our program directors can use to help the new generation of U.S. college students adjust more effectively," he said. "In the end, students need to be weaned from their cell phones and computers so that they can benefit from a genuine immersion in learning and service in the nations where our programs take place."