ALMA — Carla Jensen, director of experiential learning, and Benjamin Peterson, lecturer of political science and history, will co-direct the Alma College’s Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE).
Launched in 2021, the 3CE creates collaborative opportunities between the college and greater Alma area. Initiatives and activities that work through the center include community-engaged courses, service-learning opportunities, faculty and staff engagement and training, community partnerships, and curricular programming that promote ethical reflection and responsible leadership.
“Carla Jensen has worked with the 3CE since its inception, helping to form it into a critical component of our institution,” Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said. “I am pleased she has signed on to take this new role with Ben Peterson, a member of our faculty who works diligently every day to entwine our curriculum with the greater Alma area. I am confident that theirs will be a successful partnership, to the betterment of our students, college, and community.”
Since joining the staff of Alma College in 2013, Jensen has served in a variety of roles that connect students with opportunities locally and throughout the world. As the director of experiential learning, Jensen leads the Alma Venture program, serves as staff advisor to the Alternative Breaks student organization, and supports the AmeriCorps VISTA program, among other responsibilities.
Jensen helped launch the 3CE with Andrew Pomerville ’01, who was recently announced as the new president of Louisville (Ky.) Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
“I’m excited to step into this new role and continue the positive momentum that has been building since the beginning of the 3CE,” Jensen said. “From what we’ve been able to glean from early data, students who have been involved with the 3CE have had extremely positive experiences in a number of areas. Student testimonials demonstrate how these experiences impact their personal development, career exploration, and civic engagement – and we see those types of opportunities for student development growing as we move forward.”
Peterson has taught courses in political science, history, honors and first-year seminar at Alma College since 2018. Many of his classes involved community partnerships, including a public policy class that advised the city of Alma on a recent transit expansion. Locally, he is known for organizing the Michigan Humanities Council-funded “Three Nights at the Opera” events in 2021 that brought the community to the Wright-Leppien Opera House for recreations of historical performances.
More recently, Peterson coordinated “The PBB Disaster at 50” conference — also funded by the Michigan Humanities Council — that brought more than 200 community members, artists, activists and scholars together. After the conference, he received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop curriculum and a documentary based on the disaster.
Peterson also leads an oral history project funded by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, which uses interviews with alumni to tell the story of Alma College.
“Working with the 3CE is a dream come true,” Peterson said. “Community-engaged learning is the future of small, liberal arts colleges like Alma College. My hope is that every student here will use their education to benefit our community in some way. In doing so, students see the value of their educations and the positive difference that they can make in the world. This discovery is a fantastic example of the transformative education that Alma College offers, and I am deeply honored to be a part of it.”