Today@Sam - SHSU Campus News Online Sam Houston State University Seal
In the News
SHSU Homepage

SHSU Experts
SHSU Stats
Sam the Man
SHSU History
Austin Hall

Heritage Magazine
Huntsville Item
The Houstonian
Gov. Links
Useful Links
Theater & Dance
SHSU Athletics
Rec. Sports
Request Info
General Info
Then & Now
The President
Public Relations
Post Office
Search SHSU

ADP Service Spotlight for December

Thomas Shulte and Corliss Lentz
Grad student Thomas Shulte and faculty member Corliss Lentz look over one of Shulte's current projects. Shulte was impressed by the sincere gratitude he received from those he helped during a hurricane relief effort.
As Corliss Lentz prepared to meet her Political Science 393 class for the first time in late August 2005, Tropical Depression 12 was a 30 knot squall over the Central Bahamas. It was of little interest to anyone other than a few optimistic Weather Channel storm chasers.

Less than a week later it was Hurricane Katrina, roaring across Florida and slamming into the New Orleans area. It threw the Gulf Coast into turmoil, and the entire country as well, creating a disaster from which we are yet to fully recover.

Half of Lentz's 42 students, most of whom had never heard the term "service learning" and many who were appalled that it was something they were being asked to do, would end up working with the Louisiana refugees.

Lentz, associate professor of political science, has been teaching the social policy class since 1997. Four years ago she added the 20 hours of volunteer work requirement, as well as a paper on what the students learned from it and a class presentation.

The paper and the presentation are what made the service "service learning."

"You should see their faces on the first day of class when I explain to them what they have to do," said Lentz.

She admits it was not an original idea as other universities have used the concept longer. Now the American Democracy Project at SHSU is encouraging faculty members to make it a part of their classes when practical.

Lentz's reasoning: "Most of our students have had little exposure to the poor, and are therefore unsympathetic. They may know that 15 percent of the population is in poverty, but they have absolutely no sense of what this means."

Faculty members who make service and reflection on it a part of their courses are enthusiastic about its benefits. Students who have done it are downright effusive when they talk about what it has done for them as well as those they help.

Casi Countz remembers working with a first grader from New Orleans who was behind in learning to read. He was reclusive at first. When she discovered that he liked the cartoon "The Fox and the Hound," and found him a book about a puppy to read together, he opened up.

"Adjusting to his needs and taking the time to win him over is something that I would have never done before this assignment," she wrote.

The experience also broadened her perspective.

"I realized that the people that I wanted to help, who had made me nervous and even a little scared, are just like me. They have just fallen on hard times or need help in areas that I am good in, that's all, and there is no reason to put off helping them any more."

Lentz's students were as lucky in their opportunities for service last fall as the people of Texas and Louisiana were unlucky in being hit by two storms. Thomas Schulte worked in a Red Cross shelter during Hurricane Rita.

"I was able to overcome any apprehension that I felt prior to my service and left the project with an incredible experience, a new sense of self-worth, and a greater understanding of the concept of service learning," wrote Schulte.

"It was amazing to experience the feeling of seeing the looks on these people's faces and the sincerity in their voices when they thanked me for doing something as simple as setting up a cot or handing out a warm meal."

Jerry Cornwall has a more global perspective, after working for the United Nations Children's Fund, also known as UNICEF.

"In the past I always asked myself why the United States is always helping people in Third World countries," he wrote, "when we have so many people here in the United States that need help.

"I realize that there are children here in the United States that live in horrible circumstances and those children are helped by our welfare programs and by UNICEF since September, but on the whole the children of the United States are in a much better position than anywhere else in the world."

Laci Mayton helped with the YMCA's Partners of Youth program.

"Before volunteering," she wrote, "I had felt that I didn't care enough about the organization that I was volunteering for. After all that I did, however, I realize that I did not care before, but once I met the people and got involved, I did."

Paul Cassidy worked with the Huntsville school district's Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, coming to believe that he should share his "knowledge and wealth."

"The knowledge I possess is due to my education," he wrote. "The wealth comes from the education and the opportunities that it will provide. Learning through service is a necessary occurrence in order for society to grow."

Joe Reagey, who worked with the Good Shepherd Mission in Huntsville, summed it up this way:

"The service learning project was the most meaningful assignment I have experienced at Sam Houston State University."


SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Dec. 6, 2006
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to

This page maintained by SHSU's Office of Public Relations
Director: Frank Krystyniak
Assistant Director: Julia May
Writer: Jennifer Gauntt
Located in the 115 Administration Building
Telephone: 936.294.1836; Fax: 936.294.1834