Lewis and Clark College- Portland, Oregon
Student Leadership and Service at Lewis & Clark College
Utilizing Barbara Jacoby's (1996) definition, Student Leadership and Service (SLS) understands service-learning to be a community service action tied to learning objectives and ongoing reflection about the experience. Moreover, we utilize Tania Mitchell's (2008) critical service-learning model as a guide. Mitchell advocates for a critical service-learning that: (1) names social change as the goal; (2) redistributes power; and (3) develops authentic relationships between stakeholders. While these theoretical foundations undergird all of SLS' service-learning programs, they are most present in our in town service-learning program, within which SLS student staff members liaise between fellow students, local nonprofits and schools to organize and lead weekly or monthly service-learning projects. We call this our Sustained Service-Learning program.
For the past three academic calendars, the Sustained Service-Learning program has consisted of 55-63 service-learning projects engaging 2-15 volunteers per project at 5-9 community partner sites per year. Each project was lead by 1-2 SLS student staff members. To expand SLS student staff members' understanding of our theoretical foundations, we implemented a critical service-learning curriculum during the 2016-2017 school year. Following their participation in that curriculum, SLS student staff reported expanding their personal definitions of social justice and relating social justice to critical engagement, equity and intersecting social identities.
In an effort toward authentic relationships with our community partners, SLS staff solicit their feedback at various points throughout the year. Some of the challenges our community partners experience relate to students showing up to serve with insufficient contextual information, as well as transportation and time constraints related to the location of campus and the academic calendar. Successes our partners appreciate relate to our students' enthusiasm for engagement work, the collaborative practices utilized within our office and the transportation we provide for some projects.
Moving forward in the 2017-2018 school year, SLS will employ our largest student staff to date (11-12 students), thus increasing our capacity to create collaborative and generative service-learning experiences that meet the interests and needs of our diverse stakeholders.
Jacoby, B. (1996). Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mitchell, T. (2008). Traditional vs. critical service-learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(2), 50- 65.