For University of Illinois students, getting a break from the mundane, lecture-based class is as easy as enrolling in ENG 315: Learning in Community (LINC). The multi-section course offers a chance to team up with local nonprofits to design, plan, and implement new community-based projects. And this fall, they can spend the semester working with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to reduce pharmaceutical and personal care product (PPCP) pollution in Champaign-Urbana.
The IISG course will introduce students to the threats PPCPs pose to aquatic habitats and simple steps individuals can take to reduce those risks. Tours of local water quality labs will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at ongoing PPCP research. But the majority of the semester will be dedicated to designing and executing projects that help spread the word about proper disposal of unwanted medicines.
“This is a unique opportunity for students to apply what they are learning to help solve problems in sustainable ways,” said Terri Hallesy, IISG education coordinator. “They will gain real-world experiences while helping to boost awareness of a critical environmental issue and protect the health of our aquatic ecosystems.”
Specific projects are still to be determined, and the class will have a lot of freedom to design outreach efforts that appeal to them. Previous classes mentored local high school students, wrote an article for a campus-based environmental magazine, and created outreach materials to be used at the McKinley Heath Center and at campus events. Other options include modifying K-12 curricula, designing social media campaigns, and even building a mobile app.
Students will also be in charge of planning and orchestrating a single-day medicine takeback event at the end of the semester. The class will work throughout the semester to design a promotional plan and coordinate with campus housing and other organizations on campus.
Its community focus and interdisciplinary approach make this course a perfect fit for a wide range of majors—from marketing to education to environmental sciences. Students will leave with new skills and experiences that move them closer to their career goals.
LINC courses are offered through the College of Engineering and are open to all University of Illinois students. For fall 2014, students can choose between sections that address issues like water conservation, after-school safety, and homelessness. The IISG course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-4:50 p.m.
Contact Terri Hallesy for questions about the IISG course. To learn more about PPCP pollution and proper disposal, visit www.unwantedmeds.org.