Toms F. Summers Sandoval, a Pomona College joint professor of History and Chicano/Latino Studies, is now the first Faculty Coordinator for the Draper Center for Community Partnerships.
The Draper Center, inaugurated in October following the receipt of an endowment from alumnus Ranney Draper PO ’60 and his family, helps connect students with community service opportunities. In his new role, Summers Sandoval will work directly with faculty to integrate service-learning projects into classrooms.
“My job is to help foster a discussion about the possibilities of service learning,” Summers Sandoval said. “We’re trying to connect faculty to the kinds of resources they need to design community engagement opportunities for their students.”
Summers Sandoval came to Pomona in 2006 from California State University at Monterey Bay. “We’re really excited to be adding Toms as Faculty Coordinator,” said Maria Tucker, Director of the Draper Center. “I feel like he has a really good sense of the meaningfulness of community work within the context of higher education.”
Summers Sandoval said he sees the position as an opportunity to expand the initiatives he has long advocated as a professor.
“I’ve been working on linkages between higher education and local communities for my entire professional career,” he said.
For the past 15 years, Summers Sandoval has worked to develop courses with service learning and educational outreach components, forming policies to make service part of tenure review processes.
“Students [should] learn about the real world, outside of books,” Summers Sandoval said. “It’s about civics: learning what it means to be a responsible, educated citizen in the world.”
Summers Sandoval will work mostly with faculty, but his role will “revolve around students as well,” he said.
“The Draper Center aims to create academically grounded opportunities for students to experience mutually beneficial exchange with community members and organizations….As opposed to the old model of volunteerism and charity,” he said.
While the Faculty Coordinator position is a new position, the classroom-community relationships it aims to foster have been around for some time. Many professors, including politics professsor Rick Worthington, sociology and Chicano/Latino studies professor Gilda Ochoa, mathematics professor Ami Radunskaya, and environmental analysis professor Char Miller, have taught courses that have community components to them, Summers Sandoval said.
“This is, in a lot of ways, the culmination of their work,” he said, referring to the inauguration of the Draper Center last fall.
In his new position, Summers Sandoval hopes to maintain the breadth of community-concious professors from a variety of disciplines.
“Often the most dynamic examples of service learning or applied, course-based community engagement are from the sciences, mathematics, or just about any discipline you can imagine,” Summers Sandoval said.
Coming from the academic world, Summers Sandoval brings a new perspective to the Draper Center, Tucker said.
“He looks at this with a different lens,” she said.
One of the Faculty Coordinator’s tasks, Tucker said, will be to help identify courses that feature a community-based component and compile them for students in an accessible way. Summers Sandoval will work with others in the Draper Center to create independent studies with service learning features, and to provide students with the opportunity to add a community-based component to any class, earning an extra half credit for their work.
Summers Sandoval is quickly getting to work. The Draper Center will host faculty seminars over the next few weeks to discuss the idea of having a special designation for courses that utilize community engagement opportunities.
When asked about the required service programs some colleges have implemented, such as those of Tulane University, Summers Sandoval said he would love to “start having that conversation,” but said Pomona is not at that stage yet.
“It’s a cart before the horse kind of thing,” Summers Sandoval said. “What we are working on now is getting the foundation set and asking ourselves, ‘What is course-based community service? What does it mean for professors, students, and the campus?’”
As Faculty Coordinator, Summers Sandoval hopes to stimulate this kind of dialogue and to bring together members of the college community and local community.
“We come to this table as something of equals, and that’s the way service learning ideally happens,” Summers Sandoval said. “It’s an opportunity for both sides to gain.”