Septic Systems, Wind Power, and Bike Trails: Service Learning for Social Justice

Posted on January 25th, 2005 by

Last semester, Gustavus Adolphus College students worked with Nicollet County, St. Peter, and College officials to analyze several proposed projects that may soon impact the St. Peter and Mankato area. The projects, a service learning component of Michael Klimesh’s cost accounting class, looked at topics from septic systems to bike trails to wind power. The students, all juniors and seniors, worked closely with experts to determine possible financing, feasibility, and overall benefits of the projects.

The Gustavus students worked with Nicollet County officials to affordably address health and water quality issues created by faulty and decaying rural septic systems. The students developed a self-sustaining, revolving-loan fund to aid in the replacement of deteriorating systems for individual property owners with a workable loan plan. For this project, the students assessed the operational costs for the program; and with the help of professionals, determined the budget needed to make such a program successful. The result of the project will be used to seek funding necessary to initiate the program.

The students also worked with the City of St. Peter on the continued planning of a bike path to link existing St. Peter trails to the Sakatah Trail, and with college officials to evaluate the costs and benefits of wind power for the Gustavus campus looking at both the cost of the technology involved as well as the projected costs of electricity in the future.

The cumulative results from each project were submitted to the client at the semester’s end, in the middle of December.

“It is important to move students beyond the textbook through service learning projects,” said Klimesh. He thinks service learning is important not only for the community but for the students as well, and it should be incorporated whenever courses allow.

Reegan Rehm, a senior from Park Rapids, Minnesota agrees, “the ability to work with outside sources and the hands-on experience allows you to grasp the concepts in a way that a classroom can not provide. Start to the finish the project was in our hands. We researched information through city and county officials, but then took that information and used it to create the end result.”
The students’ city and county partners praise the students’ efforts as well.

“This is a very positive partnership that hopefully will continue,” said Pam Rivers, Nicollet County water plan coordinator. “The students bring fresh ideas, skills, and enthusiasm to complete the project.”

“These projects,” Klimesh said, “are examples of ventures that are mutually beneficial for Gustavus students and the surrounding communities.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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