Public Administration students take on service projects as part of course work

GVL / Robert Mathews
Diane Kimotko

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Diane Kimotko

Anya Zentmeyer

Diane Kimoto has nicknames for all of her students. They earn it on the first day of class, and they keep it – even when Kimoto’s class isn’t in session.

An assistant professor in Grand Valley State University’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, Kimoto has opened her home to students from her PA 270 and PA 300 classes (Public Administration and Research Methods in Public Administration, respectively) for the last four or five years, she said, to bring their learning outside of the classroom.

The PA 300 class spends a few weeks working at Kimoto’s house – painting, cleaning and refurbishing – and in turn, Kimoto helps fund their Alternative Spring Break outreach trip. This year, the class is heading to Ocean City, New Jersey to help with post-Hurricane Sandy cleanup. She says having the students do this kind of service on a smaller scale not only readies them for the longer, more trying service trip in March, but also brings the group closer together.

“When I have the students from my 270 class, it’s seeing old faces again – and I love that,” she said. “Really, when you do service it doesn’t just stop at a certain time. It’s not just for an hour and a half a day.”

She said when students sign up for Research Methods in Public Administration, they know what they’re getting into. They know they’ll be participating in service and outreach efforts, they know they’ll spend their spring breaks eating, sleeping and traveling alongside each other – and they like that.

“In a sense, this is kind of like showing that you can learn outside of the classroom as well as in the classroom,” Kimoto said. “Because when you’re in the class, you talk about the theories, you talk about how the texts writes about this or that…But then you have to see – how do you get along with everybody?”

Next week, the group is doing some work with the American Cancer Society, and trying to get the word about their efforts out to the community to help with the funding of their trip, where 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the families in New Jersey whose lives they hope to help rebuild.

“It’s also one of those experiences that impact you,” Kimoto said. “I really think that learning can occur in any place at any time. It doesn’t have just to be with just a book. Most people don’t come into this major knowing its public service.”

It’s worth noting that Kimoto isn’t teaching this semester, still getting back in the groove after suffering from a brain aneurysm last semester. In the interim, Director of American Humanics and Internship Coordinator Quincy Williams has stepped up in her place.

Karmen Marks, a PA 300 student at GVSU, said she likes the way the class allows her and her classmates to do something good for other people, while working toward her own college education.

“You know, people were affected and their homes are gone, their families are gone – and being able to assist a little bit with that, that’s why I took the class,” Marks said.

Marks – and the other students – are also happy to rally around Kimoto. Their professor, Marks said, is the driving energy behind their efforts.

“She’s so sweet,” she said. “She would give the shirt of her back.”

Kimoto will be back at GVSU next fall, and she said the break is a chance for her to refine what she’s doing as a professor, and find new and different ways to educate the students who take her courses.

These kind of nontraditional lesson plans are gratifying for Kimoto too, she said, because students get to see her on a more personal level and the close proximity puts the group more at ease, more comfortable with open discussion.

“Because if they have questions they maybe might have been afraid to ask, they feel comfortable to ask,” she said. “But also, I think it’s good for the professor; because it helps us reinforce why we did it. Why we love what we do. I love it, I can’t wait to get back to it.”
Anybody interested in helping the Hurricaine Sandy victims through the group’s outreach can call the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at 331-2363.

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