University of Hartford
Overview of Curriculum Innovation
The University of Hartford RN to BSN and MSN students participate in Project Horizon, a service learning experience, for 1 day a week during their senior year. Project Horizon was developed over 20 years ago by nursing faculty at the University of Hartford in response to community needs in nearby Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford is one of the poorest urban areas in the United States with 32.9% of the population below the poverty line. (U.S. Census Quick Facts, Hartford, Conn. accessed May 7, 2013). All students who participate in Project Horizon are registered nurses who are students in either the RN to BSN program or the MSN program in public health nursing or nursing education. Project Horizon is based on the internship model described by Switzer and King (2009). In this model students are encouraged to understand not only the phases of learning inherent in the internship experience, but also to develop self-understanding as they participate in this experience. (Switzer, F.H.and King, M., 2009, p 13). Consistent with this model, the Project Horizon experience is organized into a day-long 3 credit didactic class and a 3 credit service learning experience. After a careful orientation that includes principles of safety, training in communication, and cultural awareness students are introduced to the service learning sites. Students spend either the morning or early evening hours at these sites that include a soup kitchen, urban school, senior center, homeless shelter or boys/girls club. The didactic portion of the class is held mid-day. An important feature of Project Horizon is the level of clinical supervision that is offered during the service learning. Carefully selected adjunct clinical instructors visit the clinical facilities weekly during the first semester and biweekly during the second semester. This level of clinical guidance provides a solid basis of support for both the facility and the student. Evaluation of the experience is based on the principles of participatory action research (Simonson, L.J. and Bushaw, V.A. , 1993). In this model the agency and the community are active participants in evaluation of the student and the project. On June 12, 2013, Project Horizon will receive the first-ever Campus-Community Partnership Award from the Connecticut Campus Compact. The Campus-Community Partnership Award recognizes an outstanding campus-community partnership that is built and sustained on strong principles of equity, trust and respect. The purpose of the award is to honor partnerships that have successfully demonstrated the true value of collaboration between higher education and its identified communities. This award drives the improvement of health outcomes by highlighting Project Horizon as exemplary in the collaboration between academia and public health. Follow the links below to learn more about this award and other publications about Project Horizon.
Simonson, L.J. and Bushaw, V.A., (1993). Participatory action research: easier said than done. The American Sociologist. 24:1, 27-34.
Karen Breda, Ph.D.
University of Hartford