Service learning trips develop professional skills while helping others


The University’s countless service-learning projects encompass virtually every academic discipline and continue year round. A pair of international trips this spring and summer embody UIndy’s longstanding “Education for Service” motto and help students gain valuable interpersonal and career skills.


Ecuador-bound: Nurses on medical mission
Twenty-two UIndy students led by Nursing instructor Becca Cartledge arrived in Quito, Ecuador, May 9 to establish clinics with local churches to provide patients with medical attention and spiritual counseling. During the three-week Spring Term course, the student nurses practiced diagnostic skills as patients arrived at the clinic and assisted the licensed pharmacist in dispensing medications and vitamins in the pharmacy.

“The pharmacy was run fully by nursing students with the oversight of professionals to make sure we did everything right,” notes Kellie Cross, who participated in a similar trip last year. “We actually had the opportunity to see the medications and determine if they were compatible with the patient’s medical plan, so we actually practiced the pharmacology role of nursing.”

Spanish is the dominant language in Quito, so the English-speaking caregivers faced some communication challenges. The dynamics of working through an interpreter provide a unique challenge in caregiving.

“We got to practice a lot of skills that we don’t usually have the opportunity to use in the United States,” Cross says. “A lot of the students had a preview last year of what it is like to speak through a translator. It’s hard when you want to speak directly to your patient but you can’t because they’re not going to understand you. You have to look at your patient as if you’re speaking to them, when you’re really speaking to the translator and the translator is speaking to the patient. It’s a very triangular relationship, when it’s supposed to be linear. And if you do have Spanish-speaking skills, what better place to put them to use along with your nursing skills?”

Greece-bound: Special Olympics ‘voluntourism’
As most of Indiana will be gearing up to endure the dog days of summer, a group of 32 UIndy alumni, students, and friends will be getting ready for nearly two weeks in Greece.

The group will travel to Athens, where UIndy has a branch campus, to serve as volunteers during the 13th Special Olympics World Games. The UIndy contingent will be among the 25,000 volunteers who come to support the Games and the 7,500 athletes from more than 185 nations.

The venture was organized by the University’s Alumni Association and Department of Kinesiology and will be led by Associate Professor Jennifer VanSickle and Assistant Professor Michael Diacin. The volunteers, who are paying their own way, will spend most of their time working directly with the athletes and spending eight hours per day at the Games. There are 22 Olympic-type sports in the Games. VanSickle has received lots of help from University of Indianapolis-Athens campus staff, including planning for additional trips around the area. Participating students come from all disciplines. Interest in the trip may have been piqued by UIndy’s involvement with the Special Olympics Youth Basketball Tournament held on campus this spring and last. More than 250 UIndy students volunteered that day to help hand out awards, register the athletes, and support the players.

“We are looking forward to connecting students and alumni with each other and with our UIndy friends in Athens,” says VanSickle. “You go to work at something like this thinking that you’re just going to be a helper, but you get just as much from these athletes as you give.”