AlisonBy Alison Blazer

This term I have had the opportunity to participate in a Spanish learning community experience at Oregon State. You may be asking yourself—what is a learning community? Simply put, a learning community is a group of people who all share common emotions, values or beliefs whom all actively engage in the learning of one another. This particular community is focused on Spanish language learning, civic engagement and leadership as they all relate to the Latino experience in Oregon and is appropriately entitled Liderazgo, or leadership in Spanish.

I first found out about this wonderful opportunity from my advisor in the College of Liberal Arts. Knowing my interests in both Spanish and engaging Latino population in Oregon she knew this course was the perfect fit for me. The aspect of my course that is often most surprising to people is that it is 15 credits. That’s right, I said 15. This means that while a rare few of my peers are enrolled in one other class on the side everyone else is taking only this Span 470 course.

The best way to begin to understand how this odd-ball class functions is for me to first explain to you the basic layout of the course: We have class primarily on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but there are 25+ hours of individual or group work expected from each student outside of the classroom. There are 26 students in the class, all of whom are either native Spanish speakers or second-language learners like myself. The course is team taught by three professors, Loren Chavarria, Tobin Hansen and Maralisa Morales Ortiz, but for the most part the professors are there merely as participants rather than leaders themselves because the premise of the class is for each of us to rise up as leaders, whatever that may mean for each of us individually.

For the first five Tuesdays of the term my classmates and I travelled to Woodburn (near Salem) and volunteered at the Oregon Farmworker’s Union office or PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) and the CAPACES Leadership Institute. Each Tuesday we took classes at the CLI and then volunteered at a myriad of other Woodburn organizations such as FHDC and Radio Movimiento. Each Thursday we have class on OSU’s Corvallis campus—we spend from noon until 5 P.M. doing activities, hearing guest speakers and being taught by one another. During the previous term each Liderazgo student selected a learning focus of which there are five total. Personally I am in the language group where we discuss language as a part of identity. The four other groups are drug trafficking, education, health and art. These topics are what our large research papers are written about, what the books we read are focused on etc.

As a Liderazgo student during Week 8 of the term I can definitely attest to the rigorous academic nature of the learning community. That being said this overall class has been an unforgettable and once in a lifetime experience. I have had the opportunity to learn an astonishing amount about my classmates throughout our class discussions and time together. I have personally grown into much more of a leader in the classroom setting by teaching my peers as well as working within numerous teams and on top of all that, my Spanish itself has improved boundlessly over the past 7 weeks. A learning community centered on cross-cultural understanding and service learning is as close as one can get to studying abroad right here in Corvallis. I recommend that each and every Beaver look for those unique opportunities that exist in their discipline here at OSU and take advantage of them! Now is the time to take your learning to the next level!

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