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Andi Witczak - Lecturer, interim director, Center for Service Learning

Andi Witczak, lecuturer in design, is also the interm director of the Center for Service Learning.

Years at current job: I have been the interim director of CSL since June 2006, and a lecturer in design since fall 2005. However, this is my 11th year at KU. I was a lecturer in design from fall 1996 to spring 1998 and assistant professor, non-tenure track in design from fall 1998 to spring 2005.

Job duties: At the CSL, I direct an incredible team of three AmeriCorps VISTAs and an assistant director. I am responsible for developing the strategic direction for the center. We assist faculty members in developing service learning courses and provide general support for faculty who are already using service learning in their classroom. In the design department, I teach all levels of graphic design but focus on branding strategy and visual identity design. I also participate in all service aspects of the department and university.

How has the first year-plus of the CSL gone? The center was started last year by two dedicated AmeriCorps VISTAs and Linda Luckey, assistant to the provost. They laid the groundwork and built an excellent foundation for us to continue this year. Our focus this year is developing a strategic plan for the center and undertaking a campaign of awareness aimed at faculty and administration. Almost all courses can have a service learning component and we are working to challenge faculty to go beyond the traditional lecture method of teaching.

What makes service learning important to a university such as KU? Service learning is important in general because it helps both students and faculty become engaged, civic participants who can make a difference in a local community or a global community. Most importantly, KU has an obligation to reach out to the communities that surround and support it (both locally and globally) and share its expertise with, as well as learn from, community-based partners working on the front lines to make the world a better place.

What do you like most about your profession? This is the toughest question because there are so many aspects of what I do here at KU that I love. Having the opportunity to interact with and learn from students, faculty, and staff is probably the most rewarding aspect for me. It doesn't matter if I am in the classroom or at the CSL, engaging with bright, energetic and mindful people is what I like most.

How did you become interested in service learning in your academic career? Graphic design is a discipline that can add to rampant consumerism in our culture. We are professional communicators that can use our talents to benefit society. I like to teach my students about working with non-profits and helping those organizations become better at communicating their mission and importance to the world.

As a faculty member in visual communication, what does your teaching focus on? My main area of emphasis both in research and teaching involves the importance of visual storytelling and narrative to create value for a client. In the classroom, this translates to branding strategy and visual identity design. I teach VisCom seniors and help prepare them for the transition from student to professional. I am also interested in entrepreneurship and teach a class that allows students to develop a business around their intellectual property.

What are some aspects of your job others might not realize you're involved with? Everyday that I work at the CSL I am also functioning as a designer. Most people think that designers create artifacts (brochures, posters, etc) but in reality we are involved with designing services and organizational structures as well. I use design thinking and methodology in my role as the director.

Students who take part in service learning projects gain knowledge and service experience, but what do faculty who take part in such projects gain? Service learning is experiential learning so students have the opportunity to directly apply what they are learning in the classroom to an outside activity. This provides a much richer educational experience and helps the student retain and be able to apply what they learn in the classroom. So many faculty lament the fact that students are not engaged in the classroom and service learning provides a solution. Another important factor is knowing that your classroom can help students become engaged civic participants, and life-long learners that can make a difference in the world. And by helping them make a difference you make a difference in the world as well.

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