"Engaged learning experiences helps students build self-awareness, self-confidence and even humility that will help them succeed after they graduate."
A 2016-17 Engaged Faculty Fellow, Anna Kelles is a lecturer in the Division of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Ecology. In her course, Feeding for the Future: Nutrition and How It Shapes Future Generations, students combine traditional course instruction with parallel field experiences.
About the Project
The lack of food and nutrition equity and its impact on cognitive development — and ultimately professional achievement — not only affects the quality of life of individuals but tracks the potential of their children and children’s children. A staggering percentage of people in the United States face regular food insecurity and hunger. Unfortunately, we do not have a comprehensive nutrition policy to address this issue. The inadequate policies and programs that provide support are siloed into disparate local, state and federal departments and among equally siloed nonprofits. The lack of communication and collaboration between these entities stunts our ability to address the core problem.
Anna’s course, Feeding for the Future: Nutrition and How It Shapes Future Generations, has a two-tiered structure. Students receive course instruction as well as a parallel field experience. Instruction begins with an overview of epigenetics — that our environment affects not only our genetic expression but the genetic potential passed to our offspring. This topic is followed by instruction laying out the ecological model around the core relationship between nutrition, cognitive development and professional success. Students explore the dynamic relationships between food production and distribution, food waste management, food education, food policy, social pressures, structural racism, living wage, access to affordable housing, mass transportation, urban planning and environmental stewardship — all of which affect food security. This overview provides the context for a detailed exploration into a systems approach to problem solving using collective impact models.
In parallel with course instruction, students self-select a discipline within the larger ecological model and are matched with a government or non-governmental organization engaged in that discipline (e.g., food waste management). The course culminates in a Model UN-style week of negotiations where each group, representing their discipline and corresponding agency, plays their role as part of a collaborative solution to food access in the community. Unlike most field components where students play an advisory role, the intention of this course is to embed them in the community to gain a visceral sense and appreciation for the day-to-day challenges of working in a real-world context.
In Her Own Words
“In my past experience creating engaged learning experiences for students, I often heard statements like, ‘I didn’t realize how gray (or messy) the real world can be.’ It is a tremendous opportunity to experience theory in practice and understand how to temper and balance academic knowledge with interpersonal skills to develop creative solutions. Engaged learning experiences helps students build self-awareness, self-confidence and even humility that will help them succeed after they graduate.”