Faculty project allows students to volunteer in the community

Assistant Professors of Business Administration Sharon Gibbs and Michelle Hagadorn have a non-traditional approach when it comes to teaching their accounting classes.

Assistant professors of business administration Sharon Gibbs and Michelle Hagadorn have a non-traditional approach when it comes to teaching their accounting classes. Gibbs, instructor of the intermediate accounting class, which caters to mostly juniors, and Hagadorn's accounting class, typically made up of sophomores, have teamed up to give an unlikely spin to the benefits of accounting and budgeting.

As part of Roanoke College's Faculty Staff Learning Community, Gibbs and Hagadorn have incorporated community service into a subfield of business that usually is reserved for the office. Students are currently in the community teaching local, non-profit organizations the benefits of budgeting and finance.

The Faculty Staff Learning Community, now in its sixth year, is an innovative and collaborative development program open to any full-time faculty or staff member. Its purpose is to nurture faculty and staff in the creation and implementation of integrative and experiential learning activities for our students.

The current theme is co-curricular learning, emphasizing community service, cross-cultural learning, leadership skills and research. Fellows foster mentoring relationships by selecting student associates who work as their assistants. This program provides a unique opportunity for faculty and staff to work as a group and learn about an important topic related to Roanoke College's mission to educate the whole person. Gibbs is the current director of FSLC, and guiding the classes are two student associates, seniors Matt Kasey and Jason Overstreet.

The 40 students are split into eight teams of three to five students, with an equal distribution of each class in each team. Each team visits one local organization and conducts three financial sessions. The classes cater to Bethany Hall, a residential treatment program for adult women recovering from alcohol and other chemical dependencies; the Roanoke Rescue Mission, a 24-hour safety net for people in need and crisis; Roanoke College's Co-Curricular Learning and Service program, a service initiative for all incoming students; Salem High School; and the YWCA, the oldest and largest multicultural women's organization in the world. One group even is presenting to campus organizations like Alpha Kappa Psi, the business fraternity, and Chi Omega, a social fraternity.

"The two main objectives of the project are team work and communication," Gibbs said. "It offers active learning and professional skills that are assets to graduates."

Gibbs, however, feels that students had very little difficulty when dealing with the communication issue.

"It makes me so proud that the students are so willing to jump in and engage in conversations with their participants," Gibbs said. "A side reward is being able to connect more with students."

Hagadorn feels that the students taught her things she never knew before, and that they broadened her perspective on issues she has been studying for years. She said that students are learning real-life lessons on management and scheduling.

"I have never volunteered in the community like this before," Hagadorn said. "Accounting is usually a dry subject, very mechanical, but the students have made it engaging. They have broadened my perspective and have changed the regular pace of accounting. I am a better teacher because I am learning from the students' hands-on approach."

Margot McDonald '10, who worked with Bethany Hall participants, said that the women were very interested in what she was teaching them, and that it was even difficult to touch on all the subjects the women wanted to know about in just three short sessions.

"I think this project is important because it gives the students experience teaching useful skills to others, but more importantly, it gives people a chance to learn useful information about basic budgeting and some other financial information," McDonald said. "This will help me in the future by giving me skills of on-site work, and it also will help with learning how to deal with different kinds of people."