First-Year Students Learn Healthcare Ethics Firsthand

April 7, 2010

In January, students in Professor of Nursing Peggy Jenkins' First Year Seminar titled "Life's Choices: Ethical Issues in Healthcare" not only learned ethical theories and concepts, but applied them to the benefit of the Oneonta-area community.

In a pilot project, each student helped to prepare, serve, and clean up a dinner at The Lord's Table, a community kitchen in downtown Oneonta. While there, they also dined and conversed with the kitchen's patrons. In two days of service, their efforts fed some 139 people. They also helped box food and clean in the food pantry at nearby St. James Episcopal Church.

What followed was a more intensive class project applying ethical theories and principles to the issue of hunger and social justice in the Oneonta area. Across America, 14.6% of people go hungry, and the problem is even more acute in some areas of upstate New York. Laurens, a small, rural neighbor of Oneonta, is home to one of the poorest school districts in the county.

The first-year Hartwick students were assigned a service learning project--planning and serving a spaghetti dinner in Laurens. They were to determine on their own how to make the event happen for the benefit of the community with but one rule--they were not allowed to "throw money at the problem." Instead, they were tasked with creating a plan for financing, developing interest, organizing, and implementing the dinner.

Through a series of on- and off-campus fundraising activities, the class generated $599.34, and proceeded to publicize and plan their meal.

On January 29, they served a full spaghetti dinner, including ice cream, for $1 per plate. One hundred and twenty people attended the event, and another 30 shut-ins were delivered meals. The class donated $411.44 to the Presbyterian Church and the Laurens Food Pantry, which split the proceeds evenly. In addition, they donated unused foodstuffs to the food pantry and other groups helping to feed the hungry.

While the Hartwick students received hands-on training in the ethics of hunger and social justice, the Oneonta and Laurens communities benefited from their hard work.

"This is a great example of how community-based service learning can be a win-win for both college students and the local community," said Michael Tannenbaum, Hartwick's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,480 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three Year Bachelor’s Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030