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Engagement in Practice: Lessons Learned from a Two-Year Multidisciplinary Service-Learning Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineers and Communities: Critical Reflections of Challenges, Opportunities, and Practices of Engaging Each Other

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Malini Natarajarathinam Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Malini Natarajarathinam joined the faculty of Industrial Distribution Program at Texas A&M University in 2007. Natarajarathinam received her Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management from The University of Alabama. She received her Bachelor of Engineering (Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering) from Anna University [Tamilnadu, India], her MS in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University, her MA in Management Science and MS in Applied Statistics from The University of Alabama. She has experience working with many industries such as automotive, chemical distribution etc. on transportation and operations management projects. She works extensively with food banks and food pantries on supply chain management and logistics focused initiatives. Her graduate and undergraduate students are integral part of her service-learning based logistics classes.

She teaches courses in strategic relationships among industrial distributors and distribution logistics. Her recent research focuses on engineering education and learning sciences with a focus on how to engage students better to prepare their minds for the future. Her other research interests include empirical studies to assess impact of good supply chain practices such as coordinated decision making in stochastic supply chains, handling supply chains during times of crisis and optimizing global supply chains on the financial health of a company. She has published her research in Journal of Business Logistics, International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management and peer-reviewed proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Wei Lu Texas A&M University

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Dr. Wei Lu’s research work focuses on Higher Education in Agriculture & Engineering, K-12 (STEM) Education, Communications, Marketing, Economics, and Social Behaviors. She is a certified Instructional Designer and Graphic Designer. She is actively involved in service-learning related projects as the project manager as well as research investigator and data analyst. She earned her Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University in 2012; and the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communications from Texas A&M University in 2017.

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Mary E. Campbell Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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In spring 2017, we launched a multidisciplinary service-learning course that involved students from three different disciplines representing technology, people, and process at a STATE university. Each Tuesday students learned discipline-specific technical content separately, and each Thursday they worked remotely with food pantries through distance technology to conduct a needs assessment centered around the food pantry’s capacity, logistics, social issue awareness, civic education, engagement and outreach. Research data showed our first year project was a success in engaging students with satisfactory learning outcomes, but the project’s open-ended problem structure caused some confusion among students. Based on the result, our second-year (2018) service-learning project was centered around people and process, but the problems were pre-identified by food bank agency liaisons and vetted by faculty in advance. We continued our partnership with the Food Bank and food pantries within the network, including new and returning food bank agencies from the pilot year, with a newly added incentive of competitive awards of project implementation funds. The second-year improvements included: student population change (due to one faculty member withdrawing); new course elements such as hunger-related knowledge quizzes (to increase awareness of hunger issues); project preference & skills surveys (to facilitate multidisciplinary team building); mandatory field trip visits to Central STATE Food Bank (to improve student-agency engagement and provide learning opportunity); a project celebration ceremony (to recognize winners and fund solutions). After analyzing data collected via pre-& post surveys, critical reflections, course evaluations during spring 2018 semester, we firmly believe that the changes and improvements we made have strengthened our partnership with community partners and expanded the level of impact on community as well as on our service-learning students. We received more positive feedback (from both students and partner agencies) regarding project design and structure. We continue to explore the impact of multidisciplinary collaboration on student’s personal, interpersonal, cognitive, and academic development. [We would like to participate in the special session of Engagement in Practice moderated by Dr. Juan Lucena]

Natarajarathinam, M., & Lu, W., & Campbell, M. E. (2019, June), Engagement in Practice: Lessons Learned from a Two-Year Multidisciplinary Service-Learning Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32712

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