Criminologist infuses community service into classroom

Kristin Carbone-Lopez, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at UMSL

Kristin Carbone-Lopez, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at UMSL, incorporates service-learning in her Violence Against Women course. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When University of Missouri–St. Louis Associate Professor Kristin Carbone-Lopez first taught the Violence Against Women class three years ago, she says the course was “screaming for a service-learning aspect.”

With that in mind, the class hosted a Domestic Violence Awareness Fair. The fair included red statues representing Missouri’s domestic homicide victims. Students stood next to the statues, reading the victims’ stories.

The year following the awareness fair, Carbone-Lopez’s Violence Against Women class again contained a service-learning aspect. That year the class conducted a project studying sexual assault on campus across the country.

Service-learning was nothing new to Carbone-Lopez, who says that professors in her graduate program at the University of Minnesota actively promoted the infusion of community service into the classroom. Though Carbone-Lopez says she was practicing service-learning before grad school.

“I didn’t really know it was service-learning at the time, but as an undergrad I volunteered for a semester at a homeless shelter then wrote a paper about it at the end chronicling my experience,” Carbone-Lopez says.

Though Carbone-Lopez is very familiar with service-learning, she says the practice will occasionally take her students out of their comfort zone.

“Suddenly students have to think about designing a flier or calling organizations, stuff they don’t necessarily think of being part of a CCJ class,” Carbone-Lopez says. “But at the end of the semester, most students realize they’re doing something more than just writing a paper, and students tend to get a little more out of that.”

This year’s Violence Against Women class has coordinated a Trivia Night that is happening this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Museum Room of the Provincial House on Campus. Funds raised from Thursday’s trivia night will go to benefit Youth in Need and The Covering House. For information on how to donate or participate, go to the event’s Facebook page.

“I personally like community service,” Carbone-Lopez says. “I don’t have a lot of free time but what little free time I do have I like to use helping other people.”

This story was written by Ryan Krull, a student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from UMSL.

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