Victor Womack confers with Renee Simmons
As a service-learning project, Dr. Leslie Hossfeld's sociology class at UNC Pembroke will go to Washington, D.C., on March 30.
Manufacturing job losses in Robeson County is the issue the class will take to the nation's lawmakers. The UNCP students are participating in a larger project, organized by local community groups, called "Jobs for the Future."
One class member summed up the mission to Washington.
"Our goal is to keep jobs here and to help small businesses expand in our region," said UNCP sociology major Christina Pridgen of Hoke County. "We will speak on behalf of displaced workers who have seen their jobs go overseas."
"I know people in my community who have lost their jobs," Pridgen said. "It affects the entire community."
Not only will the UNCP group speak for displaced workers, they will ride with them to Washington. Pridgen and 22 classmates organized the trip with help from Dr. Hossfeld and the Center for Community Action, a Lumberton community development organization.
Four busses will leave at 12:30 a.m. and return at 11 p.m. on the same day. The itinerary includes visits with Congressmen, Dr. Hossfeld said.
"The big news is that Congressman Mike McIntyre is behind this project with even greater emphasis than before," Dr. Hossfeld said. "During our day in Washington, we will deliver a Congressional briefing on job losses at 2 p.m., followed by a press conference at 3 p.m."
Dr. Hossfeld will speak at the briefing. The sociology professor, with assistance colleagues at UNC Wilmington and North Carolina State University and UNCP students in her class, provided research for the Jobs for the Future project.
"Last semester my students in Research Methods conducted in-depth interviews with agency representatives about the impact of job loss in Robeson County," she said. "This semester, my Community Development class has done a brilliant job organizing the March 30 event by working closely with the Center for Community Action and other groups in four phases - grant writing, planning, publicity and community organizing."
Service-learning is the practice of integrating community service into the classroom to enhance student learning. Dr. Hossfeld said students apply what they learn in class to real issues in the community.
"In addition, students participate in field research by conducting in-depth interviews with displaced workers," she said. "These students will have the applied experience of community organizing during the first half of the course, and then match their experiences with theory and other case studies on community organizing during the second part of the semester."
Dr. Hossfeld said students learn from experiences like this.
"I believe the organizing experiences and academic training these students receive will benefit them in any job they choose, but, most importantly, it will make them engaged members of their communities," she said. "For myself, it helps me blur the boundaries between teaching, research and service, the essence, I believe, of what being a sociologist is all about."
And, Dr. Hossfeld said, "It helps UNCP live up to its mission statement of being part of community teaching and service."
Throughout March, Dr. Hossfeld's class recruit community volunteers to travel to Washington on four busses (one bus is sponsored by UNCP's Student Government Association) and raise funds to pay costs of the 24-hour sojourn.