Anoka Ramsey Community College
Each semester, Philosophy and Humanities instructor Peter Wahlstrom, from the Anoka Ramsey Community College system at the Cambridge Campus in Cambridge, MN, assigns a Service Learning project to his Ethics courses. Because of the relationship he has with Will, one option students have is to complete the civic engagement portion of their Service Learning project by spending a long weekend (Thursday evening to Sunday noon) at the Will Steger Wilderness Center where they do a variety of manual jobs ranging from brushing, making wood, quarrying rock, gardening, working in the wood shop, and general maintenance. Usually between 10 and 20 students take advantage of this opportunity every semester. The college provides the transportation, all participants chip in for food, and the students provide strong backs and a good work ethic.
The relationship with Will Steger and his Center has been a fabulous asset to Anoka Ramsey Community College where Wahlstram teaches, and is a source of potent development for him, as an educator and concerned citizen.
Over the last 6 years, an estimated 200 students from Anoka Ramsey have been introduced to the Will Steger Wilderness Center through the Service Learning project and all of them report being dramatically affected by this experience.
A combination of working as a team in a wilderness setting, being actively involved in the progress of the Center, and having Will as their mentor, fosters the kind of inspiration that makes the idealism so natural to their age come alive. Students come away caring more and desiring to be a part of the solutions to our environmental problems. Wahlstrom observes this quiet transformation every time he brings students to the Will Steger Wilderness Center and considers it the best part of his job. Many students come back to the Center on their own and the very dedicated have earned positions as summer interns.
From an academic perspective, students are able to use their volunteer work experience to inform a deeper understanding of the different ethical theories they learn in the classroom. It is also an opportunity for students to reflect on the importance of volunteerism for the sake of improving human society; for many it is the beginning of their volunteer career. Lastly, students gain a profound insight into process and promise of living sustainability.
Peter Wahlstrom, Instructor — Philosophy/Humanities. Wahlstrom is also the advisor for the campus Environmental Club (e-club), whose members typically join in on Service Learning trips to the Steger Wilderness Center. In the summer he teaches a Wilderness Challenge course for which students earn college credit by partaking in a week long trip into the BWCAW.
To learn more about Wahlstrom’s program, visit Anoka Ramsey Community College.