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BIO 184: General Genetics

Course Spotlight, August 2010

service learning student with Project R.I.D.E. youth.

For Sacramento State instructors of General Genetics (BIO 184), understanding the dynamics of different genetic disorders and phenotypes goes beyond what students can learn from a textbook.  Through a Service Learning collaboration first initiated by Sacramento State Professor Ruth Ballard, Ph.D., genetics students learn to understand the real life manifestations of genetic conditions that affect human development.

According to Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Brett Holland, Ph.D., "a fundamental goal of all university education is to develop the ability to self‐educate, long after the technical facts of our formal education have faded." In Holland's BIO 184 course, students learn through communication, technical skills, collaboration, and empirical science, and are able to better expand knowledge of and apply course concepts through mutually beneficial service in the community.

Most BIO 184 students engage in service at Project R.I.D.E., a non-profit organization in Elk Grove that provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities including Down's syndrome, Visual Impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, Paraplegics, Developmental Delays, Cerebral Palsy, Blindness, Hearing Impairments, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Angelman's Syndrome, and Mental Retardation.  BIO 184 students assist Project R.I.D.E in obtaining the improvement of a rider's physical, mental, social and emotional well-being through interaction with specially trained horses and ponies.

Beyond resume-boosting direct-service exposure for students interested in pursuing future health professions, Professor Thomas Peavy, Ph.D., finds that this project has given his students overall a different outlook on children who face many challenges because of genetic disorders. His students have reflected in their project journals that they have learned how to better work with all people—not only individuals with disabilities.

"Many students in the hard sciences can be somewhat indifferent to the real-life implications of what we study,” explains senior microbiology major Cedric Steven Irving.  “By providing us the opportunity to witness first-hand, the real human beings and families that are touched was absolutely invaluable.  Until having personal experiences like Project R.I.D.E., disorders and syndromes are not much more than another chapter in a textbook.”

Contributed in part by KT. Aquino


Each year, more than two thousand Sacramento State students, faculty, staff, and alumni participate in programs and projects sponsored by Community Engagement Center. Programs such as Alternative Break, AmeriCorps Students in Service, Sac State Serves, and Service Learning fulfill our mission to facilitate learning and engagement by linking campus and community for mutual benefit. Through Spotlight, Community Engagement Center will highlight outstanding individuals and programs advancing community engagement in the Sacramento region.

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last updated: 7/12/2011