Academic Service-Learning

Academic Service-Learning is a pedagogy based on the principles of experiential education, which integrates community service with academic study. Faculty, in collaboration with representatives from community organizations, design service projects that enhance student learning and help meet community needs. Through structured reflection, students consider relationships between the service experience, the academic content of the class, and its impact on their personal values and professional goals.

Although definitions of Service-Learning vary slightly and are dependent on curriculum content, they all share some essential components:

  • Community as LIVE TEXT: Students learn and develop through active participation in organized service that meets community needs and is a coordinated effort between the community agency and the university
  • INTENTIONAL linked to academic content: Service activities are connected to classroom learning outcomes, enriching the quality of the students’ learning experience rather than adding to or removing from pre-determined curricular content
  • TRANSFORMATIONAL: Learning includes structured time for reflection on the experience and integration of lessons learned to academic and professional development

Types of Academic Service-Learning:

Direct Service: These activities involve students working alongside community members to produce desired outcomes.

Examples: students in an English course work with residents of a nursing home to create oral histories; students in a nutrition course create a community garden with local residents; accounting students help community members fill out their tax forms

Indirect Service: These activities usually happen away from the community site; however students meet with community members to assess needs and get feedback on the product being developed.

Examples: students in a language course write children’s books in Spanish to be donated to hospitalized Latino children; students in a journalism course develop communication materials to be used by non-profit agencies; students in a geology course conduct a greenhouse gas emission inventory for their campus

Advocacy: These activities involve students working to raise awareness about particular issues, or seeking support to help address a particular community problem.

Examples: students in a civic literacy course make a presentation to City Council in support of a specific policy; students in a nursing course launch a PR campaign about a health issue; students in an environmental studies course write a newspaper article about environmentally-friendly actions that help lower pollution at a local natural resource.

Co-Curricular Service-Learning

Co-Curricular Service-Learning is distinguished from Academic Service-Learning in that it is not connected to a specific course or discipline; it encompasses a variety of opportunities for participation in volunteer activities. With the goal of promoting student development, programs in this category utilize structured reflection to encourage students to learn about themselves and their communities while engaging in meaningful service experiences.

Faculty may mentor students outside the classroom by serving as advisers to service-related student organizations. To serve in any of these capacities, please contact us.

Want to get involved off-campus? See our list of current volunteer opportunities!