It Feels Good To Be “ACED”
by Cheval John
What does business professor Sanjay Mehta, Ph.D., sociology professor Lee Miller, Ph.D., and education professor Joyce McCauley, Ph.D. have in common? Is it the fact that each one of them have spent time overseas? Yes, but that is not the only thing they have in common.
They are one of the members of the Engaged Scholars Committee at Sam Houston State University (SHSU). The Engaged Scholars Committee was the brainchild of Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Payne, Ph.D. and is made up of professors that represent each of the six colleges at the University.
One of the responsibilities of the committee is to create an atmosphere that will encourage students to build on SHSU’s traditions of public service and community engagement. The committee has brought greater visibility to community engagement by the recent Carnegie recognition of SHSU as an engaged campus. Additionally, the committee is fostering an environment where more faculty offer Academic Community Engagement (ACE) courses. These courses require students to be involved with the community and will begin in the fall of 2011.
An example of an ACE course is Marketing 570, a graduate level course that is taught by Dr. Mehta. The objective of the course is for students to create a marketing plan for small businesses throughout Huntsville. Dr. Mehta choose a small business from a list of businesses that are recommended by the Small Business Development Center. The class is divided into teams of 3-5 students. The course is designed as a competition, where by they compete with one another to develop the best marketing plan. Each of the groups presents their plans (with 5-10 unique ideas) to the business owner. After the presentations, the owner helps Dr. Mehta select the best marketing plan. According to Dr. Mehta, “out of the 60-70 businesses we have written marketing plans over the past 10 years, roughly 90% of them are still in business today.”
According to Dr. Miller, they are three things that students will get from taking an ACE course:
- Students can apply what they are learning in the classroom and means more because they see that knowledge matters in the real world.
- As students are engaged in their communities, they are learning from their communities and are bringing it back into the classroom
- Students are learning that they can make a difference in their communities
On a very practical level, students in ACE courses also gain experience in organizations associated with their field of study. This is experience that can be used to build their resumes and make them stronger candidates for jobs when they leave SHSU.
Dr. McCauley is the chair of the Engaged Scholars Committee and she believes that the students will benefit from the courses because applying what is being learned in a real world situation helps to make course content more meaningful. Because of the committee’s efforts, Sam Houston has achieved the Carnegie Foundation’s classification of “Community Engagement.” It is one of 161 public intstitutions nationwide to receive that classification in 2011.
“Receiving the Carnegie designation is a great accomplishment,” said McCauley. “It took two years of gathering data and each of the members was dedicated to this and it was worth it in the end.”
For those wondering if they should take an ACE designated course, Dr. Miller has this to say:
“When you are involve with any organization through an ACE course, and you do a great job for them, then the supervisor may be willing to write a letter of recommendation that will set you apart from the competition for a job when you graduate.”
For more information about the Engaged Scholars Committee, and to see which classes are designated as an ACE course, visit the ACE website at: www.shsu.edu/~ace