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Service Learning

UNLV offers a range of civic engagement opportunities as part of the learning experience. Service-learning a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes (Jacoby, Service-Learning in Higher Education, 1996). Service-learning is tied to academic course content and helps fulfill a community organization need.

When service-learning is implemented correctly into course curriculum, the community experience becomes a “text” or source of knowledge for the class and is as important as other required textbooks. Students can serve at a nonprofit for a few hours, but there are also opportunities to develop more sustained projects or relationships with local community agencies. Our office works to support service-learning on campus by working with both faculty and students engaged in this practice. Please contact our office for more information or to set up a consultation meeting by emailing service.learning@unlv.edu.

*Community service and volunteerism are also important parts of our campus experience and commitment, but look slightly different than academic service-learning, as they happen outside of the classroom. UNLV has several co-curricular (out-of-the-classroom) service opportunities:  our sponsored student organization, UNLVolunteers, hosts myriad service events including Service Day, DASH, DASH Dinner Discussions, and more; Alternative Break Trips lead regional service and social justice trips. There are additional service-focused service organizations that students can find on the Involvement Center.

Service Definitions

Volunteering

The practice of people working on behalf of others for a particular cause.

Knowledge-based community service

Combines volunteer experience in the community with academic course work and structured reflection.

Community-based research

Involves faculty, students, and community members in joint research to address community issues.

Three Types of Service

Direct

Students go to a community site and work directly with clients at the site. Examples include tutoring or preparing taxes for veterans.

Indirect

The service activity occurs on site, but there is no direct contact with the organization’s clients. Examples include building a playground at a youth center or preparing food at a soup kitchen.

Nondirect

An off-site activity. Examples include developing a website or a publicity campaign for a nonprofit organization.

Benefits of Service-Learning

Students

Students in service-learning classes can benefit academically, professionally, and personally. These are just a few of the ways:

  • Increase understanding of the class topic.
  • Gain hands-on experience (possibly leading to an internship or job later).
  • Opportunities to contribute to the Las Vegas community while building resumes and work experiences.
  • Explore or cement values and beliefs.
  • Develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Grow understanding of diverse cultures and communities.
  • Learn more about social issues and their root causes.
  • Improve ability to handle ambiguity and be open to change; become more flexible.
  • Develop or enhance skills, especially in the areas of communication, collaboration, and leadership.
  • Test out skills, interests, and values in a potential career path, or learn more about a field that interests a student.
  • Grow a professional network of people to possibly connect with later for jobs or internships.
  • Satisfy the student’s urge toward public service or civic participation.

Faculty

Faculty can benefit personally and professionally from integrating service-learning into courses. Teaching with service-learning can:

  • Encourage interactive teaching methods and reciprocal learning between students and faculty.
  • Add new insights and dimensions to class discussions.
  • Lead to new avenues for research and publication.
  • Promote students' active learning; engage students with different learning styles.
  • Help students achieve the UNLV undergraduate learning outcomes (UULO’s).
  • Develop students' civic and leadership skills.
  • Boost course enrollment by attracting highly motivated and engaged students.
  • Provide networking opportunities with engaged faculty in other disciplines.
  • Foster relationships between faculty and Las Vegas community organizations, which can open other opportunities for collaborative work.
  • Provide firsthand knowledge of community issues; provide opportunities to be more involved in community issues.
  • Increase student retention (Astin & Sax, 1998).

Community Partners

Community partners participating in service-learning can benefit in these ways:

  • Gain additional human resources needed to achieve organizational goals.
  • Inject new energy, enthusiasm, and perspectives into an organization's work.
  • Grow an organization's volunteer pool; service-learning students will share their experiences with friends and classmates.
  • Increase public awareness of key issues.
  • Reach out to youth — an important part of any organization's future support.
  • Educate students/youth about community issues; correct any misperceptions.
  • Help prepare today's students to be tomorrow's civic leaders.
  • Network with colleagues in other organizations and agencies.
  • Identify and access other university resources; build relationships with UNLV faculty, students, and staff.
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