By John Campbell
Students hoping to get involved off campus in the Kalamazoo area can earn credit while doing so in many classes at Western Michigan University.
Service learning is a program incorporated into several of WMU’s classes that requires students to volunteer in their community. Students apply the knowledge they learn while doing their community service to their coursework in order to gain credit.
“The Service Learning program helps connect students with the community while opening them up to resources and providing professional experience,” said Service Learning coordinator Erika David. “We work with faculty members and community organizations to set up service projects for students that are based in their course work.”
David said the program is hoping to increase the number of classes that incorporate service learning into their curriculum.
“It’s really a way for students and faculty to engage with one another and the community,” said service learning coordinator Shawn Tenney.
Tenney said the experience is a way for students to practice with their learning while meeting a “community identified need.”
Tenney said the goal of service learning is primarily engagement with the students and the community.
“Overall, service learning is geared toward the academic success of students and high quality education,” David said.
David and Tenney both said that networking with the community is important. Tenney also said that service learning is important for building relationships between students and faculty.
Service learning also provides a professional experience for students while they learn in a practical setting, David said.
According to David, service learning components are often between 15 and 20 hours of service in the community.
Students who want to get involved can contact the Service Learning office to see what courses have a Service Learning component or work with their academic advisors to see if there are any service learning classes in their major.
Community members interested in service learning can also get involved by attending an informational breakfast in Bernhard Center rooms 208 and 209 on Friday, Sept. 28 at 8 a.m.