Monday, December 27, 2010

A New Service-Learning Project For 2011

The winter quarter starts in just one week and students in SOC 415 Global Social Change will be working on a new service project for our international service partner, Casa de los Angeles, a non-profit daycare center in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.   Casa de los Angeles would like to apply for a grant to hire an administrator for their U.S. office in Illinois.  My students will be conducting research to identify foundations and organizations that give grants to non-profits.  A database of funding organizations will be presented to our service partner at the conclusion of the course. 

Since this is an online course, students will be doing grant research by searching databases in the Berkeley College Library --all done online!  One of our librarians will join us in our online course, giving us a presentation on how to access grant information through the library.  He will also answer questions and moderate a discussion board during Week 3 of the quarter.   By the end of the winter quarter, students will provide important funding information to Casa de los Angeles, gain valuable hands-on research skills, and learn about the global issues --social, economic, political --impacting Mexico today.  For more information about our service partner, Casa de los Angeles, visit their website at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate The National Day of Listening - November 26th

November 26th is The National Day of Listening.  Started by the national nonprofit organization, StoryCorps, in 2008, The National Day of Listening is an effort to encourage Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs to interview a friend, loved one, or member of their community about their lives on the day after Thanksgiving-offering a holiday alternative to Black Friday shopping sprees (StoryCorps). 

From the StoryCorps website, you can even download a Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide, which will help you prepare for, record, preserve, and share your interview.   If you need inspiration, listen to some of the interviews.

Blanca Alvarez and her husband risked crossing the border to immigrate into the U.S. and then struggled to make ends meet. They hoped to shelter their children from these harsh realities, but Blanca's daughter Connie reveals how much children can really see of their parents' lives—and the inspiration they draw from their struggles.

Joseph Robertson was an infantryman in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The stark black and white images in this short haunt the viewer, just as Robertson is haunted by his memories from that battle.

To learn more about The National Listening and StoryCorps, go to

Saturday, November 6, 2010

National Distance Learning Week Starts November 8th

Image from:

November 8th-12th is National Distance Learning Week and Berkeley College has many activities planned.  Attend a Virtual Open House,  view a sample course, and enter a distance-learning essay contest.  Visit this LINK to learn more.

Carol Smith, dean of Berkeley's distance learning program, has planned an all-day Distance Learning Symposium for Monday, November 8th.   Online faculty members will attend this faculty development symposium and participate in a variety of workshops on effective practices in online learning.

In addition to teaching social science courses online, I also serve as Online Chair for the School of Liberal Arts.  On Monday afternoon, I will deliver a presentation on the use of multimedia resources to engage students and help meet course objectives and learning outcomes.  I will be showing some examples of how  Liberal Arts faculty have successfully incorporated multimedia into their online courses.

For more information on National Distance Learning Week, visit the website here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Did Music Help Our Ancestors Survive?

Music has been called the universal language.  Now, research in anthropology and neuroscience suggest that music actually helped human ancestors survive, particularly before language.  In his book, "The Singing Neanderthals,"  Prof. Steven Mithen argues that "language may have been built on the neural underpinnings of music" (Begley 2006).    Could it be that humans sang before they conversed?

Studies have shown that some people with severe language impairment can still have musical abilities, for example, playing a melody on the piano after hearing it only once.  "Music," Mithen says, "can exist within the brain in the absence of language," a sign that the two evolved independently. And since language impairment does not wipe out musical ability, the latter "must have a longer evolutionary history" (Begley 2006).

So, if our brains are "hard-wired" for music, why did this happen?   More than a century ago, Charles Darwin pondered this question and theorized that, as with bird songs, human singing evolved to attract mates.  He wrote in his book The Descent of Man that "before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, [humans] endeavored to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm" (Darwin 1883)   Prof. Geoffrey Miller of the University of New Mexico agrees, saying that "Music was shaped by sexual selection to function mostly as a courtship display.."  (Begley 2006).

Prof. Mithen asserts that music fostered social bonding.  The music promoted "a sense of we-ness, of being together in the same situation facing the same problems," he suggests, creating "a social rather than a merely individual identity" (Begley 2006).

Music is a cultural universal, that is, it exists in all human cultures.  However, there is significant diversity in musical expression from culture to culture.

Begley, Sharon (2006)  Science Journal:  Caveman crooners may have aided early human life.  The Wall Street Journal.  Friday, March 31, 2006.

Darwin, Charles (1883)  The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York: Appleton and Co.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back in the USA & Buying Local!

Just last week I was doing my shopping at the Tianguis Organic Farmers' Market in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (see post and slide show below), enjoying fruits, berries, vegetables, eggs, coffee -- all organic -- and bath products, artisan breads, jams, etc. --all made from natural and organic ingredients by local producers in the area surrounding San Miguel de Allende.

Now, one week later, I am back in New Jersey, ready to "buy local" at some of the NJ farmers' markets and stores that offer locally produced meats, eggs, produce, etc. Whether in Mexico, the U.S. or any other corner of the globe, I believe community-supported agriculture is important.

So...Buy Local and Think Global!

The website Buy Local, Think Global, at
has a list of links to New Jersey farmers' markets and other producers throughout the state. Many local farmers' markets are open through the end of October. You can also find information at the Jersey Fresh website at Check out the great recipes at from Jersey Fresh.

If you want organic products, you can find information on New Jersey organic growers, events, educational materials, etc. at The Northeast Organic Farmers' Association of New Jersey, Their website is

Tim LaSalle, Ph.D., CEO of the Rodale Institute, explains how organic farming techniques pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as carbon in living soil—an overlooked, but significant, route to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. More at

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

San Miguel de Allende Organic Farmers' Market

The Organic Farmers' Market - Parque Juarez - Sat. 9-2 - San Miguel de Allende
The Tianguis Organic Farmers' Market in Parque Juarez is the place to be on Saturdays from 9-2 pm -- to support local organic farmers from the area around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, meet friends and socialize, and eat delicious prepared foods. Yes, San Miguel has two large grocery stores, but I try to purchase food and other goods from this market and from other produce markets and tienditas (small stores) in my neighborhood. It is so important to support local producers and shopkeepers, especially in these difficult economic times. Below is a slide show of the Sat. organic market on a sunny day in the beautiful Parque Juarez.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Business Development Around The World

Why is intercultural competence so important for all students, even those majoring in accounting, management, business administration, entrepreneurhsip, etc.? Well, there are many reasons. According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities,

"Educational success must be measured by our most ambitious striving for essential learning. College degrees will increasingly be judged by their global position (in a comparative and competitive sense, e.g., the Bologna Process) as well as their global positioning (how well they correlate to graduates who can compete in a global economy and act on their civic and ethical commitments in an interdependent and diverse world)" GLOBAL POSITIONING Essential Learning, Student Success, and the Currency of U.S. Degrees - (

I learned today that the Peace Corps is now hiring senior and mid-level managers for overseas positions. (See the link I posted on the right margin for a link to that website.) Whether through a job or a volunteer position in the Peace Corps, a business major can contribute a great deal in helping promote economic development in communities all around the world at a grassroots level.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Presentation At the 2010 Sloan-C Conference In San Jose, California

Hello colleagues, students, and friends! I just returned from the Sloan-C/MERLOT, "Emerging Technologies in Online Learning Symposium" (July 20-23) in San Jose, Ca., where I presented a poster "Using A Web Log To Engage Students & Enhance Learning". In addition to my "onsite" presentation, I uploaded the poster to the Sloan-C Virtual Conference site for "virtual attendees", many from different parts of the world.

I enjoyed meeting and networking with other online educators, some who author their own blogs and others who are interested in supplementing their online courses with a faculty blog. My presentation focused on how I integrated my faculty blog "Where in the World Is Professor Kulik?" with my online course, Global Social Change, during the Summer of 2009 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. To learn more about the Sloan Consortium, click on this link. To learn more about MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, click on this link.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cajas para Casa! Boxes for Bambinos!

On Saturday, July 24, 2010, our academic service-learning partner, Casa de los Angeles, will be holding a fundraiser -- a silent auction and fiesta. Beautiful hand-crafted boxes created by local artists will be auctioned to raise funds for the non-profit daycare center. The event will be held at the Fabrica La Aurora from 6-8 p.m. and will include entertainment, music and botanas.

My friend, writer and artist, Lynda Schor, designed a box (Pajaros en Caja - Birds in a Box) to be auctioned at the fundraiser. See photo above.

Before it became an art and design center in 1991, the Fabrica La Aurora was a leading textile factory in Mexico (Negociacion Fabril de la Aurora) for over 90 years.

Fabrica La Aurora (above) is now an art and design center. The Fabrica
is home
to over forty galleries, studios, shops, and restaurants

Above: The Fabrica during its heydey as a leading textile manufacturer

History of the Fabrica La Aurora


"Negociacion Fabril de la Aurora known as La Aurora was a leading textile factory for over 90 years. Its location below “Las Colonias” Dam was strategic for generating the electricity needed for the textile plant. The construction of the factory was completed in 1902 and is typical of textile plants designed by an English company in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Its façade with twelve stone-carved arches and the impressive wrought iron gates that open onto a gracious patio offer a sharp contrast to the functional design of the interior spaces. The original structure remains intact except for the minor renovations undertaken to accommodate the present studios, galleries, shops, and restaurants."

Above: The pipe that brought water from the resevoir to power the hydrolic turbines of the factory.

"As a working factory, La Aurora was equipped with cylinders, spindles, and looms to process the bales of raw cotton that arrived to the plant from the cotton-producing areas of La Laguna in the center part of Mexico and from the states of Sinaloa and Sonora. The process of cleaning, ginning, carding, and spinning the raw fiber into a yarn or thread was all done on the premises."

"The final product, manta or unbleached muslin, woven from the thread was sold throughout Mexico. The Aurora manta was of high quality and used to make indigenous clothing and home linens. Some special grades of thread were spun specifically for use in the making of “rebozos”. By the 1970’s, production included heavy canvas used in making tennis shoes."

"The first looms and spindles were imported from England in the early 20th century. By the mid-l950’s, most of the English machinery was replaced with later models from Germany and Switzerland. Being able to maintain this imported machinery was essential to production. La Aurora had an on-site forge, a mechanics shop, and a carpentry shop. In addition, there were storage spaces filled from floor to ceiling with replacement parts. Some of the most interesting structural features can be seen in the spaces that were formerly maintenance areas."

Above: Entrance to La Fabrica La Aurora

"Generations of San Miguelenses worked in the factory owned by the Garay family since 1932. At the time of its closing, La Aurora was the largest employer in San Miguel with a work force of over 300, and it had become an integral part of the daily lives of its workers and the San Miguel community. Sports, music, and participation in local celebrations were all a part of the Aurora trademark. For many years, San Miguel families would arrive to the factory grounds on Sunday with their picnic lunches to listen to the Aurora band that was set up under a kiosk in the garden. The Aurora also sponsored a soccer team and a baseball team. In addition, there were many observances of San Miguel traditions such as the Mass on December 12 to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe. An altar was arranged inside the factory, and a local priest came to deliver the Mass."

Above: The Garay family, owners of the factory.

"La Aurora also set tradition. The “Alborada” which celebrates the patron saint of San Miguel was instituted by the factory workers. On the designated September weekend, a special band of musicians contracted by the workers arrived by train. A cannon made in the factory forge especially for this event was loaded onto a wagon and prepared to fire. Then, in the predawn hours, the procession of workers and their families carrying the image of the patron saint was accompanied by the musicians and the Aurora cannon from La Colonia Aurora to the Parroquia. The “Alborada” has changed in many aspects today, but the procession marking the beginning of the feast day celebration still departs from the oldest neighborhood in the city, La Colonia Aurora.

Free trade agreements brought many changes to the Mexican textile industry and La Aurora was not an exception. Cotton imports began flooding the market and domestic production was greatly affected. As a result, the steam generated whistle which signaled the start and finish of each shift and was a notable sound in San Miguel for almost 90 years blew for the last time on March 11, l991." (History of La Aurora from:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mexican Sarapes of the 19th & 20th Centuries

Last night I attended an exhibition of exquisite vintage Mexican sarapes (also spelled serape or zarape) curated by collector Mayer Shacter of Galeria Atotonilco. In August, the sarapes will be permanently housed at the Museum of the Sarape in Saltillo, Mexico.

What is a sarape?

According to the The Textile Museum, "Sarapes were an essential item for the vaqueros, or cowboys, of the ranches of northern Mexico in the 18th and 19th centuries, serving as cloak, sleeping blanket and saddle padding as needed. During the Mexican War of Independence from Spain from 1810 to 1821, the vaquero was idealized into a national hero and his sarape became an icon of the new Mexican national identity. The finest sarapes, such as this classic example, were extremely expensive and were probably worn by hacienda owners and other gentlemen as part of their riding costume, along with elaborately wrought silver spurs and embroidered chaps" (The Textile Museum).

Enjoy the following slide show of my photos of the exhibition.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Congratulations Soc 205 Online Service-Learning Students!

I want to congratulate our online service-learning students for a job well done! As mentioned previously on this blog, students in my online course, Soc 205 World Cultures, spent the past 12 weeks working with our service partner, Casa de los Angeles, to create sample blogs that are designed to attract, educate and interact with supporters and volunteers.

This hands-on project, along with in-depth class discussions and reflective journals, helped enrich the study of world cultures and provided a transformative learning experience. Here are our students' "thank you" messages to Casa de los Angeles:

"After we began our service learning project, we realized that what we were doing, creating, and engaging in was more than just a school assignment. What we were involved in was something that we would remember forever; we were actually helping change the lives of others! One might ask what our favorite part of this project was. Some might answer that they enjoyed working on the creation of the blog. Some might say how much they’ve learned about the world around them. Some might even mention the feelings they have when they help others. As for us, we would tell you all of that and so much more!

Donna and Miguel, it’s an incredible feeling knowing that there are people out there like you, who can dedicate their time, energy, and themselves to a greater cause. It has been such an amazing experience working with Casa de los Angeles on our first service learning project. We would like to extend a thank you to you and every person who has been involved with your organization, including all of your little angels, for allowing us to be your service learning partner, and for showing us just how wonderful people can really be. It has been our pleasure."
Sincerely, Team Three, Soc 205 OLS World Cultures Online

"This service project has taught us a lot over the past 12 weeks, and it has been an amazing journey to communicate with you, our professor and classmates online. We have also learned important skills through doing this ASL project. We hope our ideas and sample blog will help Casa de los Angeles continue to build a strong online Casa community.Once again thank you for being our service partner and for this wonderful experience. Please continue what you have been doing for the past 10 years, because you guys have given those children a future. We know the families in San Miguel de Allende must be thankful for what you and your staff have given to them."
Sincerely, Team Four, Soc 205 Online

"Two hands are better than one, and by creating this sample blog, we hope to contribute ideas for bringing awareness to potential donors and volunteers, to help expand the organization and help end poverty. The service project has enriched our learning experience about World Cultures and the culture of Mexico. It has also taught us responsibility and allowed us to help strengthen a community. Thank you for allowing us to be of service to Casa de Los Angeles!" Sincerely, Team One Casa, Soc 205 Online

Below is a message to our students from Donna and Miguel at Casa de los Angeles:

Dear Students of Soc 205 ASL Online,
On behalf of the families we serve in Central Mexico, we would like to thank you for all that you have done to help . . . for the time and energy you have given to your work on our behalf. We look forward to using the ideas you created on your sample blogs to keep our supporters informed.

Isn’t it amazing that through your presence in cyberspace, your love and generosity have become apparent to our staff and the women and children we serve? We have shared the blogs you created with our staff and some of the moms. It is so heart warming to know that the time in your class was memorable and very well spent.

You give us all hope for the future because you have hearts for service and will do remarkable things in your lives. Know that there is an open invitation to you to come and visit us . . . esta es tu casa Mexicana!

Muchas gracias,
José Miguel Hernández Chávez
Donna Quathamer

I have also created a brief overview of the service project with screenshots from the team-created blogs and posted it below. Enjoy!

Dr. Coppola, left, Dr. Kulik, right

My friend and colleague, Dr. Sandra Coppola, Director of Counseling at Berkeley College, visited me in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico last week. While she was staying with me, we visited our academic service-learning partner, Casa de los Angeles, to meet some of the children and volunteers. After our visit, April, a new volunteer at the day care center, took a photograph of us next to one of the beautiful murals painted on the walls of the center.

"I was so happy to have the opportunity to visit Casa de los Angeles, the site for the online ASL project. The center was cheerful and the children and staff were so welcoming. I felt so proud to see the contribution our students made to such a worthwhile organization. The experience of seeing the smiling faces of the children in person is something that cannot be put into words. Thank you!"

--Dr. Sandra Coppola

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

El Dia de los Locos (The Day of the Crazies)

"A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.."
Emily Dickinson
On Sunday, June 13th, San Miguel de Allende celebrates one of its many festivals, El Dia de los Locos (The Festival of the Crazies). The parade of "los locos" will wind its way through the centro right past my house. Participants dress up as clowns, animals, cartoon characters, monsters, famous entertainers, Mexican politicians and cross-dressing men. This week's issue of the local newspaper, Atencion, describes the fascinating history of this festival, which is a blend of Catholicism and paganism.

"This carnival was originally an act of faith and devotion that began in the nineteenth century, when orchard workers danced to give thanks and ask San Pascual Bailon, patron saint of food, for a prosperous year. Today, some of the Locos participate in the parade not only for fun, but also to show their devotion to San Pascual Bailon.

During colonial times, San Miguel was surrounded by large orchards. They were all irrigated with natural springs and the water was carried through channels all around the city. The Franciscan friars at the Tercera Orden monastery, next to San Francisco church, held a celebration outside the church for the orchard workers to honor San Pascual Bailon on his day. In the afternoon, the friars went to the orchards to bless the crops.

The Locos parade derives from the orchard workers' dance on San Pascual Bailon Day. As onlookers increasingly crowded the dancers, some of the older celebrants began to disguise themselves as scarecrows to keep the crowd at a distance so the children would have room to dance. They also brought small wild animals such as racoons, skunks or possums to scare the crowd away. The people began to call them "locos", the name they still carry today. Later on, the Locos began to dress not only as scarecrows but also as clowns with colorful costumes and cardboard masks. The orchard laborers were divided into workgroups called cuadrillas, and each cuadrilla performed its own dance. This is how the current groups, called cuadros, began; The modern Locos parade actually condenses several celebrations into one event: San Isidro Day on May 15, San Pascual de Bailon Day on May 17, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio's Day on June 13" (Que Pasa, Atencion San Miguel, June 4, 2010, pg 2)

Visiting Our Service-Learning Partner

As my online students put the finishing touches on their service-learning projects, I am back in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I will be meeting with our service-learning partner, Donna Quathamer, of Casa de los Angeles. Student teams are using their social media skills to create prototypes of a web log (blog) for this non-profit day care center. They are doing a superb job and have demonstrated sincere commitment to our service partner. Not only are the student-created blogs educational (about the culture of Mexico and mission of Casa de los Angeles), they are also designed to engage and update supporters and volunteers about news and events. By next week, we will be ready to present our projects to Casa de los Angeles!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Greetings From A Green Bed & Breakfast!

Inn Nature earth-sheltered, solar-powered house.
Here I am enjoying the sun in Sarah's organic garden
I just returned from Amherst, Massachusetts, where I attended the college graduation of my son Maxwell. The Amherst-area hotels and inns were booked months in advance, so I did a web search for accomodations further west, toward the Berkshires. That is how I discovered Inn Nature, a solar-powered, earth-sheltered, "off the grid" bed & breakfast in Chesterfield, Ma.

Built into a hillside on twelve acres of woodland and meadow, Inn Nature provides an opportunity to reduce one's carbon footprint while enjoying the peace and quiet of this tranquil, rural area. Inn Nature is completely off the grid (no utility companies), harnessing the power of the sun for all its electricity.

Owner and inn-keeper, Sarah Prince, gave me an informative tour of the house and property. Because the house is built into a hillside, the rear and top are covered with 4 feet of earth, thus we were able to climb up on top of the roof, which is covered with plants, grass and solar panels (which provide power for the house).

"Earth sheltering is an effective way to regulate temperature in a home. It works well in almost any climate. Just below the frost line, the earth stays a fairly constant temperature: 50 degrees F, plus or minus a few degrees, depending on where you live. The surrounding soil provides natural insulation, making these houses inexpensive to heat and cool. The best location for an earth sheltered house is on a well-drained hillside. Windows facing the south or an overhead skylight will fill the interior with sunshine.

In the winter, earth-sheltered homes require very little additional heat to warm them. In the summer, the interior stays cool — while it may be 100F outside, the house will stay at comfortable 70F, thanks to it’s earthen wrap."

(from Optimal Green: Modern Earth Sheltering (

"Earth-sheltered homes are very energy efficient. This type of construction can save as much as 85% on your home's use of fossil fuels for both heating and cooling. In fact, you can even incorporate passive annual heat storage, that effectively allows you to save heat in the summer to use in the winter!

Surprisingly, you also can save on lighting. Most designers of these homes recommend a south or south-east exposure, which guarantees a lot of light, as long as the home has a window for most rooms on the exposed side. Any additional needs for natural light can often be addressed with tubular skylights that can actually funnel light to the place where it is also save a bundle on maintenance. Because your walls are poured concrete, you don't have to do a lot of upkeep. In fact, an earth-sheltered house won't need a new roof or many other kinds of regular upkeep to either the exterior or interior. If you pick the right interior finishes, you could have a virtually maintenance-free home."

(from Mortgage Guide 101 Blog "Going Green: The Earth-Sheltered Home")

Berkeley College is working to reduce its carbon footprint. Click HERE to read the Project Greenpath newsletter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reflecting on the Service-Learning Experience

An important part of academic service-learning is reflecting on the experience through writing in a reflective journal. For each journal entry, students are provided with a writing prompt(questions, quotes, etc). What has surprised me about the service partner and the people they serve? • What are the specific tasks I am responsible for in order to complete my team service-learning project? • What am I learning about others and myself? are just a few examples. Below are some excerpts from my students' reflective journals during the first few weeks of this course. It is already possible to see a shift in the students' perceptions and attitudes.

It amazed me how many people from all over the world know about this organization and travel and make living arrangements in Mexico to volunteer. There are so many volunteers of all ages. It was heartwarming to see such commitment in these childrens' lives. The majority of the volunteers are not Spanish speakers, yet the language barrier did not stop them from giving 100%. -A.A.

When you hear of centers that help families, they are not always in the best condition. I had the misconception that it wouldn't be a really clean environment. But, then I read the stories and saw the pictures, and it was truly amazing to me that the center was so nice. That is how you know the volunteers and staff really care about making the children and mothers feel more comfortable. What surprised me about the people they serve is that anyone could have a hard time in their life and be in the same situation. Sometimes we don’t look at what we have in common with others in that type of situation or with the homeless; it doesn’t take much to end up in their shoes. --V.A.

The dedication and achievement of those individuals involved with Casa surprised me. I was so captivated, thinking how some people can devote their valuable life to this kind of work. Actually, volunteering is a really magnificent and noble job. Volunteering gives us an opportunity to change lives, including our own. If we feel frustrated or overwhelmed by the news of a disaster, volunteering to help can be a great way to cope. If we’d like to support a cause but can't afford to donate money, we can donate our time instead. -M.A.

It surprised me how the service partner has news letters and updates on what’s going on in the community. I was amazed at how they have so many videos to show their love for what they are doing for Casa de los Angeles. I also like the way each family has stories, and how the service partners tell you a little about it. -S.D.

What really surprised me was that every woman is a part of this community and has to donate time to this wonderful place, maybe by making food or cleaning. This way it seems to be more of a bond between these people and this place. At first, I thought “that’s a bummer” you have a job and also you have to donate your time and energy to this place. But, after I watched some videos on, I quickly changed my mind. You see, I was thinking in terms of American culture and here, I don’t think women would go for it. --A.K.

I was very surprised to see that Casa has an enormous list of volunteers. The list has to be about 5 pages long! It’s amazing how many generous people there are. I truly felt that warm feeling inside when I saw the list. I often see and deal with people who can’t find time to help out or even donate, but it is great to see that people are slowly becoming more involved. --C.L.

I am learning that I do not appreciate the things I have as much as I should. Every day I wake up and take my life for granted. The things that I have, I do not have because I deserve them as a person. I have them because my father has worked hard for his family. I am learning that while I stress about the small things in life, there are people out there that are truly working so hard just to be happy, but it seems the harder they work, the tougher things get for them. We as a society need to come together and help the people who need us the most. --D.P.

As many Americans do, I always had the impression I couldn’t make much of a difference by myself, but since becoming aware of Casa de Los Angeles, I see how much help they are giving to these families by something as simple as watching their children for only a few hours a day. --T.R.

These past weeks I have come to learn about many situations around the world that I never knew were happening. I am not trying to sound like I don’t watch the news or don’t care, but after taking this course, it has given me an interest in finding other organizations and reading about the kinds of services they provide. I found American Red Cross so interesting but yet shocked, because I never knew how many people are in need of help. When I saw Casa de Los Angeles, I learned that mothers in Mexico need daycare in order for them to work and earn money to survive. To me this is wonderful that Donna was able to do this for these families and bring joy to the childrens' hearts. Seeing their pictures and videos has taught me that there are good people in this world, people who care and have a heart to help others, and Donna is that example for them. I would love to volunteer myself because I love working with children and that will be such an amazing experience for me. --C.S.

Below is a wonderful slide show of photos of Casa families, courtesy of Kim Francois.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the victory of the Mexican Army over the French in 1862 at the Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla), about 100 miles east of Mexico City. "Although, the Mexican army was later defeated, the "Batalla de Puebla" came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. With this victory, Mexico demonstrated to the world that Mexico and all of Latin America were willing to defend themselves of any foreign intervention. Especially those from imperialist states bent on world conquest" (Cinco de Mayo, UCLA)

Many in the U.S. wrongly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican Independence, which took place more than 50 years earlier in 1810. The holiday of Cinco de Mayo has evolved into more of a Chicano celebration in the US and on a much grander scale than in Mexico. "People of Mexican descent in the United States celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing and other types of festive activities" (Cinco de Mayo - UCLA).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

El Dia del Niño-The Day of the Child

Image from
El Dia del Niño (Day of The Child) is celebrated in Mexico on April 30th. Our service-learning partner, Casa de los Angeles, will be sending our ASL class a variety of photos of this celebration taken at the daycare center. So, check back in early May to see these photos.

Since 1925, this annual holiday honors the importance and well-being of children in society. Celebrations can include cultural events, parties, parades, piñatas and fundraising for the benefit of children. Many communities in the United States also celebrate El Dia del Niño, some in unique ways, such as libaries launching literacy campaigns.
El Dia del Niño is celebrated not only in Mexico, but in other Latin American countries as well. Below is a video clip of the Festival of El Dia del Niño Añu in Venezuela. This ethnographic film was funded by the Anthropology Dept. at UC Santa Cruz. The filmaker describes the video as follows:

"This is a short ethnographic exploration of the annual "Day of the Añu Child" festival held in the Sinamaica Lagoon in July. The Sinamaica Lagoon is located in Venezuela's Zulia State, adjacent to Lake Maracaibo, which is the largest body of freshwater in South America. Its home to the Añu indigenous community, members of the group live in small houses built on stilts rising out of the lagoon's brackish waters.

The main form of transportation for the Añu is by lanchas, small shallow boats powered either by small outboard motors or paddles. The ancestors of the Añu were the first South American inhabitants to make contact with Spanish colonials.

Today they practice a religion that is a hybrid of catholic faith and animistic religions that pre-date Spanish influences, as in the representation of the Virgen de Carmen as both the Virgin Mary and Madre del niño Añu" (

On an international level, UNICEF and other non-profit organizations raise awareness of the rights of children, for example, by celebrating World Day Against Child Labor, this year on June 12th.

"World Day Against Child Labour, celebrated on 12 June, this year highlights the continuing challenges to eliminating the worst forms of child labour, with a focus on exploitation of girls. Here is a related story. KIPUSHI, Democratic Republic of Congo, 12 June 2009 Covered in powder, Sylvian, 2, sits alongside his mother, pounding rocks with a mallet in an ore heap in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rocks, dust and sun: This is the only life Sylvian has known. According to Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to be protected from economic exploitation. Through the efforts of Group One, a UNICEF-supported Belgian non-governmental organization, this is starting to happen in DR Congo. Group One and UNICEF are working to remove children from the hazardous working conditions in the quarry and get them back to school"
(UNICEF: June 12: World Day Against Child Labor from ( This summarizes the following video on the subject.

Do you know of any other countries that have similar celebrations of children? If so, please feel free to share your comments.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Our Service-Learning Students Speak

We have just finished the first week of our online international academic service-learning course for the spring quarter, 2010. The students are ready and eager to learn and begin planning for our service project for Casa de los Angeles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I thought I would share some of the postings on our first discussion forum online.

"(After) reading the information, I am excited about participating in helping Casa de Los Angeles, and being in a team that can help to inform others about their mission and vision.
I had chosen this class was because I was looking for a chance to give back, but didn’t know how. When I saw this class I knew I had to take it! I hope to gain and learn knowledge of how I can contribute and help out even if I am not located in the place that the help is needed." -V.A.

"I am interested in what this class will teach me. I know we live in a world filled with different cultures and it will help me understand why people are the way they are. The service learning project, I think, is great because it will allow us to closely interact with our service learning partner. I think that community is doing an awesome thing, which is to give back to the less fortunate. It's good to know that there's a commnuity out there who prides themselves in helping others and bettering their life." -A.A.

"I have a keen interest in the service learning project, which can widen the opportunity of community learning. We can share our mutual ideas through this project that will be very effective for our collective achievements. I am so delighted to know the works and achievements of our sharing partner Casa de Los Angeles. I appreciate their noble missions which can bolster us to dedicate our lives for the welfare of our community. I think throughout the course, we will learn something valuable that we can use in our career. I am eagerly looking forward to getting involved with our service learning project and working with our venerable partner." -M.A.

"I think this is wonderful and I'm very excited about this project that were are going to be doing. I think Casa de Los Angeles is a wonderful way to help the communities in Mexico. They are obviously doing a wonderful job and just by reading about it and watching that video opened my eyes. I had no idea that there were people that made places like this possible and to help women better themselves is just remarkable. I think the more people know about things like this, the better. Because the moment I knew about it, I wanted to help and be a part of this in some way. I think that they are really onto something and this non profit organisation may spread like wild fire to places that really need it." -A.K.

"I truly believe that our service learning partner, Casa de los Angeles is a wonderfull organization and I am so happy to be included in a movement like this. I hope to learn more about the culture of the people that are involved in this organization and hope to learn what we as a community can do to better the lives of these people =)" -D.P.

"I believe that our service learning partner and project will lead us to acknowledge what really goes on in different parts of the world where people are less fortunate and in need of our help. I admire the founder of Casa de los Angeles, Donna Quathamer, for her hard work and huge heart in starting this non- profit organization to provide a place for mothers to be able to find support to better their lives and the lives of their children." -V.R.

"I am so excited about our partner Casa de los Angeles mostly becuase it is non-profit, which is something that I want to become a part of once I am done with my education. I intern at a non-profit right now as well. I hope to learn all I can about our partner and I look forward to this class as well." -C.W.

What a great group of students!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's New With Our ASL Partner?

Our academic service-learning course, World Cultures online, has officially started, and students are becoming familiar with our international ASL partner, Casa de los Angeles, a non-profit daycare center in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. So, what is new with Casa? Here are some updates from their website and Facebook page.

Casa de los Angeles is one of the official charities of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon! Visit their TEAM CASA Facebook page HERE

The 10th Anniversary of celebration of the founding of Casa de los Angeles is on May 22, 2010. The dinner and silent auction is called Angeles & Milagros (Angels and Miracles) and will be held in Oak Brook Terrace, Illinois. For more information click HERE.

Casa de los Angeles is on Good Search, a search engine that donates a penny to your charity everytime you do a search. All one has to do is go to, type in Casa de los Angeles as the charity and the pennies will go to Casa.

To keep up with Casa news, visit their Facebook page and add them as a friend HERE.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Worldview Shifts In International Academic Service-Learning

Image from

A longitudinal case study of an international service-learning program in Nicaragua, conducted by Richard Kiely (2004), found that "each student experienced profound changes in their world-view in at least one of six dimensions: political, moral, intellectual, personal, spiritual, and cultural" (p. 5).

The Six (6) Dimensions of Transformation

Kiely identifies six "transforming forms": political, moral, intellectual, cultural, personal, and spiritual.

For example, he defines political transformation as "an expanded sense of social responsibility and citizenship that is both local and global" while moral transformation is developing "a relationship of mutual respect and care and sense of solidarity with community" (p. 11). The intellectual transformation he observed in some students is their ability to question "assumptions about origin, nature and solutions to problems" (p. 11).

While his students did not change in all of these dimensions, this qualitative study (using onsite participant-observation, document analysis of student journals, questionnaires and reflection papers) revealed that each student experienced at least ONE of the six types of perspective transformation.

For more information about this and other studies of academic service-learning, click the link to visit the website of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning.

Work Cited
Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation in International Service-Learning Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp. 5-20.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

International Service-Learning: Does It Transform Students? The Answer Is YES!

Image from creativetherapy.files.wordpress
What impact does service-learning have on students? How are they transformed by the experience? There is a growing body of research in academic service-learning that is trying to answer these questions. And, so far, the answer is YES!
According to Dr. Richard Kiely of Cornell University, there has been extensive research and documentation on domestic academic service-learning and its positive effects on student's learning, personal and professional development. However, when it comes to international service-learning, systematic research on the impact of the ISL experience on students is needed(Kiely, 2004).
What we do know is that involvement in an international service-learning program "...increases students' intercultural competence, language skills, appreciation of cultural difference, tolerance for ambiguity, and experiential understanding of complex global problems related to their academic program of study" (Kiely, 2004).
Recent research on international service-learning has focused on "transformational learning" and have incorporated a model from transformational learning theory called "perspective transformation", which Mezirow (1991) defines as the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our presuppositions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand and feel about our world; of reforumulating these assumptions to permit a more inclusive, discriminating, permeable and integrative perspective; and of making decisions or otherwise acting on these new understandings. (p.14)
Works Cited
Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation in International Service-Learning Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp.5-20.
Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

"Perspective Transformation" in Service-Learning

How does service-learning transform students?

Numerous studies have shown the positive effects --academic, interpersonal, personal and professional --of academic service-learning (Kiely, 2004).

In their book, Where's the learning in service-learning? (1999), J.S. Eyler and D.E. Giles, Jr. argue that service-learning supports education that "raises fundamental questions and empowers students to do something about them" (p.133). Academic service-learning, they argue, is "not about accumulating more knowledge, but about seeing the world in a profoundly different way, one that calls for personal commitment and action" (p.129).

One study by W.A. Kellogg (1999) examined moral, intellectual and political dimensions of the transformational impact of service-learning by analyzing data collected through papers, surveys, and student journals. Kellogg describes the students' moral perspective transformation as "an enhanced sense of empathy and caring about urban which students would identify themselves and residents of these neighborhoods as members of the same community" (p. 64). The study also found a longer-term moral transformation in some students who continued to work in the service community after the semester ended.

For more information on research in this area, I suggest starting with this website:
Learn and Service America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse ( has a library of resources on academic research studies of service-learning.

Works Cited
Eyler, J.S. & Giles, Jr. D.E. (1999) Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation In International Service-Learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp. 5-20.

Kellogg, W.A. (1999) Toward more transformative service-learning: Experiences from an urban environmental problem-solving class. Michigan Journal of Service Learning, Fall, pp. 63-73.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Academic Service-Learning

What is academic service-learning?

It is a classroom-based program that involves students in some form of required community service and uses that activity as a means of understanding course concepts. It is a pedagogical approach whereby students engage in a service activity that benefits the common good. It is learning-by-doing.

What is the service learning pedagogy?Service learning is a type of experiential learning that engages students in service within the community as an integrated aspect of a course. Students participate in an organized activity and reflect on that activity to gain further understanding of course content; a broader appreciation of the discipline; and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility. Service Learning engages students in active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning experiences to meet identified needs of an organization or community at large.

What are the goals of Academic Service learning?
The goals of Academic Service learning are:

To blend service and learning goals and activities in such a way that the two reinforce each other and produce a greater impact than either could produce alone

To enhance students’ learning by enabling them to practice skills and test classroom knowledge through related service experiences in a non-profit organization

To enable students to provide needed assistance to community agencies

What are the key elements of ASL?
The critical elements of ASL are:

1. Meaningful service to community
2. Clearly conceptualized connection between courses’ objectives and service activities
3. Structured opportunities for students to synthesize and derive new meaning from their experiences as they relate those experiences to course goals and objectives
4. What are the benefits to students who take ASL courses?
5. Hands-on use of skills and knowledge
6. Increased relevance of academic skills
7. Opportunities that accommodate different learning styles
8. Increased analytical skills
9. Increased civic responsibility
10. Better prepared graduates to face real world market
11. Opportunity to develop as effective leaders and engaged citizens

What are the benefits to the community from the ASL program?

Awareness-building of community issues, agencies, and constituents
Opportunities to contribute to the educational process
Short- and long-term solutions to community needs
Positive community relationships

How is Academic Service Learning different from volunteer work?

The actual work you do at an agency might not be different from what you would have done as a volunteer. However, your approach to the work is different in the ASL program. You will be looking at the place, the people, your experiences, and your reactions to find out deeper meaning that relate to your course content. You learn something about the course you are taking by working in the community.

What kind of projects do students do in an ASL course?

It depends on the course you take and the partner organization. It may involve:
Developing marketing materials
Planning and executing an internal control audit
Preparing a volunteer recruitment plan
Developing a business plan

(FAQ above from the Berkeley College website.)

I have posted a few multimedia resources in the right-hand margin of my blog, including a video about service-learning at Berkeley College. Over the next week or so, I will be presenting some of the research on international service-learning, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Children & Staff At Casa de los Angeles

Last week I visited Casa de los Angeles to record a welcome announcement from founder, Donna Quathamer, to Berkeley College students for my spring 2010 online academic service-learning course, World Cultures. I also started taking and collecting photographs for use in our service projects. These include some great photos of the children and staff, the celebration of Valentine's Day and of the beautiful murals painted on the inside of the courtyard. After a cold and rainy January and February, the sun is finally shining, as you can see! Enjoy the slide show!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Planning The Global ASL Partnership - Casa de los Angeles, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

This past week I've been planning the academic service learning course for next term, Soc 205 World Cultures online. Preparation is essential for a successful service-learning course --finding out what the non-profit organization needs, planning the project that will meet those needs, and aligning the service project and course content with the learning objectives and outcomes of the course.

The founder of Casa de los Angeles daycare center, Donna Quathamer (in photo with children), is an incredible human being, a transformational leader and she will be an active partner with our students. Our recent discussions have focused on identifying what our service learning partner needs.

While Casa de los Angeles has a website and a Facebook page, they believe that their social media strategy needs more effective 2-way communication and would like our students to help brainstorm and create a sample template for a volunteer web log, which can be linked to their website and FB page. Casa de los Angeles has had at least 1000 volunteers from all over the world work at the center, and a blog would allow them to tell their stories and stay in touch. Our service project will help Casa de los Angeles build and expand their growing virtual community.

Over the next few weeks, Donna and I will work to refine the initial goals and objectives of the service project. Second, I will be collecting materials from Casa--photos, text, stories, video, audio, calendar of events, etc.--for students to use in their service project. And, Donna is now composing a special message to our students, which I plan to videotape and post on our Blackboard course site. There is so much to do here before I leave Mexico!

One of Casa's dedicated volunteers, Marisa Bollman, has made a short documentary on Casa de los Angeles. I hope you enjoy it!

Sí, se puede from Casa de los Angeles on Vimeo.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meet Our Service-Learning Partner!

I am pleased to introduce our global academic service-learning partner, Casa de los Angeles, a non-profit free daycare center in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Pictured above are the founder, Donna Quathamer (left) and me (right). However, as Donna says, "It's really all about the children!" Started in 2000, Casa de los Angeles is a community of caring people who gather to nurture children, serving the needs of the less fortunate, treating each person with dignity and respect as they work to make a better life for themselves and the community as a whole.

Students in my online course SOC 205 World Cultures next term, Spring 2010, will be doing an online service project for this organization while mastering course concepts in our study of cultures, including Mexico.

The service project will focus on ways in which Casa can use social networking --e.g. facebook, blogs, twitter, etc. -- to strengthen and expand its online community of volunteers and donors. This will be a creative, challenging and fun service project and a great learning experience for Berkeley online students! A global academic service-learning project is also a unique boost to a future graduate's portfolio and resume.

I will be posting much more as this academic service-learning course develops. In the meantime, check out their website at!

Here is a short video about the organization.

And, here is a slide show with music and audio in Spanish, made by a volunteer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt with copy of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
This week's discussion topic for students in SOC 415 Global Social Change is Democracy and Human Rights with a focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Click HERE to view the UDHR. Also, scroll down to view a short video.

Initially conceived of and written by Eleanor Roosevelt after World War II, the UDHR was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

It is interesting that a study conducted just before the 50-year anniversary of the UDHR found that "only 8 percent of adults and 4 percent of young people are aware of and can name the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (Landorf & Pineda 1997)

Critical Thinking About the UDHR

One of the learning outcomes of this course is: "Students will demonstrate general analytical and critical thinking skills by discussing, researching and writing about global social issues." Therefore, it is not enough just to name the UDHR and its history, but important also to think critically about and discuss in depth these universal human rights. Students are also debating the issue of how these human rights would be enforced.

Here are just a few of the questions that are guiding our discussion:

1. Which of the UDHR do you believe are most important? Least important?
2. Can you think of any rights that have not been listed, that you recommend be added? Which, if any, should be not be on the list?
3. Are universal human rights necessary, and should all nations have the same basic rights for their citizens?
4. Should universal human rights be enforced? If so, how? If no, why?
5. Is this goal attainable, practical, or just utopianism?

If you would like to view a video, this one summarizes the UDHR.

Works Cited:
Landorf, Hillary and Martha Fernanda Pineda (2007) Learning History Through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Social Education, October 2007.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Visit To El Pipila Peñón de los Baños

Valentin, John, Cynthia & Prof Kulik
This past week I visited a farm cooperative on an ejido north of Los Rodriguez. Residents of this small dairy farming community want their children to stay home, not migrate to the U.S. What do the children need? Work. So, they have banded together and formed a SPR (Sociedad de Produccion Rural). They borrowed money from the revolving loan fund of a local non-profit organization, Center For Global Justice, and from the Weissman Foundation, and have built a greenhouse in which to grow organic tomatoes. With help and guidance from another agricultural cooperative, they constructed eight more greenhouses and are beginning to grow tomatoes and other crops. We toured the greenhouses to see their success and listened as they shared their hopes for the future. Then, they invited us to share comida (lunch).

Greenhouses of El Pipila Cooperative in Peñón de los Baños

Valentin, member of the cooperative

Valentin tells us about the effects of freezing temperatures on the tomato crop.

Los Jitomates

Organic tomatoes on the vine

Lupe and Luisa Invite Us For Comida