Field Service at the Clinton School requires students to work collaboratively with community leaders to understand, engage, and seek to transform complex systems. It resembles a graduate school fellowship while also requiring students to directly apply what they are learning in their Clinton School coursework. Clinton School students complete three field service projects as part of four required classes. For their projects, students complete discrete projects for their partners that support the organization's priorities in addressing systematic social change. Systemic social change is not direct service, such as working at a soup kitchen, but rather is working on addressing larger issues, such as helping improve policies or programs that fight hunger.
The Practicum includes two courses taken during the first year of the program. It concentrates on teaching students how to effectively plan and implement public service projects, work as a team and apply the Clinton School curriculum to the field. All Practicum projects are planned and implemented between September and April. They are located within a two-hour drive of Little Rock and require approximately 300 hours of time per student to complete.
The International Public Service Project (IPSP) is typically completed outside of the United States and requires the students to work full-time with a community organization for at least 10 weeks. Most students complete their IPSP in the summer. The IPSP provides students the opportunity to experience public service well outside their previous acquaintance, stretching their boundaries of existing knowledge and skills. The projects also allow students to participate in the daily activities of a public service agency, serving as a member of the agency staff.
The Capstone is the culminating field service course and can be completed anywhere in the world. Students are required to spend at least 250 hours on their Capstone project. Students being their Capstone projects at various times throughout the year depending on their course load.
Clinton School students can work with any organization that addresses social change. This includes nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, foundations, coalitions and more. Students have worked with everything from start-ups to large multi-national corporations. They have worked with small nonprofits in the Arkansas Delta to small nonprofits in Tanzania.
A partner organization refers to any organization that is hosting a student’s field service project.
The OCE Director of Local Programs and Regional Outreach, in consultation with the Faculty Director and other faculty members, chooses Local and Regional Practicum Partners. The students choose their International Public Service Project in consultation with OCE Director of International Programs. Students choose their Capstone projects in consultation with their individual faculty advisors. Requests for Practicum Project proposals from potential partners are generally due in late March. The OCE staff finalizes decisions regarding Practicum Partners for the coming academic year (Fall-Spring) in late Spring or early Summer. Organizations can submit ideas for International and Capstone projects at any time. The earlier that project ideas are presented to students, the more likely they will be filled.
In their Clinton School classes, students learn about facilitation methods, conducting needs assessments, researching best practices, program development, logic models, designing and conducting surveys, interviews, and focus groups to collect information, and program evaluation. In their electives, students can learn about designing strategic plans, writing grants, GIS mapping, funding public initiatives and much more.
This is the person to whom the students are accountable at the organization hosting their project. While the students can and should work with many people at the partner organization, the project supervisor is the point person. They provide support and mentorship, meet regularly with the students, and fill out the students' evaluations at the end of the project.
According to feedback from previous supervisors, a successful supervisor should schedule 3-5 hours a week to support a project. Practicum projects usually require the most attention.
Students are graded on both the quality and professionalism of their project work and the quality of their course assignments in which they apply what they are learning to their projects. Final grades are informed by information obtained from project supervisors and other community members with whom the students worked.
The most important resource is a supervisor, who is available and to whom the students are accountable. We encourage regular meetings with the students to check on progress and provide support. Other resources could include office space, office supplies, project supplies, project travel, trainings and financial support. Some Capstone partners provide small stipends or an hourly wage to students but it is not required. The school also asks that partners provide an orientation to the project, organization and the community.
The Clinton School offers faculty and staff support:
Christina Standerfer, Faculty Director of the Office of Community Engagement (OCE), provides academic oversight of the Practicum and International Public Service Project (IPSP) experiences
Hilary Trudell, OCE Director of Local Programs and Regional Outreach, teaches the Practicum class, mentoring students through their first, team-based field experience at the Clinton School; works with any state or national organization interested in proposing a field project to the school; and manages the relationships with the organizations and project supervisors
Tiffany Jacob, OCE Director of international programs, develops and facilitates workshops and video modules to prepare students for the IPSP experience; works with international organizations to develop field placement opportunities overseas; and manages project logistics
Field service graduate assistants help support students as they complete their fieldwork.
For Practicum projects, the Clinton School provides some travel reimbursement and other small funding requests as necessary for the success of the team projects.
For IPSP, the Clinton School provides the students with a stipend that helps cover their travel and living expenses for their 8-10 week project.
Clinton School students are not currently trained in their core classes to manage the entire strategic planning process although they are taught components such as researching best practices; writing missions, visions, goals and outcomes; and conducting SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analyses.
While students can assist start-up organizations, they cannot complete the paperwork required for organizations to obtain their 501 statuses. The students can help gather and create the information required such as action plans.
Clinton School students are prohibited from undertaking field service projects in countries that do not have a U.S. embassy or consulate. Additional countries may be prohibited as needed, depending on State Department travel warnings.
Our students are unable to serve as lobbyists. However, they can help with advocacy, building community support and buy-in, and writing policy pieces.
We regularly post information about our projects on our website and through the Clinton School blog. In fact, the students are required to write a press release about each of their projects. Below is a list of projects from the past 8 years that represent the diversity and quality of projects Clinton School students work on:
SNAP Outreach to Arkansas Populations (Little Rock, Ark.) – A student worked with organizations both in and outside of Arkansas to inform the Department of Human Services about best practices to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Green Valley Development (St. Louis, Mo.) – A student worked with the staff of Green Valley Development to formalize a strategic planning document, a board orientation packet and organizational marketing materials.
Arkansas Baptist College (Little Rock, Ark.) – A team of students worked with the Arkansas Baptist College president and staff to document the school's community revitalization model. The handbook created was given to attendees of the Neighborhood's USA Conference.
Arkansas Governor's Office, Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign (Little Rock, Ark.) - To help improve the status of hungry children in Arkansas, a team of students interviewed food banks and surveyed more than 1,000 feeding programs to learn where children currently receive food on nights and weekends. They collected basic information on these programs' operations and impact and produced a set of tools to help the campaign connect with, learn from and support these efforts.
Chemonics International (Mongolia) – A student worked to help improve economic development in the country by partnering with an organization coalition to improve the company registration process in Mongolia. This was done by conducting best practices research, making recommendations for changes and creating buy-in from key stakeholders.
Phillips Community College University of Arkansas (Helena, Ark.) – A team of students developed a structure for the college to enact a small-group dialogue-to-action project addressing the issue of race. They created a curriculum and a facilitator's training manual for community conversations on race tailored to the needs of the college.
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.