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Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Robert L. Osgood

2007 Thomas Ehrlich Award for Excellence in Service Learning -- Founders Day 2007

Associate Professor
School of Education
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Appointed to IU faculty, 1994
B.A., University of Oregon, 1976
M.Ed., University of Vermont, 1982
Ph.D., Claremont Graduate School, 1989

The kinds of service-learning projects that Robert Osgood's students participate in don't just fulfill requirements and look good on resumes—they change lives. Take the ones who participate in School on Wheels, for example. Each year, more than 50 IUPUI education students volunteer at the Indianapolis nonprofit organization that provides tutoring services to children living in homeless shelters.

Here is how one of Osgood's students reflected on the experience: "I was expecting the children at the School on Wheels sites to be sad and miserable and have a look of total helplessness and despair, but I was inspired by how optimistic and sure of their futures these children were. I started realizing that if these children can still be excited about life and going to college some day while they are sharing a room with their mother and four siblings, then maybe I need to look a little deeper into my life and start worrying about the important things and not the trivial."

Such insights are exactly what Osgood hopes his students will gain from a service-learning experience. Since arriving at IUPUI in 1994, he has taught dozens of courses—and without exception, they have all included some aspect of service learning as either a course requirement, course assignment option, or feature of course content. Osgood, who is chair of graduate studies in the School of Education, was the first IUPUI faculty member to develop a series of classes to involve students in a service-learning program of studies. The most recent class he created, F200 Invitation to Teaching, is designed for first-year IUPUI students who are considering teaching careers, and it requires them to perform a minimum of 12 hours of service learning. Currently, more than 90 students are enrolled and engaged in service learning at more than 20 Indianapolis locations. Says Osgood about his passion for service learning, "I have included service learning in all my teaching for two fundamental reasons: it enhances the student learning experience to a remarkable degree, and it facilitates my ability to connect the School of Education with community service agencies of all kinds in meaningful ways."

Indeed. His students—preservice or inservice teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels—have not only volunteered in public and private schools in the region, but have participated in service-learning projects at agencies such as the Hispanic Education Center, Girls Inc., Hawthorne Community Center, School on Wheels, the Julian Center, Indy Parks, and the Indianapolis Police Department.

Osgood and his students make a lasting impression. "The volunteers we have received from the IUPUI School of Education have been of the highest caliber of any volunteers we have had in our four-year history," writes Carrie Copeland Murphy, program manager for School on Wheels. "Dr. Osgood's support of School on Wheels allows us to meet the needs of many Indianapolis homeless children. His compassion and care extend to his students and allow them to use those qualities to enhance the education of homeless children."

Not even a language barrier can stop Osgood's work. In 2005, he traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to help develop cultural immersion service-learning opportunities for IUPUI students. Despite being far from fluent in Spanish, Osgood was instrumental in establishing two partnerships with local schools and currently oversees the program for IUPUI education students. The program's first participants have only the highest praise for Osgood. "While in Mexico, Dr. Osgood oversaw our service learning at a rural elementary school," write J. Mark Roberts and Jessica J. Raynor. "He demonstrated the importance of reflective practices through teaching English to elementary students. His passion and dedication were both uplifting and inspiring to us as future educators."

Perhaps one of Osgood's closest colleagues, Khaula Murtadha, executive associate dean of the School of Education at IUPUI, describes his influence best. "Professor Osgood's work strongly reflects the mission of the School of Education at IUPUI, impacting the educational outcomes of children in this city and the larger community through proactive research, teaching, and service," she says.