Quality community-campus partnerships
Forming sustainable partnerships that have meaning and impact
Meaningful partnerships are integral to service learning programs because they connect and reinforce in‐class work and readings with real life experiences. They provide an opportunity for students to think critically about civic responsibility, as well as examine and challenge personal values, beliefs, and opinions. Community partnerships provide a platform for students to ask questions, share ideas and experiences, challenge current solutions to community issues and develop plans to address community needs.
Principles of strong partnerships
One of the goals of forming relationships between the campus and community organizations is to build sustainable relationships that benefit both the University and the community organization. In order to ensure that the relationships are not only sustainable but also mutually beneficial to all parties, there are some basic principles that provide context and guidance through which these partnerships can be formed, maintained, and understood.
- Partners have agreed upon mission, values, goals, and measurable outcomes for the partnership
- The relationship between partners is characterized by mutual trust, respect, genuineness, and commitment.
- The partnership builds upon identified strengths and assets, but also addresses areas that need improvement.
- The partnership balances the power among partners and enables resources to be shared among partners.
- There is clear, open, and accessible communication between partners, making it an on-going priority to listen to each need, develop a common language, and validate or clarify the meaning of terms.
- Roles, norms, and processes for the partnership are established with input and agreement of all partners.
- There is feedback to, among, and from all partners with the goal of continuously improving the partnership and its outcomes.
- Partners share credit for the accomplishments within the partnership.
- Partners understand that partnerships take time to develop and will evolve over time.
Facilitating the Co-Education Experience
As a co-educator in charge of supplementing and enhancing academic course material with civic experiences, it is important that the students perform duties that correspond as closely as possible with the academic knowledge they will gain throughout the semester. The more closely the connection between the service experience and the course material, the more meaningful the experience will be for students. Community partners and faculty will also benefit if the service and academic elements of a service-learning course are connected. In order for this to happen, it is ideal for university faculty and community partners to try and match course material with service experiences, and understanding the community issue area or areas addressed by partners is a great place to begin!
Community partner roles and expectations
Below is a list of expectations the University holds of community partners when they are hosting students in service-learning placements. Incorporated into this list is a description a the community partner's role as a co-educator in the learning process.
1. Be a co-educator
Service-learning is unique in that it allots students an opportunity to enhance the academic learning taking place in the classroom with meaningful service experiences in the community. As a community partner, you should think of yourselves as "partners" and "educators" in the students' learning process throughout their time at your organization. Students placed with your organization should have specific, defined learning objectives that should be met during their service experience. Your role as the co-educator is to enhance their understanding of how their service with your organization will help them meet those objectives and further deepening their education experience and knowledge of social responsibility.
As a co-educator, you should feel that you are not only enhancing the academic learning but also the service experience of the students. Ask them questions that allow them to draw connections between what they learn in class and what it is they are working on at your organization. Have students reflect on the tasks you have assigned so they may gain a deeper understanding of the impact the work they complete has not only for your organization but the greater Reno community as well.
2. Read the course syllabus
Reading the syllabus for the course in which students placed with your organization are enrolled in is certainly not a requirement of being a community partner. However, it may help your organization understand the background knowledge students are gaining through their academic learning. Knowing what it is students are learning in the classroom may assist the partner in providing additional knowledge that can expand on the academic knowledge and enrich students'experiences with the organization. It is suggested that the students are asked to either provide a copy of their syllabus or briefly summarized the materials discussed in the course so the service experience can best support academics.
3. Provide students with a clear service description
It is important to provide students placed within your organization for a service-learning placement with a clear description of what tasks they will be completing. Community partners should give students tasks or experiences that help the organization strive towards their mission and make an impact in the community.
4. Be realistic with your expectations of students and their time commitments
Remember that when working with the University, you are working within a semester time frame. Students will often have a limited number of hours they must complete throughout the semester, such as 1-2 hours each week for 15 weeks. You may have to adapt your traditional volunteer schedule or expectations in order to accommodate students for the duration of a semester.
5. Communicate with the faculty member and Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement
In order to build sustainable relationships, communication between all parties must occur before, during, and after the semester. Communication should not be solely between the community partner and the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. Ideally, the partner will also communicate directly with the faculty to help ensure that students are getting the most out of their experience and that the learning objectives are being met. The Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement will ask community partners to complete a survey and the end of each semester but we strongly encourage you to communicate with us at any point during the if you have any concerns or suggestions.
6. Orient and Supervise Students On-Site
Community partners should provide students some form of orientation once they arrive at the organization to begin their service. The University does not have a uniform orientation that all partners must follow so partners can tailor the orientation to their individual organization and what makes sense for them. Below are some suggestions of information that you may wish to include in an on-site orientation:
- The mission of the organization
- The population and demographics served by the organization
- What services or programs are offered by the organization
- Discuss appropriate dress code for students
- Provide contact information for the on-site supervisor and any other individuals the
- student(s) may be working with on-site
- Any confidentiality policies in place that students need to be aware of and whether photos
- or videos are allowed
- Emergency procedures students should follow in case of an emergency
- Inform students if and where they need to sign in at the beginning of their service each
Also, it may be beneficial to provide students with a tour of the site where they will be serving. Point out things such as restrooms, emergency exits, and where students can place personal items such as a backpack or purse while completing service.
7. Be Realistic with your Ability to Host Students
A faculty member or staff member from the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement may approach you with an opportunity to place students at your organization for a particular course. However, your organization may not be able to support a large number of students at that given time. Instead of trying to accommodate more students than you are easily able to, offer a number of students that your organization can accommodate in order to make the placement and service process less stressful on the faculty member, students, and more important, yourself.