Students eMbrace service learning

October 26, 2016
eMbrace Citizenship Day

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – University of Wisconsin-Platteville students were given an opportunity to get out of the classroom and engage with community partners in eMbrace, a one-day service learning project which took place on Oct. 8. During this service learning project, the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement partnered with faculty, students and community members from Platteville and the surrounding area.

Community partners involved in this year’s eMbrace program included the Platteville Community Arboretum; Wyalusing State Park in Bagley, Wisconsin; Wisconsin Badger Camp in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin; Resources Unite from Dubuque, Iowa; Three Eagles Foundation in Muscoda, Wisconsin; and the Grant County Women’s Health Conference in Lancaster, Wisconsin.

Dawn Lee, PACCE’s Business, Industry, Life Sciences and Agriculture engagement specialist, said, “The group of us that started eMbrace went back to our hometowns where we knew there could possibly be some partnering because of relationships that had already been made through friendships or just because of the community connection.”

Kia Hendrickson, a partner in developing eMbrace and the assistant director of Academic Support Programs, said, “For my students, it really opened their eyes and helped them understand that there's more to Platteville than just UW-Platteville. They were in communities like Prairie du Chien, Lancaster, Dubuque, and right here in Platteville getting to see that there's more to the area than just the university.”

Members of the initial planning committee included members of PACCE and faculty of Academic Support Programs including Hendrickson, Lee, PACCE engagement specialist for the College of Liberal Arts and Education Carole Spelic’ and Lisa Reidle, who was the engagement specialist for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science at the time, began planning for the inaugural 2015 eMbrace program in fall 2014.

The eMbrace program was inspired by a previous event that had taken place many years ago at UW-Platteville. Hendrickson said, “It was Lisa Reidle's idea, because when she was a student here they used to do a project like this school-wide. Everyone got out of school and did a community service project for a day.”

Valerie Wetzel, the founder of the Leadership Living Learning Community and assistant director of involvement for the Pioneer Involvement Center, joined the committee after the project was launched to help with logistics and transportation.

Kevin Bernhardt, director of PACCE, also said that eMbrace began with a goal of getting freshmen involved in service learning. “We looked at our records and saw that almost all of the PACCE projects were with juniors and seniors. We decided to push projects down to the first semester freshman class and give those students an opportunity to get out in the communities around here and see why their education here is valuable and have some fun doing it,” said Bernhardt.

“PACCE’s goal is to have students develop their learning more deeply by engaging in an activity rather than just learning about theory in the classroom,” said Spelic’. PACCE encourages this type of hands-on learning by providing funding for the cost of transportation, equipment and other supplies for projects like eMbrace. 

Participants in this year’s service learning project consisted of more than 180 students enrolled in UW-Platteville Studies and BioQuest courses. These programs function as introductions to life at UW-Platteville as well as the academic programs and majors available to students.

The classes, each led by a faculty member, spent the day serving throughout the community. PACCE funded transportation and other supplies for each worksite.

"Projects like eMbrace help to build students as citizens for the future, so no matter where they live after they graduate from Platteville, they’ll want to be a part of their community there as well."
                             –Valerie Wetzel

Classes led by Jason Artz and Teresa Miller, who work for University Counseling Services, and Summer Camps Services Coordinator Don Francis worked on the Platteville Community Arboretum trail and dog park, creating and placing artwork on the trail. This artwork included sculptures, a painting on the ceiling of the gazebo at the trail head behind the Menard’s store, safety signs on the trail, and decorations on the recycling bins within the dog park. General maintenance work was also completed on the trail.

Another class traveled to Wyalusing State Park under the leadership of Nancy Hammermeister, an instructor of political science classes. They worked on general maintenance projects on the trail, including removing invasive species growing along the trails.

Dr. Rich Dhyanchand, an associate professor of biology and instructor of BioQuest courses, led a group to the Grant County Women’s Wellness Conference. Students assisted vendors with setting up and taking down their booths, introduced speakers, assisted with refreshments, gave directions and helped provide childcare for people in attendance.

Two classes led by Wetzel and Dr. Jennifer Collins, assistant professor of education, went to Wisconsin Badger Camp, working on maintenance, cleanup and other work such as splitting wood.

The BioQuest class led by Nadia Sifri, an academic advisor and lecturer in the Department of Biology, worked with the Three Eagles Foundation. The group went to Frank’s Hill Effigy Mounds along the Wisconsin River to carry out a controlled burn on the mounds and removed dead trees.

Students led by Hendrickson worked with the nonprofit organization Resources Unite in Dubuque passing out bracelets and information on violence and sexual abuse. 

“Projects like eMbrace help to build students as citizens for the future, so no matter where they live after they graduate from Platteville, they’ll want to be a part of their community there as well,” said Wetzel.

Written by: Emily Drews, Student Writer, Communications, 608-342-1194,


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Pioneers eMbrace Citizenship: Volunteering at the Three Eagles Foundation

Pioneers eMbrace Citizenship: Volunteering at Wisconsin Badger Camp

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