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Meet Doug Grant, Director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement

Doug GrantName: Doug Grant

Title: Director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement

Education: B.S., Indiana University

Years at Franklin College: 14

Campus and Community Involvement (past and present): Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County founding board member and president; 4-H Junior Leaders adviser; Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Johnson County Advisory board member; Johnson County Community Network board vice president; Franklin Heritage Board vice president; 2002 Leadership Johnson County graduate; Chairman of annual Habitat for Humanity Soup Bowl Benefit; Franklin Chamber of Commerce board member; United Way of Johnson County committee member; Johnson County Community Foundation scholarship committee member; has led 13 Franklin College Habitat for Humanity alternative spring breaks.

 

How does the liberal arts and sciences education at Franklin benefit students in the field of leadership?

“I firmly believe that the first responsibility of every leader is to serve others first. A liberal arts education at Franklin College is a perfect place to foster that philosophy. It gives our students the chance to learn through many different lenses, consider diverse approaches and opinions, develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of empathy and ultimately become more self-aware. All of this can lead to the realization that as leaders, the most rewarding and valuable contribution one can make to society is that of service to others.”

Is there anything you think is particularly unique about Franklin as compared to other schools?

“Clearly our small size allows us some unique advantages. The opportunities for internships, research, travel and professional relationship building exist on this campus in a way that cannot be found on larger campuses. Students here get to know each other, their faculty and the staff in a more significant and valuable way.”

Why is service learning an important aspect of the liberal arts education?

“Service learning is such a win-win endeavor. If done properly and in partnership, it can provide invaluable service to non-profit organizations who are often understaffed and underfunded. The enthusiasm and abilities our students bring to the table can be a huge boost to our community partners. As for the classroom, any time you can learn a concept or reinforce academic components with real-world, hands-on experience, the learning has a much greater impact. We recently surveyed all the students who had taken the Inner City Missions course over the past 20 years. Even alums in their mid-thirties spoke of the course as though it had just happened. Service learning can clearly have a profound and lasting impact that cannot be achieved sitting in rows in a classroom. To quote a former professor of English, Dedaimia Whitney, ‘Through hands-on experiences students learn in a matter of minutes what might take several semesters in a classroom setting.’”

Give us a brief history of Franklin College’s FOCUS Day. What is the importance of this service-learning program?

“At Franklin College, students are introduced to the concept of service learning through an orientation program called Franklin Offering the Community Unselfish Service (FOCUS). During their first days on campus, new students are placed in small groups that include faculty, staff and upper class leaders, and are sent out to help a wide variety of non-profit organizations. There are three main goals for FOCUS: to make a significant difference to the community, to help incoming students develop friendships through meaningful work, and to emphasize from the very first day our commitment to preparing graduates, through the liberal arts, to think independently, lead responsibly, and serve with integrity. FOCUS provides every Franklin College student with the first small step toward not only four years, but a lifetime of civic engagement. Originally created and designed by two senior leadership students (including our own assistant provost and associate dean of engaged learning, Brooke Worland) the program started in 2000 as a way to better connect our students with each other, the campus and our local community. It has become very successful and is considered one of our flagship programs.”

What has been your most memorable service-learning experience at Franklin College?

“It is really impossible to select any one service-learning experience I have had at Franklin as being most memorable. There have been so many. Certainly the spring break we took 53 people to the Mississippi Gulf Coast right after Hurricane Katrina was very memorable. The many Habitat experiences I have been blessed to have with students have all been memorable, especially when we had the chance in Georgia to meet the founder of Habitat for Humanity, Millard Fuller, as well as former President Jimmy Carter. Clearly, working in Uganda has had a lasting impact on me. Beyond all of those experiences, probably the most memorable moments come when I am with a student in a service-learning context and they realize how amazing it feels to give back to others. That ‘light-bulb’ moment is always memorable.”

Describe your favorite characteristic of the Franklin community.

“It has to be the people. The folks I have had the honor to work with and around on this campus have been the very best thing about being part of the Franklin College community. If you love what you are doing and the people you work with, you will never actually go to work at all. That’s very much how I feel about Franklin College.”

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