Thursday, April 10, 2008
After 11 years of shaping CSUMB’s Service Learning Institute into a national model, Seth Pollack will help confront an international epidemic. As a Fulbright Scholar, Pollack will work with South African academics using a service learning curriculum to improve HIV/AIDS prevention.
“I’m not going over there with the answers to how to solve the problems,” Pollack says. “The answers are in those townships. The answers are in those communities, and we as universities just need to learn to listen a little bit better.”
Starting in July, Pollack will focus on HIV prevention at the University of Western Cape. For the second half of the yearlong Fulbright program he’ll address economic development issues at the University of Cape Town. Pollack’s research will focus on determining what skills and attitudes it will take to create multi-cultural community builders in post-apartheid higher education.
The move means Pollack will be reconnecting with African roots he laid down as a Peace Corps volunteer, spending five years helping women’s groups in Mali with conservation and economic empowerment. Afterwards Pollack traveled to countries such as Nepal, India and Honduras to coordinate the filming of The Quiet Revolution, a documentary series about environmental and economic sustainability, which aired on PBS in 1993.
In 1997 Pollack became CSUMB’s first faculty director of service learning. Now, with its 1,800 service learners a year, the institute has led a revitalization effort in Salinas’ historic Chinatown and has helped restore native habitat in the watersheds of Natividad Creek Park.
“(The park) was naked,” Pollack says. “Now it’s this community institution that has grown as a result of 13 years of tender loving partnerships between the university and organizations and schools and families of East Salinas.”
Pollack hopes to help build similar partnerships in South African universities. He also wants to revisit Mali with his family. “After doing this work for 11 years I feel like I want reconnect with the international work I’ve done in the past.”