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Philip Scarpino

Director of the Graduate Program in Public History

When Philip Scarpino, director of the graduate program in public history and director of oral history for the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence, decided to create a new service learning course in 2012, the Center for Service Learning stood by his side during the entire process.

“In addition to supporting my ideas and encouraging me to do it, CSL gave me the Course Development Grant and a service learning assistant,” Scarpino says. “These resources made this course possible.”

In partnership with the Division of Forestry and the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Scarpino developed the undergraduate methods course titled “Hands-on History: Indiana’s State Forests and Their Cultural Resources.” Students researched what kind of human activity took place in portions of the Morgan-Monroe forest. They researched the sale of land to setters in the 1830s and 1840s and incorporation into the state forest system in the late 1920s and early 1930s. 

Scarpino formatted the course to enable students to engage in real-world fieldwork and research methods and, at the same time, to provide a service to the Division of Forestry, who approached Scarpino with this need.

“This was a real partnership,” Scarpino says. “In fact, the Division of Forestry and the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology assigned two professional to assist with developing the course. That is what service learning is supposed to be about. Everyone needs to benefit—not just students gaining experience, but also the client.”

Students worked in teams, wrote research papers on their findings, and presented their final work to the Division of Forestry professional staff. Scarpino wanted students to see their knowledge used to better the client, which he says is the "philosophy behind service learning."

In addition to the funding and guidance he received from CSL, credits the Robert G. Bringle Civic Engagement Showcase and Symposium for connecting him with fellow faculty and staff working on similar research. This he calls an "internal bridge," but he praises CSL even more for its reciprocal relationships with community partners.

“Bridges are built for two-way traffic, and CSL supports that two-way traffic,” Scarpino says. “Students, faculty, and staff of IUPUI benefit from service learning, but partners of the center benefit as well.”

He encourages other faculty to consult with CSL to incorporate civic engagement into academics and calls attention to its wide range of resources and support.

Scarpino says, “CSL is one of a few places on campus that goes out of its way to pursue civic engagement, with grants for students, course grants, and other resources to aid people in pursuit of service learning.”