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Engagement in Practice: The Vocabulary of Community Development as an Indicator of a Participatory Mind-set

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

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

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Howard L. Greene Ohio State University

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Howard L. Greene directs K-12 Education Outreach for the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, bringing university research and teaching intersections to the K-12 community, especially those underserved and/or underrepresented. Dr. Greene also chairs the Humanitarian Engineering Advisory and spearheads an initiative in Humanitarian Development and Innovation at OSU. Prior to Ohio State, Dr. Greene worked for 12 years in medical device development and later in STEM education and outreach at Battelle in Columbus, Ohio. Prior to Battelle, Dr. Greene was a professor of Electronics Engineering Technology at DeVry University in Columbus. Dr. Greene received the Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from The Ohio State University in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, respectively.

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Kaleb Eldridge Heart to Honduras

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Kaleb has seven years of experience living in rural Honduras and working in asset-based community development with the development organization Heart to Honduras. He is currently a candidate at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs for a Master's in International Development with a concentration in NGOs and Civil Society. Meanwhile, he and his wife Stacey continue to work with Heart to Honduras at a distance.

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Patrick John Sours Ohio State University

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Patrick is a graduate student in Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Patrick received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University with a minor in Humanitarian Engineering. Patrick’s graduate research focus is international development through engineering. His main research project is Maji Marwa: A Sustainable and Resilient Community Project. Patrick has been involved with Humanitarian Engineering projects at Ohio State for the past seven years. He has worked on project in Guatemala, Honduras, India and Tanzania.

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Engagements in community development through university service learning programs continually seek to balance sustainable growth of communities with the student learning experience. As the student learning experience is elevated in priority, programs risk falling into shallow transactional and “projectized” engagements with communities that conform well to the academic calendar but leave community partners less as active participants empowered to reach future goals and more as beneficiaries of prescribed solutions developed “for them”. This paper explores humanitarian development and innovation through the lens of changes in our vocabulary that happen as we seek to bring renewed focus to the communities in which we work. Specifically, the relationships, attitudes, outcomes and feelings associated with our work together are described using observations from service learning engagements at X University with partners in four very different geographical settings: Central Ohio, Ghana, Tanzania and Honduras. For example, when we focus more on student outcomes, our measures of success tend toward “project vocabulary” and we speak of “delivering solutions to beneficiaries”. When our focus shifts towards what is best for growth in partner communities, we use more “process vocabulary”, e.g., “building trust as we co-develop sustainable processes”. The result is that communities we work with feel increasingly empowered, trusted, respected and affirmed, as opposed to helpless, suspicious, ignored and patronized. Similarly, when we focus on communities, our relationships tend to be more transparent, collaborative and participatory, and less hidden, unilateral and paternalistic. By examining our vocabulary, we can assess our service learning programs and gain insight into the challenges associated with balancing the student learning experience with long-term sustained growth in communities.

<For inclusion in "Engineers and Communities: Critical Reflections of Challenges, Opportunities, and Practices of Engaging Each Other", Session for Engagement in Practice Papers, Session Chair: Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines>

Greene, H. L., & Eldridge, K., & Sours, P. J. (2019, June), Engagement in Practice: The Vocabulary of Community Development as an Indicator of a Participatory Mind-set Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32714

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