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Academic Service Learning

Academic Service Learning

With the CWU mantra being “Learn. Do. Live,” Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) has been the “doing” of the CWU experience for approximately 15 years. Originally supported by former President McIntyre’s “Spheres of Distinction,” today there is a host of faculty who have offered AS-L opportunities to their students. In the most recent university accreditation, CWU was cited for its commitment to providing civically engaged experiences for its students.

As defined on the CWU AS-L website, AS-L is described as “a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of the course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.” The AS-L experience is mutually benefitting for the CWU student and the community agency collaborative.

Many faculty who offer AS-L experiences have or are serving as a Faculty Fellow (FF). Since the inception of this committee, more than 80 CWU Faculty have served in this capacity. The current AS-L/FF groups is supported by the Provost’s Office. This AS-L/FF group meets once a month in order to support AS-L efforts across all colleges and programs. 

Through the incorporation of AS-L, CWU students have participated in local, state, and international experiences. Participation in local literacy efforts, such as Family Literacy Night as part of EDLT 321 Teaching Children’s Literature or ECTL 201 Compass to Campus, have provided CWU students experiences with parents and students in the community and local school districts. Additionally, students in Recreation and Tourism have participated in civic engagement through eco-tourism opportunities in Central America.

Faculty note that when CWU students participate in AS-L they develop a number of skills. Robert Holtfreter, Professor of Business, acknowledges that students in his ACCT 461/561-Fraud Examination courses develop an appreciation of what is learned in the classroom, while developing problem-solving, leadership, and processing skills. Wendie Castillo, Assistant Professor of Special Education agrees, noting that students can put their learning into context, while practicing collaboration and team building in real-world settings.

Peggy Roberts, instructor in Family Consumer Sciences, has taught UNIV 309 Civic Engagement for more than nine years. Each quarter she facilitates a group of CWU students who develop their own AS-L projects. Because the course if open to all CWU students, the projects are varied as the degree areas represented among the students. Some of the AS-L experiences gained through her course have been the promotion and organizing of the local Relay for Life; assisting in the organization of volunteers at the state Special Olympics; and teaching English, including slang, dialects, and social interactions to Japanese middle school students in Japan.

Similarly, Jeff Snedeker, Professor of Music, offered a section of UNIV 309 for music majors. Rooted in music advocacy, the students in this course supported projects, such as the instrument donation drive at Morgan Middle School. More than $11,000 in appraised instruments were donated in addition to the $1000 donated to support the school district music program.

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