The Social Impact Practicum: Dartmouth's Best Kept Secret

While the Center for Service’s extracurricular and off-term opportunities are strong, the Center’s new “Social Impact Practicum” initiative is trying to weave social impact into the classroom in a program that could quickly become a selling point for prospective and current students interested in making an impact in the Upper Valley.

Ashley Doolittle, [Associate Director for Academic and Service Engagement with the Dartmouth Center for Service] who helped found the SIP program, defined social impact practicums as “projects connecting community-defined needs with experiential learning in the classroom.”

Doolittle works as “Match.com,” as she put it, with community organizations and faculty to “find ways to mesh the two in a synergistic way that integrates [a capstone project] with the existing course.” Previous SIP courses include Environmental Studies 7.04, “COVER Stories” and College Course 18, “Impact Design,” both of which I took last spring without knowing they were SIP-designated courses. “COVER Stories” is a first-year seminar taught by environmental studies professor Terry Osborne that explores the intersection of environmentalism, power and privilege by partnering with COVER, a local nonprofit that re-roofs houses and builds accessibility ramps for patrons in the Upper Valley. In “Impact Design,” students researched the physicolical effects of delight and were divided into teams, each of which created a term-long user experience for an elderly community member with dementia and their spouse.

Those courses’ uniqueness made them challenging, exciting and ultimately some of the most rewarding academic experiences I’ve had at the College.

Social Impact Practicums are made possible with support from the Dartmouth Center or the Advancement of Learning. Read more from The Dartmouth.