The College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS) recently received a three-year grant from AmeriCorps to help promote service learning in the department. Jennifer Harris, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, began working with the college in July to encourage teachers to make service learning a part of the curriculum.
"My goal is to educate faculty about service learning because I feel that it helps students gain a broader perspective," Harris said.
According to Harris, when service learning is accompanied by formal classroom learning, students are able to gain a better understanding of their education, and their future. Harris will work with CHHS to build a sustainable service learning program with many long-term benefits to the college and its students.
"Ideally this college can be a leader in establishing a key methodology," Harris said. "There are a lot of opportunities for collaboration across disciplines."
Harris is working on a needs assessment to determine which programs best fit CHHS's goals. She said that her research has revealed a great track record of volunteering.
"We have a very community-oriented faculty," Harris said. "My main goal is to get a culture of service learning in place."
Harris said that service learning has many benefits. Along with helping the community, students are able to test-drive different career options before getting thrown into the real world, she said.
Harris said that she recognizes that students have concerns about volunteering. Many do not understand the benefit, she said. "This gives students the opportunity to strengthen their education." Harris said. "All parties benefit from volunteering."
AmeriCorps is a local, state and nation network of service programs that serves more than 2,000 non-profits, public agencies, and faith-based and community organizations worldwide. The VISTA program provides full-time opportunities for volunteers with a monthly stipend and housing allowance. Its goal is to expand programs that build capacity and ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.
Students and faculty who are interested in more information about service learning are encouraged to contact Harris at (775) 784-6977.