Santa Clara University

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Santa Clara University

SCU Stories
Laird photo

Laurie Laird

Associate Director, Ignatian Center
At a glance:

Director coordinates community-based experiences to support students learning in the Jesuit tradition.

As the Associate Director of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Laurie Laird oversees Arrupe Partnerships for community-based Learning. Through her role in coordinating Arrupe's diverse community placements, she often observes how such engagement in the community not only enhances students' learning in the classroom but also offers them experiences of personal discovery?a key aspect of their growth in their undergraduate years in college.

"I think the community experience brings to life the theories students learn in class. We also hope that through interacting with diverse members of our local community, they will be able to learn from different perspectives and hear voices and ideas that are less represented in the classroom or traditional textbooks. Then they'll be able to reflect on their own lives, interests, backgrounds, and how they're connected to the world at large," Laird explains.

A meaningful experience

Laird notes that community-based learning has an influence on all involved?students, faculty, and community partners. Students often report at the end of the quarter that "they've learned a lot in connection with their courses and about themselves," while faculty comment on how "the experiences contribute to and enrich the courses in a way that wouldn't have happened had the students not been bringing questions and new knowledge from the community into the classes." Community partners, too, remark that "the presence of our students has made a difference."

The Jesuit education

Provided by the Ignatian Center, community-based learning opportunities are an integral part of a Jesuit education. Laird notes that "the University's mission as a whole is to educate young men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion," and that engagement in the local and global community is essential to students' growth.

"How can you know what the needs of the world are and what your potential role can be in meeting those needs if you're not out in the world meeting different people?" Laird asks. Framed by these vocational questions, community-based learning is a mutually beneficial experience in which the students are not only serving those in the community but also learning from community partners. They are able to "reflect on their experience in light of who they are and what's happening in the world," leading to growth and learning in both the wider context of the world and in more personal, self-exploratory ways.