Public Relations

Daily Pioneer News

Friday, December 05, 2008

UWP's community engagement center celebrates strong start

University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor David Markee views a poster for one of the PACCE projects in the Pioneer Student Center.

PLATTEVILLE - University of Wisconsin-Platteville students, faculty and staff members and partners from the community came together Wednesday evening, Dec. 3, to celebrate the start of the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement and to look toward the future.

The 201 UWP students participating in PACCE programs during the fall semester had the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to community situations with genuine community partners and real organizational consequences. There were a total of 18 community partners and seven faculty members involved.

Students involved developed a poster explaining their project. The posters were displayed during the day in Heritage Hall at the Pioneer Student Center and also prior to the banquet at Velzy Commons in Ullsvik Hall.

Kevin Bernhardt, director of the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement, told the banquet audience that he was very pleased with the program's first-semester accomplishments. He praised the program as a way to allow students to gain real-world experience, while growing and making a difference in the community beyond campus.

A University of Wisconsin-Platteville student explains her PACCE project prior to a banquet on campus on Dec. 3.

A big benefit of PACCE, he said, is to push students to take on projects outside of their comfort zone and give them the tools to succeed.

"PACCE is about giving people a chance to experience that sense of accomplishment," he said. "They're addressing real challenges through interaction with people in the community and real consequences."

Bernhardt also looked toward the future of PACCE. He said he would like to provide internship opportunities with entities that normally couldn't afford an intern, to extend the scope of PACCE internationally and to launch a "Dilemmas and Debates" seminar series on campus.

Bernhardt said one of the real strengths of PACCE is that it gets students out of the classroom environment and takes them to what he called "the crash site."

"They need to be able to sift through the rubble and figure out what went wrong," he said.

That gives students the confidence to be experimental, innovative and creative, as well as encouraging them to be willing to "seek and embrace the unknown," he said.

Those tools will be particularly important as computers and the Internet continue to fuel an exponential rise in the amount of information available, Bernhardt said.

"We are starting to prepare our students for technologies that we don't know and jobs that don't yet exist," he said.

Banquet attendees also heard a presentation from John Sexton, a Colorado dentist, who has organized trips to Cambodia, Romania and Uganda to provide dental services to children with AIDS.

Over the past eight years, more than 90 dentists have made trips he's organized and have treated more than 4,000 children, he said.

Sexton is making use of 100 dental chairs that have been transported from the United States to Uganda. He wants to spread them throughout the country. In many cases, he said, that will mean a need for a reliable water source. UWP engineering students could help with that project, he said.

The event also included a panel presentation in which a faculty member, three students and a community partner discussed how PACCE had made a difference. The participants were: students Kyle LaFond, Samantha Klapatauskas and Ryan Schutte; faculty member Lisa Landgraf, computer science and software engineering; and Carol Beals, chair of the board of directors of Badger Camp.

The evening concluded with a presentation by three members of the UWP Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Nick Confer, Bekki Walsh and Ben Kubichek. Members of the group traveled to Ghana in August and constructed a culvert and driveway. They are working on a return trip to the same area of Ghana next year and plan to build a footbridge over a river, which will allow year-around access to a school.

For more information about PACCE, contact Bernhardt at (608) 342-6121 or

Contact: Kevin Bernhardt, director, Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement, (608) 342-6121, Written by: Gary Achterberg, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,

UWP...What College Should Be