Students Learn through Service at U.P. 200
Many NMU employees and students will be on volunteer duty for this weekend’s U.P. 200 Sled Dog Championship. Some will participate individually, but there are at least two examples of coordinated group activities. One is a service learning management course that focuses specifically on the race (pictured right). The other is a real-world application for students in a feature-writing class.
Carol Steinhaus (Business) decided to volunteer at the U.P. 200 in part because of her professional interest in organizational behavior and how people function in group activities.
“I met up with the volunteer coordinator and we talked and I became excited about the prospect of initiating some student involvement,” Steinhaus said. “The first year, I had a few students from my classes help out. But then we created a one-credit, special topics teamwork course. Students apply concepts they learned in a prerequisite management course to actually managing aspects of the race."
Students are required to complete at least 12 hours of service from the following: local U.P. Sled Dog Association meetings held in advance of the event; set up and take down of race barricades along the track; Friday evening race activities; overnight duty at the Deerton and Munising checkpoints; crossing guard duties; and finish line activities (Jocelynne Reid is shown below checking a musher's sled at the finish).
They also attend mandatory pre- and post-race class meetings. Steinhaus said writing a reflection paper on how they applied what they learned in a prerequisite management course to their race teamwork experiences is a key part of their learning.
Steinhaus hopes to apply for a grant to purchase bibs with “NMU Volunteer” across the front that could be worn by students in both of her service-learning courses: the Noquemanon ski race and the U.P. 200. Until then her students will be donning NMU winter caps to be easily identified by race officials and to provide some recognition for the university.
“It is important people realize that NMU students support the community like the community supports NMU,” she said. “The sled dog folks have been very happy with the students' work and some students have even received job offers from people who were impressed by the effort they saw. The students do everything from crowd control to working in offices or at crossings. They’ve even helped sled dog teams that have stopped get back on track. In Munising, one student had her NMU laptop with her to study during the slow periods. When the race coordinator’s computer crashed, they ended up using her laptop.”
Students in Cate Terwilliger’s (English) feature writing course also are putting their notebook computers to use researching and producing stories for the U.P. 200 Web site. They work with Terwilliger and Web site manager Bev Stroh to conceptualize story ideas and conduct necessary interviews before writing content that is posted online.
“I first arranged this with Bev when I taught feature writing in Winter 2006, and it was a great experience for everyone,” Terwilliger said. “It provides real-world reporting and publication experience for students and solid content for Bev.”
Feature writing student Nancy Longtine describes the experience as both challenging and rewarding.
"This has really been a sort of a trial by fire," she said. "Each of us has had some experience writing in the past and we all bring different skills and ideas to the table when we workshop our articles. It's been exciting, not only because there's the chance of having a piece published, but because we have been given the chance to work with community members who are involved in a huge community event. I interviewed a musher who invited me to attend her dog team's prerace vet check. That's something I'd probably never have gotten the chance to do if it hadn't been for this assignment. This is definitely the best opportunity I've had relating to one of my classes."