December 23, 2011

Senior Lindsay Sockwell, one of the first Engaged Learning grant recipients, experienced her own “journey of discovery” this past summer while working with orphans in Zambia. She used her skills as a dance performance major with a psychology minor to inspire the children, most of whom lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

“I had spent time in Africa last year and saw how the children’s facial expressions changed in the presence of music and dance,” Sockwell says, “and I became interested in how that could be therapeutic for orphaned kids in Zambia.”

Sockwell divided her time in Zambia’s capital of Lusaka between a summer camp and an orphanage, both operated by Family Legacy Missions International of Irving. She worked with a group of boys ages 4-16 for two weeks and helped lead dance sessions within large-group gatherings for another two weeks. Sockwell and other counselors taught the children songs through repetition and taught dance movements that used symbolic gesture because most of the children don’t speak English. The youngsters reciprocated by teaching the Americans a few songs in their tribal language.

Sockwell advises other SMU students who develop an engagement project: “Prepare for your life to be changed. My experience has put hundreds of faces and names to the staggering statistics about life in Africa. This kind of knowledge changes things.”

James Quick, SMU’s associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, whose office oversees Engaged Learning, observes that students often ask, “‘Why are we learning this information in the classroom?’ Through involvement in a community project, they find that what they’ve learned is useful. Engaged Learning programming will help students build on their classroom education and develop a significant and sophisticated understanding of how the world community intersects  with knowledge gained in their academic disciplines.”

Engaged Learning: Michael McCarthynext page