Teaching Students to Give Back
In the 2015-6 Academic Year, Prof. Nancy-Angel Doetzel’s Sociology students incorporated service-related projects into their course assignments to raise over $2500 for Mount Royal University’s United Way campaign. This amount provides housing and food assistance for six months for one individual who has been laid off. Prof. Doetzel, who has committed years of volunteer service to United Way agencies inspired many of her students to become more engaged members of the community. Below, she explains her motivation that resulted in such tremendous work by and education for sociology students:
"Much of my passion for sociology was sparked when I gained insight bout Auguste Comte, father of sociology, and the person who coined the term 'altruism'. Altruism suggests living for others; it is the definitive formula of human morality and gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, a common source of happiness and duty. Comte’s version of the term suggests that “Altruism” is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, and if necessary at the sacrifice of self-interest; altruism calls for living for the sake of others.
As a Sociology professor, I honor Comte, by placing an expectation on sociology students to practice altruism and being a good sociologist throughout their semester. At the beginning of the course, the term 'altruism' is explained, in addition to the main points of being a good sociologist: standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves; appreciating human diversity; being humble and realizing every person has something to teach you if you are willing to learn; living your life with equal parts passion and compassion; and, leaving this world in better condition than you found it. In conjunction with Comte’s stand point, some of their class assignments involve raising funds for the 'United Way', which is commonly associated with designing a social movement to make the world a better place. The past two semesters, some students have conducted bake sales and bottle drives, or have given up some of their weekly monetary investments usually spent on food, alcohol, coffee/tea, lunch or clothing, or have donated their professional services.
Being altruistic coincides with being a good sociologist and research introduced within Post and Neimark’s book titled: 'Why Good Things Happen To Good People'. Their book suggests that as a result of doing altruistic acts, most people are known to: experience a helper's high; live a healthier happier longer life; have less stress; have greater self-worth and enjoy more life satisfaction. After a lecture is given in class addressing the findings of Post and Neimark’s research, students are encouraged to conduct altruistic acts and report back to class whether or not they had experienced any of the rewards suggested in these research findings.
Throughout my decade of teaching at Mount Royal University, many students stated that the highlight of their sociology class was doing a social movement and a fund raising event. During the floods in Calgary, a number of my students volunteered to assist people facing challenges. Currently, some students have been working towards helping people facing the current forest fire crisis in Fort MacMurray.
Through such active learning, as participating in a social movement, students often gain a passion for learning and an ability to attach meaning and purpose to their curriculum."