MAILED: Oct. 13, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- "It was a wonderful, exciting experience for me and our whole organization ... I enjoyed the students, the process and the outcome."
That's how Pam Golden, membership director of the Indian Waters Girl Scout Council in Eau Claire, summed up her work with a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire communication and journalism class. Susan Hafen, professor of communication and journalism, arranged for her Comm 451 students to lead focus groups to help the organization identify ways to improve its programming.
Focus groups looked at cultural diversity within the Girl Scout Council. For example, three of the student-led focus groups involved questioning Hmong families about their thoughts regarding the organization.
Students found that most Hmong families thought Girl Scouts were "girls in the woods," Hafen said. The discussions got Hmong families interested in the organization. Since the focus groups, 19 Hmong families have attended Girl Scouts functions, Golden said. The Girl Scout Council received a grant to fund ongoing efforts to bring Hmong culture into the organization.
"The students learned what it felt like to be an 'other,' so to speak," Golden said. "They helped diversify the Girl Scouts, but they too were taught about cultural diversity."
Another change Hafen's students brought about was leadership training, Golden said. In four of the focus groups, students explored how Scout leaders felt about cultural diversity within the organization. Many of the leaders didn't know how to teach cultural diversity, Hafen said.
"The focus groups have greatly influenced our planning for troop leaders in terms of diversity planning and training," Golden said. "When we train them, we will teach them about cultural diversity. The students opened our eyes to a lot of issues, and they helped us learn about our own organization."
Deborah Anderson, one of Hafen's students, worked with the leaders' group. "I thought it was worthwhile," she said. "Diversity is important, and the Girl Scouts organization here didn't seem very diverse. I think everyone involved grew from the experience."
"I would encourage the university to partner up with the community like this again in the future," Golden said. "They really helped our organization, and other projects could significantly help other organizations."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Oct. 13, 1997