by Sofia Tokar
As part of their labor economics class, Daniel Mowery ’13 and Cody Kloepfel ’13 studied migration and migrant populations. But it was the service-learning component of their course that afforded them a real-world education on the subject.
The opportunity arose when Joseph DaBoll-Lavoie, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and chair of undergraduate programs in the School of Management, saw a note from a fellow Nazareth professor about the Somali Community of Western New York, an agency serving the Rochester, N.Y., area’s Somali community and refugees from all over the world.
“Because migration is a major topic that we address in the course, I offered Dan and Cody the option to contact the group to see if they could help in any way,” explains DaBoll-Lavoie.
Somali refugees who accept the agency’s aid agree to complete a certain number of hours at the center on different topics, from English language courses to computer literacy classes. The latter requires a computer lab.
Enter Mowery and Kloepfel, two information technology majors. They met with the Somalis at the refugee center to assess their IT needs, which included the basic equipment to create a computer network. The students then reached out to Nazareth’s information technology services department to see if the College could assist them and the refugee community.
“We donated six desktop computers, 10 monitors, a network switch, and peripherals such as power strips and mice,” explains Karen Kuppinger, director of ITS. “While the equipment can no longer run the software in the campus computer labs, it still functions enough to meet the refugees’ needs.” Mowery and Kloepfel ensured all the necessary paperwork was completed for the donation.
Cody Kloepfel '13 (standing) and Daniel Mowery '13 (far right) used their IT skills to set up a computer network for the Somali Community of Western New York.
“It took a month to plan out, build, and install,” says Kloepfel. “We were in the walls and ceilings setting up the network, configuring the equipment, and then installing the software.” And the students’ work with the community is just beginning: Mowery and Kloepfel want to learn more about the Somali community while also using their IT skills, and the community needs a website, web-based training materials, and the ability to communicate with family abroad.
The School of Management is enabling that partnership. “Cody and Dan will continue to work with the Somali refugees in the spring semester and get credit as a service-learning independent study course,” says Deborah LaBelle, Ph.D., associate professor of the information technology program.
“It’s a two-way collaboration,” explains LaBelle. “The students learn about the Somali community and the Somali community learns about Dan and Cody—all while working together toward common goals.”
“We’re learning a lot and giving back to the community at the same time,” says Mowery. “It’s really what a Nazareth education is all about.”
- Read more about the School of Management at naz.edu/som.
Sofia Tokar is the assistant editor in Nazareth's marketing department.