Two VISTA members help on campus

Daniel Nelson

Daniel Nelson

SDSU welcomes two new AmeriCorps* VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members to campus to assist in the development of service-learning opportunities for students.

Erin Bofenkamp and John Anderson will spend the next year working with campus service-learning coordinator Dianne Nagy in an effort to help students take classroom learning to real-life application.

Both Bofenkamp and Anderson have ties to SDSU. Anderson earned his undergraduate in English in 1996 and Bofenkamp received her teaching certification in 2005.

The Office for Diversity Enhancement works with agencies like VISTA to organize and develop opportunities for students to participate in learning activities outside of campus.

“AmeriCorps* VISTA members leverage human, financial and material resources to increase the capacity of low-income communities across the country to solve their own problems,” Anderson said.

AmeriCorps and VISTA’s primary emphasis is on seeing the end of poverty take place on a global scale. Working with private, non-profit and public agencies or universities, VISTA helps coordinate the necessary resources in an effort to help low-income communities.

“I think the VISTA project at South Dakota State University will have the most impact in fostering and nurturing local and area service-learning opportunities amongst faculty, students and community members,” Anderson said.

“As a land grant institution, SDSU has historically championed commitment to teaching, research and service. Service-Learning, as pedagogy, inherently possesses the means to further that excellence and commitment by improving instructional methodology, enriching student learning, providing opportunities for [institution-based] quantitative and qualitative research projects and engaging with the community in relevant service and extension.”

Bofenkamp and Anderson will work with faculty to help establish projects identified by the community as needs and then incorporate students in the community service as a way to strengthen classroom learning.

The new members have extensive experience that ranges from traveling globally to working with large city organizations. Anderson has traveled to Asia to work under the Peace Corps and Bofenkamp worked in St. Paul for an organization that worked to help underprivileged kids gain access to college education.

“I look forward to the opportunities and challenges of working in a rural setting. South Dakota, compared to my previous working experience in the Twin Cities, has made me aware of the variety of social, cultural and economic issues that are unique to this area,” Bofenkamp said.

Many of the faculty working within the Office for Diversity Enhancement are very pleased by both Bofenkamp’s and Anderson’s arrivals.

“Erin and John will significantly enhance both the quality and quantity of resources and support our office can provide to students, faculty and community agencies who are interested in developing service-learning projects,” Nagy said.

VISTA’s work will help the community by combining academics and service to the community.

“Their work strengthens towns and grows relationships by identifying ways to combine academic insights with the values and expertise inherent in the community in pursuit of solutions to social problems,” said Nagy.

The most important element Anderson and Bofenkamp want to relay to students and faculty working within the service-learning program is that change and making a difference with communities is very much possible.

“What I am most excited about during my time here at SDSU is working with students at all levels and letting them know it is possible for them to make tangible changes for the better in their community, state, nation and world,” Bofenkamp said.

For more information on taking part in the service-learning programs or to talk to Bofenkamp or Anderson, call (605) 688-6896.