The community-based learning program at Portland State hired a new director, Kevin Kecskes. The community learning program is in the Center for Academic Excellence and they work with faculty, the administration and student body by bridging the community outside of campus with the university. Programs like the Capstone Projects are an example of what the community-based learning has to offer students.
“My job is to help PSU, which is a national leader, continue to do what it does best … and that is let knowledge serve the city,” Kecskes said. Kecskes firmly believes that PSU is a leader in community-based learning because as an institution it values, as indicated by the campus motto, engagement at a variety of levels. “A question I have is how well that message is known in the student body, in the larger faculty body and in Portland”.
Kecskes started working with the community in high school and realized early on that he was learning an enormous amount in both in and outside the classroom. He has a vast history of community service and education leadership.
Keckes attended Boston College for his bachelor’s degree in biology and philosophy and Harvard graduate school of education. Kecskes also brings experience to PSU, he has been actively involved in the community, with a wide variety of community groups, for over 22 years and roughly half of that time has been international: living in the ghetto in Kingstown, Jamaica, living with peasants in Central America, working with the world health organization in shanty towns outside of Lima, Peru.
Kecskes understands learning happens everywhere and the importance of relationships between the community and university, “Taking your education from PSU and applying in a positive way is part of it, there is another part of it that is more subtle, that is equally powerful, and that is recognizing that education is happening all the time. Not just within the academic wall, but when you walk outside. Seeing the community as a text.”
It is Kecskes second week on the job and he finds himself “taking stock” there is a lot on the shelves, good work that has already been done, relationships that have been built with community and university. He wants to focus on “what we already do well and do it better by expanding it.” His plans are to help PSU by supporting the great work that is already been done. Kecskes wants to “do what we do, but do it better”.
Kevin is currently working with other faculty and the administration and hopes to work with students. “I would like to see students have a great education here, come out with responsibility, disciplinary and community roles and responsibility.” Kecskes believes that this can be achieved through community-based learning.