It all started with teaching German immersion elementary students about fairytales. That’s when Kay Rollans (`14 BA, Philosophy) got bit by the Community Service-Learning (CSL) “bug” and realized she wanted to actively get involved with community and non-profit organizations.
As a self-professed “proponent of curiosity-driven learning,” it seems natural that Rollans would be drawn to the out-of-classroom, experiential learning opportunities offered through the UAlberta CSL program, which is operated out of the Faculty of Arts. While taking a German class taught by Arts professor Carrie Smith-Prei, Rollans was placed in a grade four class at a German immersion school and led a storytelling project that taught students about fairytales. In return, the students helped Rollans practice and improve the language skills she was learning on campus.
“I was surprised at which the ways my learning at school applied to or allowed me to think about what I was doing in the community,” says Rollans. “I learned a lot to apply to my degree… and how to apply [my learning] in a real-world context.” She was particularly pleased to be part of forging community links between the university and local German communities. “It was an opening that made us visible to other parts of the German community in Edmonton.”
Rollans then applied to the Non-Profit Board Internship offered through the CSL program, which pairs students with a non-profit board for a year to learn how boards operate and to develop their leadership and decision-making skills.
She was paired with the Ainembabazi Children’s Project, an Edmonton-based organization that supports children in communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Uganda. In addition to attending all the board meetings, Rollans researched insurance policies and helped the board develop a succession plan to recruit new board members and grow the board.
The internship program is great for developing practical skills and for getting young people to understand the diversity and breadth of the non-profit sector in their communities, says Rollans. The benefits for boards are reciprocated: they gain fresh, new voices from passionate students with diverse perspectives and expertise in various areas. “Even if their [area of study] has very little to do directly with the organization they’re working with, they’re bringing that focused perspective to a board…and [can] really contribute to a conversation.”
After her internship was complete, Rollans jumped at the opportunity to become involved with the Found Festival, an annual multidisciplinary event in Old Strathcona that is organized by the Common Ground Arts Society.
“The liberal arts have taught me how to think, how to communicate, how to search out things that interest me.”
“Once you’re involved and can see the niches you can fill, it almost feels like a duty…you can always find a way to make a contribution,” says Rollans, who intends to go to grad school in September 2015 and wants to find more community-building opportunities.
Curiosity may have led Rollans to pursue an Arts degree, but she agrees that it has been invaluable in providing her with a solid foundation for her future and for a life of learning. “The liberal arts have taught me how to think, how to communicate, how to search out things that interest me — all of these things that just feel really basic and fundamental to what I consider an enjoyable life,” she adds. “[It’s] also a life that contributes to society and works towards making the world a better place.”