Service-learning, a teaching method that integrates instruction with meaningful community service, has become an integral part of an OLOL College education. Through this program, OLOL College students have given over 68,000 service-learning hours working for others. The College is pleased to report that based on the valuation designated by experts, OLOL College students have provided over $1 million of in-kind service to the community.
The estimated value of volunteer time is established each year by the Independent Sector, a coalition of charities, foundations, corporations, and individuals that publishes research important to the nonprofit sector. The estimate helps acknowledge the millions of individuals who dedicate their time, talents, and energy to make a difference in the community.
From June 2009 to June 2014, Our Lady of the Lake College students gave 68,084 service-learning hours working in collaboration with the College’s many community partners. The average of the Independent Sector’s in-kind value during that time frame is $19.10 per hour, bringing the total in-kind value of the College’s student service to $1,303,400.50. OLOL College service-learning students work with over 90 community partners who serve in sixteen parishes across southeast Louisiana.
The Service-Learning program at the College has been developed by and coordinated through the Office of Service-Learning, directed by Rhoda Reddix, Ph.D. “It is exciting to see that our student’s service now tops over a million in-kind dollars. But I can tell you this . . . the service itself is invaluable to everyone involved: the community partners, the people in the community who are helped, and the students themselves. Service-learning both supports engaged learning and reinforces the College’s Franciscan mission,” she explained.
An important part of the service-learning process is for students to write down their thoughts afterwards. A reflection from a nursing student after a service-learning experience at St. Martha’s Activity Center was, “I cannot begin to explain how this experience further proved that nursing is exactly what I want to do.”
Phyllis L. Simpson, Ph.D., Dean of Student Services and Director of Counseling for Our Lady of the Lake College was recognized as one of the nation’s “Outstanding First Year Educators” by the Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transitions. Attendees of this group’s national conference honored Dr. Simpson at its annual meeting held in San Diego, California, February 15-18, 2014.
Each year a national panel of distinguished educators review the top 100 applications, selecting ten for recognition. All of these top educators demonstrate the common goal of improving the educational experience of first-year students in colleges and university throughout the United States.
David England, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs stated unequivocally, “It is hard to imagine there being a more worthy recipient! Phyllis Simpson has long served as one of our College’s richest resources as the scores of students she helps each year will readily attest.”
As the nomination stated, “Phyllis Simpson is an educator who believes that true collegiate learning must happen both inside and outside of the classroom walls.” With her strong teaching background and her proficiency as a reading specialist, she helped to re-vamp the academic seminar to adapt program-specific reading strategies and incorporate learning style inventories to improve testing/study strategies. She created a tutor lab and established a First Year Student Experience program which had students meeting with her one-on-one several times during their initial year at OLOL College. Recognizing that first year students at a commuter college would benefit from more connections to the campus, Dr. Simpson began working energetically to make student organizations more active. Additionally, she has led civic engagement efforts on campus and works as Co-Chair for the College’s acclaimed Service-Learning programs. As a result, retention efforts for incoming freshmen are improving steadily.
Students sincerely appreciate her contribution to their education. Biology major Derek Wiltz said "Dr. Simpson has helped me grow in so many ways . . . She is an exceptional leader and teacher, always giving us great support that not only helps academically but encourages us with our career goals." Non-traditional student Melanie Koscick who returned to school at the age of 45 added, "As someone who has been out of school for over twenty years, Dr. Simpson has been my guiding light and my anchor. She has not only assisted me with how to handle college in this day and age, but has helped me to believe that I can accomplish great things."
Dr. Simpson has been involved with various areas of education since 1970, and has taught at every grade level except for kindergarten and first grade. Among her many accomplishments, she has authored teaching manuals for postsecondary reading textbooks as well as a strategy textbook for elementary/junior high teachers. Receiving her B.S. degree from Louisiana State University (LSU), her Masters of Education from Southeastern Louisiana University, and her Ph.D. from LSU in 1998, Dr. Simpson began her teaching career in Washington Parish in the early 70s, taught at Southeastern Louisiana University in the 90s, and then became a member of the staff at OLOL College in 1997.