Experiential learning in public health undergraduate education is critical to teaching students the real-world application of the concepts and topics they learn in the classroom. This article discusses an example of a client-based service-learning course conducted over the past four years focusing on issues at the intersection of homeland security and emergency management. The authors describe the course content, the importance of participatory action research for community partner engagement, the application of experiential learning theory and specific skills strengthened for students, and how their activities fit a socioeconomic model’s dimensions. Results from four years of the course are summarized as it bridged institutional cultures of academia and community to provide an innovative learning opportunity that empowered and strengthened student knowledge and experience. 


Elizabeth A. Dunn

Elizabeth A. Dunn is an Instructor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health. She teaches undergraduate homeland security and emergency management courses and is pursuing her Doctorate in Public Health. Elizabeth takes a community-centered approach to disaster preparedness, focusing on building academic-practice partnerships. She uses the service-learning model to engage students in experiential learning opportunities. Elizabeth is a co-lead of FEMA's Higher Education Service-Learning and Leadership Special Interest Group. She focuses on building community resilience and evaluating disaster management systems working primarily with vulnerable populations.

Herman Joseph Bohn, Jr.

Herman Joseph Bohn, Jr. is an Assistant Professor and Director of Community Engagement at the University of Florida. His professional experiences include public health education, behavioral health advocacy, healthcare, logistics, and military sector civil service (U.S. Navy scenario planning and congressional affairs) and supporting emergency management scenarios in the local community during hurricane season. Herman's research interests include suicide prevention outreach, community engagement, behavioral health, and neighborhood revitalization. He earned a PhD. in Public Health from the University of Louisville.

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No. 2 Client-Based Service Learning: A Public Health Innovation for Strengthening Community Resilience