Learn By Doing
SERVICE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES CREATED
For nearly two years, Georgia Southern faculty and students have collaborated on a new program that has successfully introduced additional service-learning opportunities in the classroom while also increasing the University’s commitment to service in the community, region and around the globe. According to Wendy Denton, assistant director in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, the idea for the Service-Learning (SL) Facilitator program began during a conversation with Dr. Jerri Kropp, a faculty member from the College of Health and Human Sciences.
“We realized that Georgia Southern faculty are stretched for time when it comes to teaching and research,” said Denton, about the one-of-a-kind program that provides invaluable leadership and training experience for students, while maximizing faculty involvement in service learning.
“After all, faculty are balancing teaching, service and research,” said Kropp. “Our solution was to provide a student assistant that was trained to carry the workload and assist faculty,” she added about the program that has expanded service learning opportunities in classrooms all over campus.
The SL Facilitator program has now grown to include the involvement of more than 40 faculty members. The facilitators assist faculty by organizing, planning, coordinating and leading a service-learning project, and these have included fields ranging from nursing, foreign languages, business and education to geology.
Students interested in becoming a facilitator must enroll in a free, non-credit course called LEAD 2100 – Leadership Through Service-Learning, which provides them with the skills needed to facilitate a project. After completing the semester-long course taught by Denton and graduate assistant Veena Shankar, each facilitator works with a faculty member on a project beginning the following semester.
“We are unique,” said Shankar, “in the fact that Georgia Southern is one of the few institutions where students have the ability to work with faculty members one-on-one and be peer instructors to students,” she said.
Kropp has worked alongside service learning facilitator Caroline Greene in her First-Year Experience (FYE) Animal Assisted Therapy class which incorporates the Stirrup Some Fun program. Greene organizes student involvement in the program, which uses horses to provide animal assisted therapy for children with disabilities.
Biology major Mara Usry is currently working for her second semester with Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health faculty member Dr. Moya Alfonso. “Usry is working to coordinate a needs assessment plan for Concerted Services, spanning 19 Georgia counties and including programs serving the elderly, Head Start and food banks,” said Denton. “What makes this interesting is that Mara, the undergraduate, is guiding the graduate students,” she added.
While the facilitators are committing one year and 50 hours per semester to service learning, Denton has found that the program has indeed benefited the campus and the community. A dozen or more students are enrolled per semester in the SL Facilitators program and 20 certified facilitators are active on campus.
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