University Projects

Our university collaborations are the backbone of Partners in Service. Here we listen and work, allowing theory and implementation to inform each other in invaluable learning experiences which leave a lasting impact on both students and the communities they serve. Below you can explore a number of past projects we have been able to develop with the help of our academic partners.


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Department of Physics

Randolph-Macon College

Xeebaj II Erosion Solution

Engineering Students from Randolph-Macon College were inspired to solve an erosion problem in the community of Xeebaj II, outside Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Following a survey of the local geology, including soil sample analysis and a topographic survey, as well as taking suggestions from meetings with the community, the students designed a retaining wall and drainage system solution for the site. 

See their in-depth solution report here


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DEPARTMENT OF FASHION DESIGN AND MERCHANDISING

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

Spirit of Fashion

VCU Fashion Design and Merchandising students participated in an innovative program to assist Maya artisans create viable apparel and accesories for North American consumers using their design and merchandising skills. They produced alternative, or fair trade, products to be successful in boutiques throughout the US and Canadian markets. Fashion students learned about traditional processes and products of Mayan aesthetics.

Students were also introduced to issues of monopsonies, subsidies and embargoes, and other aspects of rent seeking with a focus on raising awareness about how government intervention through USAID disrupts market development opportunity.


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WOMEN INVOLVED IN LEADERSHIP AND LEARNING

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND

Women's Empowerment

This innovative program introduces students to issues of justice and development while providing support to grassroots women’s organizations. The course looks at the history and evolution of gender roles in rural indigenous communities. In addition to readings and lecture, students participate in a number of community programs like ice breaking games, knitting, weaving and cooking classes. A powerful aspect of this program is learning about the empowered role of women in traditional indigenous cultures as well as comparative views on the meaning of sexuality, gender, and life. Students also partner with women in local communities to build improved fuel-efficient stoves that provide women with the time and energy to participate in empowerment programs.


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L. DOUGLAS WILDER SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Guatemala: Rural Development for Socio-economic and Ecological Resilience

A unique program that exposes students to grass roots community organizing and culture, including a curriculum developed in response to problems faced by relief and aid agencies in Haiti. University-trained officials often lack an understanding of the political organization and culture of marginalized communities that complicated relief efforts. This class aims to familiarize students with grass roots organization models and Maya culture.

Topics and themes to be examined through the course include land hunger and distribution, social vulnerability, community health, indigenous rights, land degradation, household energy use, common property resource management, sustainable livelihoods, agricultural development and disaster risk reduction

Full program overview here


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RUTGERS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF NURSING

Highland Health Care and Culture: Medical Anthropology from an Indigenous Perspective

The program focuses on an overview of the Guatemalan health care system, medical Spanish, alternative Maya medicine (ethnobotany, midwives, bonesetters and shamans), and Maya culture (past and present). Students also partner with community health organizations to conduct needs assessments, public health campaigns and staff health fairs.

Students are provided a variety of speakers concerning the environmental factors impacting local communities, including Gold Mining and Pesticide use. Students are encouraged to think about how clinical health care fits into the global health equation.

A student's reflections on the trip here


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SCHOOL OF ART EDUCATION

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

Students will use experiences in an arts-based, service-learning project in Guatemala as the foundation for examining relevant social and cultural issues through personal reflection, education and portfolio development. In addition to travel overview and lesson creation, pre-trip preparations will include readings and discussions targeting social justice, arts and literacy advocacy, community building, art/craft/story as cultural legacy, and education. In Guatemala, students will become familiar with various social, educational, economic and environmental issues facing the indigenous Highland Maya. In country, students will work in a Mayan community alongside women leaders, teachers and elementary school children to create and teach lessons and offer community art projects.

Some sample student projects from the trip can be found here


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FIRST YEAR MEDICAL STUDENTS

MEDICAL COLLEGE VIRGINIA

M1 students participate in public health activities and support Maya health workers as they conduct base line studies and follow up assessments. The primary role of students is to support community-based health programs in establishing information systems and tracking capacity. Maya medical practices are reviewed with a focus on understanding the “Western” scientific interpretation of valuable traditional knowledge. The program’s focus is the integration or synthesizing of Western and local knowledge to empower local actors with improved but appropriate practices.


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DEPARTMENT OF RELIGION

RANDOLPH MACON COLLEGE

Readings in history, ethnography, and theology are paired with lectures from Maya and Catholic priests. Special focus is given to the political economy of Religion in Guatemala and the dichotomy of Christian Counter Insurgency, Liberation Theology and the Evangelical movement. Students will participate in social justice and community organizing activities with the Highland Women’s Association (AMA).


 
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STUDENT'S TRIP BLOG

Rachel Carr from Rutgers University shared her experience with Partners in Service on her Health & Healing in Guatemala blog.

"I truly enjoyed my time in Guatemala. I couldn't have asked for a better experience, more wonderful and kind professors, a more fantastic group of students who became like a big family, or more amazing Guatemalan people that we met everywhere we went - from our bus driver to the sweet cleaning lady I had the chance to talk to. To the adorable children from whom I purchased hand made goods from as well as children from the village, to our incredible tour guide and friend, Lupe!". 

Check it out here.