Campus News

Inaugural Service-Learning Senior Scholars put their knowledge to use across campus

The inaugural class of Service-Learning Senior Scholars, funded through a leadership development grant from the Office of Service-Learning, is aiming to enhance and expand service-learning across campus. In the program, four faculty members each designed a proposal to bolster service-learning institution-wide.

The program is a year-long faculty leadership program that provides opportunities for selected faculty to work on targeted initiatives to enhance and expand service-learning on campus and abroad.

The Senior Scholars serve as members of the office’s leadership team, leading OSL projects in three areas: curricular initiatives, global initiatives and faculty

“This kind of faculty leadership extends the reach of our office and the scope of work we can accomplish, said Shannon Wilder, the director and only full-time staff member in the Office of Service-Learning. “Our Senior Scholars are recognized leaders in service-learning within their departments and units and are now applying their experience to projects that benefit the campus as a whole.” 

So what is service-learning? It’s a philosophy and methodology that uses skills from the classroom to address or solve needs within a community, usually in collaboration with community partners.

During the process students learn how their service makes a difference in themselves and in the lives of the service recipients.“There’s been a quite understandable feeling of concern that service-learning is maybe just a backwards way to get out of teaching or give students credit for something they don’t really deserve,” said Paul Matthews, assistant director and outreach coordinator at the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education and the Senior Scholar for faculty development. “So part of the advantage of having an Office of Service-Learning and having more people involved is to document that there is learning as a part of service-learning and that it does have a strong relationship to skills and competencies that we want our student to be acquiring.”

Matthews is trying to work campus-wide to provide resources for faculty interested in service-learning. For example, he wants to ensure that Web and human resources are readily available for faculty who don’t know how to incorporate service projects into their courses.

Matthews, along with Su-I Hou, Pratt Cassity and David Berle, make up the inaugural class of Senior Scholars.

Hou, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Senior Scholar for curricular initiatives, has practiced service-learning in her own courses for years. It can take time to plan service-based activities, she said, but the benefits to students surpass planning time.

David Berle, associate professor of horticulture and Senior Scholar for curricular initiatives, is also trying to gather more information about service-learning on campus. Many faculty are already using service components in the classroom, but may not be aware of it, he said.

Pratt Cassity, director of the Center for Community Design, Planning and Preservation in the College of Environment and Design and Senior Scholar for global initiatives, is designing ways to incorporate service-learning into the university’s already-strong study-abroad programs.

For interested faculty, applications for next year’s Service-Learning Senior Scholars will be available April 10, and are due in early May.