Students from the Xicotepec service-learning project in Mexico.
Photo provided by Stacy Narcotta-Welp.

In 2006, 15 faculty members participated in the second Center for Teaching Faculty Institute, which focused on the theory and practice of community-based service-learning. During first-day introductions, Craig Just—now an Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering—described his goal to create an international service-learning course in partnership with a Rotary International chapter in Xicotepec de Juárez, Puebla, Mexico. After hearing his vision, fellow Institute participant Hazel Seaba, Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Pharmacy, turned to Just and said, “Me too!”

During the past decade the semester-long “International Perspectives: Xicotepec” course has crossed disciplinary, town/gown, and international boundaries to become a model campus/community partnership. With support from the Center for Teaching, Iowa City Rotarians Christine Catney, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy, and UI alumnus Jim Peterson joined Just and Seaba to form the first course development team in 2007, along with members of Club Rotario de Xicotepec de Juárez and southern Iowa’s Rotary District 6000. College of Dentistry faculty members Professor Steven Levy, Visiting Assistant Professor Julie Reynolds, and Director of the Career Leadership Academy Stacy Narcotta-Welp joined the team several years ago. Reynolds had previously traveled to Xicotepec as a student in the course.

Two hundred twenty UI students and sixteen UI instructors from nine colleges have spent Spring Break in the mountain town three hours northeast of Mexico City where they have conducted community needs analyses; installed water treatment equipment; built libraries, classrooms, and playgrounds in local schools; painted murals; offered clinics to diagnose diabetes; created a community carnaval parade; and treated thousands of school children for intestinal parasites and provided them with fluoride treatments to protect against dental cavities.  Xicotepec Rotarians and other civic leaders propose and help carry out these and other projects and provide housing, home-cooked meals, and a Friday evening fiesta to celebrate the week’s efforts.

International Perspectives:
Xicotepec Student Showcase

Thursday, May 5, 2016
6:00-7:15 pm in N120 College of Public Health

Before traveling to Mexico, the UI undergraduate, graduate, and professional students prepare for their work on the community projects, which relate to their specific disciplines. To enrich and contextualize students’ service experiences, the course also requires readings, discussion, and reflection on Mexican culture and history. The community-based experience both anchors and greatly enhances the knowledge and skills students learn at the University and helps them gain an understanding of how community-identified needs and long-term partnerships can connect people in profoundly meaningful ways across linguistic, cultural, and political divides.

A celebration of this unique, long-term partnership between Rotary International and The University of Iowa will be held on Thursday, May 5, 2016 from 6:00-7:15 in the College of Public Health Building auditorium (Room N120 CPHB), with a reception to follow in the foyer. UI students will describe how they learned through service partnerships and their experiences in Xicotepec. Members of the UI and local community are welcome to attend.