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Leslie Kaplan, PhD - Associate Director, Hicks Honors College

Dr. Leslie Kaplan earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from Tufts University, a master’s degree in English from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. She started teaching at UNF in 1999 and has also held some administrative positions in both the Writing Program and the Hicks Honors College. She is currently the Associate Director of the Hicks Honors College.  In 2010, Dr. Kaplan coordinated her first service-learning project for the Honors Program when she developed the Honors First Year Colloquium class, a required first year experience for all incoming Honors students. The class is an exploration of national identity and immigration, and includes a robust service experience in which all 170-200 students participate. Developed with the help of a team of undergraduate student facilitators, the students currently mentor refugee children, teach English to adults, coach soccer for kids, coordinate holiday events, collect and distribute jackets and soccer gear, raise funds, research the politics and cultures of the affected countries, map the community resources, raise public awareness, and document the project in a video. Additionally, at the conclusion of the experience, students complete a reflection assignment for the class which provides insight into their growth throughout the experience. 

Impressed with the impact on students, Dr. Kaplan now includes service-learning in all of her classes. In her class on food cultures, Dr. Kaplan’s students have documented a community garden, built permanent garden structures, taught nutrition education to elementary school students, written brochures for a local food-related nonprofit, and acted as volunteers at all Slow Food First Coast Tour de Farm events. Additionally, in her study abroad class to Athens, her students have learned enough Greek to solicit food donations at local supermarkets to support a food pantry!

As a community scholar, in addition to adding new elements to her classes, Dr. Kaplan is also conducting some research on the impact of her CBTL class on levels of empathy among students. She has already presented her work at the Southern Regional Honors Council annual meeting in 2014 and will present new findings at the National Collegiate Honors Council in 2017.