Place-based hands-on learning
When it comes to viewing Behavioral Science in terms of Environmental Liberal Arts, Associate Professor of Psychology Lois-Ann Kuntz sees a direct connection. “We can’t anticipate challenges, encourage changes, or offer solutions to issues regarding the sustainability of our environment without understanding human behavior.”
That belief, combined with a commitment to applying classroom lessons in real-world situations, sets UMM’s Applied Anthropology and Applied Psychology curriculum apart from more traditional programs. Maybe you’re interested in human culture and society, how we got here, where we’re going, and what you can do about it. Or maybe in how the human mind works, or why we think, feel and behave the way we do. If so, then you’re interested in Behavioral Science and Community Studies. In addition to focusing Community Studies through the lens of Environmental Liberal Arts, there’s another aspect of the UMM program that’s unique: it’s multidisciplinary. That’s one of the reasons Jennifer Law ’09, an Iowa native, transferred to UMM from a large university.
“I started at a university that offered separate degree programs for psychology, sociology, and anthropology. They didn’t offer a comprehensive community studies program. That’s what I like about UMM’s Behavioral Sciences program; I had the opportunity to study psychology, sociology, and anthropology before deciding to concentrate on psychology.”
Putting the Community in Community Studies
Associate Professor of Psychology Lois-Ann Kuntz has championed the effort to make service-based learning central to the Community Studies program. “It’s essential that students get to apply classroom lessons beyond the classroom.” Due largely to her efforts, more than half of all required courses include a service learning component. These opportunities are many and varied, and faculty take great care in finding the right fit for each student and the community partner.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Meghan Duff recently invited an attorney from Pine Tree Legal Assistance to one of her classes to discuss internship possibilities with the organization, which offers free legal help to low-income Maine people. He highlighted that students would be doing “real work” under supervision and that they would learn a lot about disability and housing advocacy.
“After class a few students asked me questions about whether or not they should pursue the internship,” recalls Duff. “I encouraged them all to apply because they would get a lot of training, mentoring, and experience as an advocate.” Jennifer Law was one of the students who applied. “Jennifer came to my office a few days later and said she was having second thoughts about applying because what it involved was ‘too real’; she was concerned that the quality of her work would actually make a serious impact on people’s lives. That’s when I knew she would be a great fit for the internship.”
Attorney Paul Thibeault, Jennifer’s mentor at Pine Tree Legal, picks up the story from there. “While Jenn was here we had a disability case for a double amputee. His legs were cut off in a train accident. He had been unable to obtain approval for necessary prosthetics. Jenn had to educate herself about the disability determination process and then communicate effectively with the medical staff. It required several contacts, partly because the provider was incredu-lous that a double amputee could be denied disability status. Eventually, thanks in part to Jenn, the client got his prosthetics.”