The Integrated Service-Learning Project is an extension of the Interior Design Relief Project which was founded in 2013. It aims to integrate the efforts of like-minded interior designers, architects, and contractors who believe that the design of the physical environment matters, shapes lives, and can empower people.
The concept was tested at the Fashion Institute of Technology when students, under faculty guidance, used design to help 17 families in Long Beach re-envision their destroyed homes after Superstorm Sandy. The project won the 2013 School of Art & Design Interdisciplinary Grant.
In 2014, the team worked with the Bowery Mission Women’s Center in the renovation of their laundry room. This was the first design-build project performed by the team under the tutelage of Miguel Melendez, Bowery Mission’s General Contractor.
During the summer of 2014, as part of the global initiative for the Interior Design Department and the School of Art and Design, a team of five students and one faculty member volunteered to collaborate with the Community of Friends in Action of Leonia, NJ, the Leonia Presbyterian Church, and Hug-it-Forward, to build a “bottle school” in Guatemala. For one week, the volunteers contributed to the construction of a three-classroom bottle school for 37 Middle School students, 3 teachers, and 200 families in the community of Chidonjuan.
In 2015 the group re-furnished the Bowery Mission Women’s Center Bedrooms and presented proposals for the renovation of the communal kitchen at Hephzibah House in New York City and Living Waters Community Center in Brooklyn.
2015 marked a huge milestone for the students who had collectively donated over 8,000 hours of community service. They graduated! Three of them are back to serve as mentors and Project Managers in this new version of the project. Congratulations to all of them!
2016 has been a productive year, beginning with Restore NYC during the Spring semester and moving on to summer with The Bowery Mission Men's Center and St. Paul's House. We welcome all our new volunteers!
Our service-learning model is integrated by necessity, bringing together architecture, interior design, engineering, and construction. This model allows students to learn from multiple perspectives, with great opportunities to develop life skills of leadership, ethics, accountability, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and social responsibility.
In "Creating the New American College," Ernest L. Boyer asked:
“How can American higher education successfully contribute to national renewal? Is it possible for the work of the academy to relate more effectively to our most pressing social, economic, and civic problems?”
Service-learning is a smart strategic response to Boyer's challenge. Experience tells us that service-learning is a tool to forge stronger links between the institution and the community. It is also a bridge to broaden the definition of scholarship and address the issues of curriculum relevancy.
In the past three years, we have learned firsthand that service-learning matters to the students, the end-user, the institution, and the community. It is a cultural, ideological, and intellectual exchange that can respond to specifics and timely needs in our communities and society.