The Department of English recently participated in various activities at the International Conference of Service Learning hosted by Bethlehem University, 25-26 May 2023.
One of the highlights was the poster session on the first day, where the Department presented eight posters prepared by eight student groups from three courses: Public Relations, Advocacy, and Global Citizenship. Mr. Ramzi Asali, the instructor for these courses, supervised the projects, which covered a wide range of important issues aligned with the key themes of the aforementioned courses.
The topics included installing a big screen and reducing paper waste for a greener campus, addressing the digital divide among people with disabilities, de-stigmatizing mental health, advocating for animal rights, protecting women who experience abuse, reducing gun violence, promoting interfaith dialogue, and empowering youth with global citizenship skills.
The projects were conducted in collaboration with various international and local organizations such as Uniservistate, EducAid, America House, Dura Municipality, Animal and Environment Association, Wings of Hope, and Mehwar Center. All the projects were aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which serve as a global framework for achieving sustainable development worldwide. The SDGs have been adopted by the Palestinian Government and are fully integrated into development projects carried out by the government, as well as by local and international organizations operating in Palestine.
The Department of English made another significant contribution to the Conference. Ms. Hanadi Younan, Dean of Arts/Chairperson of the Department and Mr. Ramzi Asali, Lecturer at the Department of English conducted a workshop titled “Service Learning and Global Citizenship.”
The workshop emphasized the role of service learning projects in fostering a global mindset and developing global citizenship skills among students. Ms. Younan discussed the English Department’s experience in integrating a new track in communication studies within the Department’s new paradigm. This initiative aims to enhance the communication skills of graduates and bridge the skills gap in the labor market.
She elaborated on how service-learning aligns with this paradigm, serving as a crucial experiential learning pedagogy that enriches students’ soft skills. Mr. Asali shared his experience of integrating service learning into his courses, emphasizing the global aspects of service learning through partnerships with international organizations, collaborations with local NGOs that have strong ties to international organizations, and alignment of projects with the SDGs.
Students who participated in service learning projects had the opportunity to showcase their posters and discuss how these projects helped them improve their problem-solving, teamwork, critical thinking, intercultural competence, leadership, work ethics, and project management skills. They also explored the interconnectedness between local and global issues by aligning their projects with the UN’s SDGs.
Ms. Diana Babish, the head of the Animal and Environment Association, represented partner organizations involved in the service learning projects and stressed the significance of university partnerships with various organizations in Palestine to promote civic engagement and social responsibility among students.
During the workshop, participants were divided into groups to generate ideas for new initiatives aimed at globalizing service learning at Bethlehem University and linking it with the university’s internationalization efforts.
Some recommendations included reaching out to diaspora organizations, other Catholic universities, and international organizations led by Bethlehem University alumni to establish partnerships for incorporating global service learning projects into the English Department’s courses.
Attendees also emphasized the importance of introducing a core course in communication skills for all students at Bethlehem University to equip them with the necessary skills for local and global service learning projects. Additionally, they recognized the immense potential of virtual programs in integrating global service learning into academic courses.
Mr. Mahdi Kleibo, the Coordinator of External Academic Relations, emphasized the significant opportunities offered by micro-credential programs offered by the EU, suggesting the inclusion of service-learning components within such programs.
Lastly, the workshop underscored the need to integrate service learning, as a key experiential learning pedagogy, systematically into all relevant courses offered by Bethlehem University, rather than treating it as an ad hoc approach.