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Fall 2013 Conference: ISL Summit

From October 23-25, 2013 the Buffett Center hosted 110 attendees at Northwestern for an “International Service Learning Summit” (ISL Summit), co-sponsored by DukeEngage and the Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University, and in collaboration with the Building Bridges Coalition (BBC).  With the goal of building a community of practice in global service learning, summit participants gathered to examine critical issues facing the field while also creating an agenda for developing and measuring our success as international educators.  The ISL Summit followed up on the success of “International Service and Higher Education” conference held at Washington University in 2011, which gathered participants “to reflect on the field as it stands on the threshold of a new era.” Eighteen months later, the ISL Summit gave continued attention to exploring the leading trends in higher education related to global service learning with a particular focus on creating higher standards for responsible global engagement through community-based, experiential or service learning courses and programs.  The summit brought together a group of socially concerned educators committed to the ongoing, constructive examination of our work, ready to engage in critical conversations about our impact on student learning and in communities abroad.

Conference Agenda:
A full conference program is available here.

Power Point Presentations:
Keynote Address:
“Knowledge, Democracy and Action: Re-examining ‘Service’ in Service Learning”
Budd Hall, UNESCO Co-Chair, Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education

Opening Plenary:
“Can ISL be a Fair Trade? Developing a Roadmap for Higher Standards”

Panel #1
Pre thru Post ISL: Examining Approaches from Preparation through Re-integration
Presentation 1: Jessica Evert, Child Family Health International
Presentation 2: Nicole Patel, Global Engagement Studies Institute, Northwestern
Presentation 3: Rachel Tomas Morgan, Center for Social Concerns, Notre Dame

Format, Process and Outcomes:
With an innovative and interactive agenda, the meeting was designed to create opportunities to get everyone actively working together, sharing experiences and insights, and producing concrete recommendations that would establish critical questions and action steps for the field.  Major themes and issues were framed by panel presentations and followed up by small group discussions.  Various break-out sessions provided a chance for small groups of panelists and participants to discuss content and issues raised and report back to the larger group with 3-5 conclusions or items for continued consideration and action.  This process brought practical attention to best practices, opportunities for collaboration, as well as the common dilemmas relevant to our campuses, organizations and community partners.  As the summit concluded, each group made a five-minute presentation on their most important takeaways and recommended action steps.  Among the outcomes of this collaborative learning process, was a highly engaged and energized cohort of educators eager for an action-oriented framework to move the field forward around issues of program design, pedagogy, evaluation and assessment, diversity and inclusion, ethical standards, and institutional concerns related to aligning and operationalizing these commitments across different resource contexts.

ISL Summit attendees called for greater attention to the knowledge community in GSL/ISL, expanding opportunities for sharing and disseminating research in the field and taking stock of the growing network that has been established around best practices, guidelines, values and ethical standards at the program design level.  Across issues of diversity and inclusion, attendees highlighted the importance of student and community voice and involvement, calling for more tangible reciprocity and access.  Action steps include increased opportunities for community participation in programs, related conferences and in processes of practical implementation and program feedback or evaluation.  Research questions include the need to better understand the development of international service learning economies in different settings and what this implies in terms of program/partnership selection and termination.

Many of these actions and questions will continue to be evaluated through new and established networks, requiring increased communication, collaboration and coordination.  We look forward to revisiting them at the next conference in March 2015, hosted by Duke University.