Asee peer logo

Community Development In A Global Context: An International Service Learning Program

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Service-Learning in Developing Communities

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.378.1 - 12.378.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Thomas Soerens University of Arkansas

visit author page

Thomas Soerens is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Arkansas. He teaches and performs research in the areas of water quality sampling and data analysis, ground water remediation, and water and sanitation in developing countries. He serves as president of the Northwest Arkansas professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA and as faculty advisor for the UA student chapter of EWB. Before entering the academic world, he spent several years working on rural development projects in Pakistan and in the Maldive Islands.

visit author page


Charles Adams University of Arkansas

visit author page

Charles Adams is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and International Programs for the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas and Associate Professor of English. He coordinates study abroad programs for the University and serves as instructor of record for the Belize course. He currently spends the summers in South Africa leading a study abroad program and in the past has has lead study abroad programs in Europe.

visit author page

author page

Kevin Hall University of Arkansas

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Community Development in a Global Context: An International Service Learning Program


In 2007, the University of Arkansas began a new program in service learning in developing countries. The students in the program enrolled in a broad interdisciplinary lecture course with more focused project teams on the UA campus in the spring and are spending the summer session in Belize working on service projects in and around the city of Dangriga. The project for the engineering team involves finding water and sanitation solutions for a community that was identified as having a high incidence of waterborne diseases. In addition to typical engineering tasks, the project involves several broader aspects of public health engineering including health surveys and health education. Other student projects are in the disciplines of agricultural development, social work, literacy studies, conservation and ecology, international economics, and education and health professions. The objectives of the course are to immerse students in the issues and practical realities of living and working in a different culture, specifically in a developing country, and to make a significant positive contribution to the development of a specific community.

The spring course, team-taught by faculty from all the disciplines involved, is a 3 hour upper level humanities course; the summer session in Belize for engineering students will count as a 3 hour engineering technical elective and an additional 3 hour humanities elective. The program in Belize is administered by Peacework, a broad-based non-government organization who manages over 100 projects in developing communities around the world. The Northwest Arkansas professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) as well as the UA student chapter of EWB are providing technical assistance. This program interfaces with several other new UA efforts in service-learning and in engineering in developing countries. The program is supported by the University of Arkansas Honors College, which provided significant funding for travel and other costs for development of the program, as well as by funding from the colleges and departments involved.

The theme that unifies the diverse disciplines involved in the program is community development, specifically in the postcolonial society of Belize, but more generally in underdeveloped societies everywhere. We believe that the academic model developed in this course will provide a framework, both theoretical and practical, for understanding the complexity of the challenges facing those striving to develop a community in an environment of limited resources, historical deprivation, and cultural alienation. Our conviction is that this interdisciplinary service learning model will ultimately be applied to other developing societies, both overseas and in our nation. For instance, the economic, technological, and cultural situation of Belize and many other developing countries strongly resembles that of the Arkansas Delta, or the Native American reservations of the Southwest. We hope to be involved for several years with this program in Belize and then expand the course and program to other countries.

Soerens, T., & Adams, C., & Hall, K. (2007, June), Community Development In A Global Context: An International Service Learning Program Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1518

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015