Senate seeks to identify service learning classes

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The Senate of College Councils and the Office of Academic Service Learning are working together to help students find courses that will combine academics with community outreach.

On Thursday night, the Senate passed a resolution in support of adding a service learning flag to the course schedule that would indicate classes with an emphasis on an outreach-oriented application of coursework. Senate will continue to work with the office to make the flag a reality, said Senate President Chelsea Adler.

“I went to Ghana the summer after my sophomore year for a month. The people I met and worked with opened my eyes,” Adler said. “There is so much potential for learning to take place outside the classroom, and service learning is the best way to take advantage of that.”

Rose Cahalan, the director of the office, said she and other administrators have been toying with the idea of adding the flag for some time and are glad to have found student allies in Senate leadership.

“The Office of Academic Service Learning fully supports the Senate resolution and enthusiastically welcomes student interest in this issue,” Cahalan said. “Adding a [service learning] flag would make it much easier for students to find out about our courses, and it would also improve our office’s record-keeping.”

Currently, the University has about 50 classes that qualify as service learning courses under the office’s support, Cahalan said. They are listed on the office’s website, but the new initiative would make their availability more apparent to all students registering.

Such a listing would encourage students with an interest in service learning to register for appropriate classes, while warning students who might not have service-related passions, said Alice Batt, a rhetoric and writing professor and the Undergraduate Writing Center coordinator. Batt teaches a class on writing for nonprofits, in which students write grants and promotional materials for local organizations.

“There are so many students who are really into volunteerism and wanting to be engaged in the community,” she said. “I developed the course in 2006 so we could talk about and actually do that kind of work. It fills every semester and there’s a huge waiting list, so I think I tapped into a niche.”

Cahalan warned that actually getting the flag in place could take several months, but Adler said she hopes to see it on the course schedule for fall 2011.