Going miles beyond their numerous published books and articles, Fort Hays State University professors Curt and Christie Brungardt recently shared their expertise with leaders from around the world at the International Symposium on Service Learning in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Dr. Curt Brungardt, director of the Center for Civic Leadership, and his wife, Christie Brungardt, instructor of leadership studies, presented "Virtual Service Learning: Addressing Real Issues Through Civic Engagement and Distance Education," a presentation demonstrating how service learning has been implemented at FHSU.
The symposium, "Service Learning: Models for the 21st Century," demonstrated the success of integrating scholarly work with community engagement. It was co-sponsored by Stellenbosch University and the University of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Ind.
"We were selected as speakers because it's incredibly rare to teach service learning through virtual college courses, and they were interested in learning more about the process," said Christie Brungardt.
The Department of Leadership Studies has students from all over the world enrolled in its online classes. Virtual students are expected to form their own groups and implement service projects where they are located.
"The reaction to our presentation was that of extreme interest," she said. "All of the other service learning presentations were incredible, but ours was unique because we were the only ones who were implementing service learning virtually. Several attendees asked us, 'Isn't it time consuming for the instructors?' and we said, 'Yes, it is, but it's so rewarding to be involved in projects that are improving communities around the world that it's worth the time.' "
Although the Brungardts spent their first few days attending the symposium in Stellenbosch, they decided to sightsee in Cape Town, South Africa, before heading home.
"The scenery was incredible," said Curt Brungardt. "There were enormous mountains that extended right into the ocean."
The Brungardts took a tour in the wilderness in which the tour guide told the women to remove all food, passports, money and valuables from their purses because, although they were walking on trails, the baboons were known to come out of the bushes to steal women's purses.
"We saw one baboon try to steal a woman's water bottle, but she wrestled it away from him," said Curt Brungardt. "There were men with slingshots there to protect us."
Besides the scenery and the wildlife, the Brungardts were especially drawn to South Africa's people.
"South Africa is only in its 11th year of democracy, " said Curt Brungardt. "I was impressed by its incredible progress with improving race relations."
The Brungardts were also impressed with the people's utilization of resources.
"They reuse objects rather than just throwing them away," said Curt Brungardt. "There was a man playing a guitar made out of an oilcan, and the drummers all drummed on large lids from oil barrels. They put anything and everything to use."
"We were grateful for the opportunity to share our passion with other teachers from around the world," said Christie Brungardt. "It is fulfilling to know that because of the online degree program, civic engagement is happening not only in Hays, but literally around the world."