Incorporating Service into Honors Curriculum

Service is at the heart of Texas A&M’s core values. Texas A&M collegiates believe in and exemplify this value during their time on campus.  Honors and Undergraduate Research wants to see this passion for service integrated into the classroom and co-curricular activities through Service-Learning. Collaboration between the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and the Department of Student Activities is making this possible with the creation of the Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Program.

“Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to promote student learning and development” from Barbara Jacoby’s Service-Learning in higher education: concepts and practices.

The Service-Learning Fellows Program is a year-long faculty development program that provides an opportunity for faculty members to learn how to infuse service-learning into their teaching, research and public service.

Dr. Sumana Datta, Executive Director of Honors and Undergraduate Research, was chosen as one of the Faculty Fellows Program.  Datta plans to incorporate Service-Learning into Honors and Undergraduate Research through three programs; the freshmen learning community, faculty mentor groups focused on service and a capstone experience in Service-Learning. ­

HUR plans on including Service-Learning in their programs in very distinctive ways. The freshman learning community will focus on real-world experiences by encouraging students to get involved in the A&M community through volunteering at events such as the Big Event, where they learn what it is like to interact with many different types of people.  Students have to experience life to understand life, said Abigail Graves, program coordinator for the Honors Housing Community.  By giving students the opportunity to go out into the community and learn what it is like to be an active citizen, students will be able to translate these skills to the classroom and to their academic endeavors – professional conferences, undergraduate research, undergraduate teaching, and poster presentations.

The faculty mentor groups (FMG) will focus on incorporating a service aspect into the student’s future career.  Students in these FMG’s will spend their semester learning about the different ways in which a career can include service properties, such as learning about the ecology of a local park, then creating a program for children in the community to learn from.  A possible FMG could also include a health-related focus group where students would volunteer at a hospice to learn what the patients in these facilities want and need; through these volunteer opportunities students will get a glimpse of their future career and how they can include service in these careers.

As a part of the Service-Learning Capstone program students will become Undergraduate Service Scholars and create their own sustainable service project for the community. This year-long program, starting in Fall 2013 and open to any Texas A&M undergraduate, will allow the student to work with a director of a local charitable organization to create a service project.  The students will experience what it is like to work for a non-profit by immersing themselves in the non-profit culture, working closely with staff and clients and learning about the joys, strengths and challenges of community work.  Service Scholars will collaborate with agency directors to identify a program problem or challenge, create a solution and produce a manual or other aid to facilitate sustainability of the solution.

Honors and Undergraduate Research sees the importance of service-learning to an undergraduate’s education and is excited to be part of the creation of these programs.  Students will be able to apply and participate in all three facets of Honors and Undergraduate Research’s service-learning implementation starting Fall 2013.  Students interested in the Undergraduate Service-Scholar capstone should contact Dr. Datta at sumad@tamu.edu.

 

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

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