Service learning is increasingly common at colleges and universities today. It’s tough to find a campus without an office charged with facilitating the integration of community service into courses. Why is service learning so popular? The research is pretty clear: it benefits everyone. Communities benefit when universities embrace their role as anchor institutions and thoughtfully contribute resources, expertise, and energy to solving social problems. Students and faculty benefit when academic courses have real-world connections. So what’s unique about service learning at Loyola?

Consider the following spectrum of approaches to service learning:

  1. Service learning as learning about:  The community is primarily an object. Students and faculty do service learning to study, examine, or gather knowledge about issues, organizations, populations, or needs.  Here, the goal of service is to expand, enlarge, or supplement knowledge and skills gained in classes.  In other words, the goal is more knowledge. The community is a kind of field laboratory, a place to collect samples.
  2. Service learning as learning for: The community is primarily a beneficiary. Students and faculty do service learning to put their education and expertise to use for a good cause.  Here, the goal of service is to apply knowledge and skills to real cases, real problems, and real people.  In other words, the goal is useful knowledge.  The community is a recipient, a place where knowledge can be transferred or deposited.
  3. Service learning as learning with: The community is primarily a partner. Students and faculty do service learning to be enlightened by community wisdom and participate in the (co-) creation of new knowledge and skills needed for positive change. In other words, the goal is to transform knowledge and our notions about who has it. In this approach, the community is a classroom in which all participants are learners and teachers.

This third kind of service learning is much more than a simple “win-win.” Instead, it recalibrates the whole purpose of higher education. It is challenging, rigorous and humbling. In this sense, it also reflects Jesuit values.

Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, once said that every Jesuit university is called not just to “live in a social reality” but also “to live for that social reality.” He argued that individuals and institutions committed to the ideals of Jesuit education must expand the circle of knowledge and pursue solutions to urgent social problems in a spirit of solidarity as a truly shared work.

If you want some excellent examples of this ideal, talk to our very first group of service learning honor cord winners.  25 graduating students will be wearing a single white honor cord during commencement ceremonies on May 10th.  The cord signifies outstanding achievement in service learning.  These students have successfully completed service learning for at least three different academic courses during their time at Loyola while maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA:

Luisa Batista, Kaitlyn Broadbent, Elizabeth Cook, Tian Covington, Malia Dartez, Yulia Gomez-Nieto, Jennifer Gutierrez, Sabrina Hawkins, Natalie Jones, Collette Keehnen, Sara Kobes, Kamaria Monmouth, Sam Morel, Kelle Ory, Jacqueline Padilla, Cara Quintanilla, George Ramirez, Samuel Rottman, Lindsey Rousselle, William Shelley, Catherine Sloan, Dimitri Staszewski, Leah Whitlock, Morgan Whittler, and Alden Woodhull

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