What is Service Learning?

By Cobe Wilson | Contributor

You’ve probably seen posters around campus or emails in your inbox mentioning service-learning. However, one question still remains prevalent on campus, “What is Service-Learning?” The Center for Service- Learning’s motto, “Serve. Learn. Succeed.” focuses on building relationships with the community by infusing academic course work with meaningful community projects. In line with the college mission statement advocating for excellence on scholarship and community engagement, as well as the CCGA mission which seeks to “prepare students for meaningful careers, advanced study and global participation by building necessary skills through student-centered programs,” service-learning is a great opportunity for students to enhance their college experience. The college vision statement aims to “provide an outstanding education for tomorrow’s leaders and citizens through service-learning, global awareness and engaged entrepreneurship.” 

With this vison in mind, the Center for Service-Learning combines course experience with a service project intended to reinforce academic knowledge, provide for civic learning, and facilitate personal growth. 

Service-Learning provides students the opportunity to discover hands-on skills that will help them be successful after graduation such as problem identification, teamwork, professional communication, planning, and overcoming challenges. Example projects include a nursing course providing health education to members of the community, and culinary students partnering with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank to create recipes utilizing ingredients that are not routinely used. These are only two, of the many, Service-Learning courses and project opportunities offered on our campus. 

It is often thought that service-learning is the same as volunteer work or community service, but that is not the case. Service- Learning is academic in foundation and course projects are specifically designed to connect community needs with real-world application of academic concepts and course outcomes. 

Students work closely with their faculty member, classmates and community partners to identify community needs and identify strategies and solutions together. This collaboration forms reciprocal relationships between faculty, students and community partners with each party benefiting from the service-learning experience. Often these relationships extend beyond the semester in which the service-learning projects take place. Service-learning students have received powerful letters of recommendation for future employment and some have gone on to obtain jobs with their community partner organizations after graduation. 

The Center for Service-Learning, located in Suite 112 of the Correll Center for Teacher Education and Learning, was established in October 2010 to promote and provide support for faculty, students and community partners engaging in service-learning activities. The Center for Service-Learning is lead by the Interim Director Dr. Kimberly Kinsey Mannahan and Assistant Director Cody Cocchi. Student assistants Shawn Knowles and Cobe Wilson are also valuable members of the team. Our various faculty members who instruct service-learning courses and the community partners that provide service opportunities are vital to the service-learning mission as well. Interested students, faculty and staff are invited to stop by the Center for Service-Learning anytime to discuss the wonderful service-learning opportunities on our campus.