Ways to Partner
Making Service-Learning Work...for YOU
There is no single way to structure a service-learning experience...but there are certain ways of partnering that work more consistently than others! The following partnership models reflect the most commonly-employed service-learning course designs used by Loyola faculty. These offer some examples of how various agency missions, opportunities, and needs might interface with classroom learning objectives.
Recruit Students as Volunteers!
(AKA the Placement Model)
In a placement model course, individual students or groups of students fill normal volunteer roles at your organization, usually offering 3-5 hours per week throughout the semester for a total of 20-40 hours of service (depending on the course requirements and the needs of the service site). Back in the classroom, discussions and assignments help students apply or draw course concepts out of their community-based experiences. For example, students in an Intro to Sociology class might volunteer at a range of area social services agencies and reflect on their experiences in light of in-class discussions of historic and contemporary social problems.
The "Win-Win": Students get relevant, real-world experiences; YOU expand your volunteer pool!
Making it Work:
- Develop clear, evocative job descriptions for standard volunteer roles
- Advertise volunteer opportunities on RamblerLink AND at the Service and Job Opportunities Fairs
- Associate a specific contact person with each volunteer position so that students know where to direct their questions about the opportunity
- Schedule at least one volunteer orientation at the beginning of each semester (2nd or 3rd week), advertise it with the position, and make it mandatory for all new volunteers
- Assign a particular supervisor to each volunteer position, and make sure volunteers know who their supervisor is and how to contact him/her
Engage Students, Classes, or Multiple Classes in Projects!
(AKA the Project Model)
In some courses, service learners—working alone or in groups under the guidance of their course instructor—produce something or complete a specific project for their agencies, acting almost as (pro-bono) consultants or contractors. Often, these classes work on answering research questions. For example, students in an environmental studies class might do an environmental audit of an agency’s operations or facilities; students in an educational methods class might prepare a curriculum for a summer enrichment program; students in a computer science class might develop or modify a database for their agency clients. Sometimes, organizations work with the CEL to sequence the efforts of multiple classes so as to accomplish longer-term, more complicated goals.
The "Win-Win": Students apply their academic knowledge to real-world problems; YOU get a concrete product (and free expert assistance from the faculty member teaching the class)!
Making it Work:
- Projects (whether one-shot efforts or components of ongoing campaigns) require significant lead time and preparation, so approach the CEL or faculty member EARLY -- at least three months before the start of the project
- Specificity of process and deliverables, supervision of student progress and comprehension of the project goal, and ongoing dialogue for direction, retooling, and improvement are the keys to project success
- Remember the limits of the academic calendar, but don’t be afraid to think about engaging multiple classes or groups over multiple terms on discrete aspects of an ongoing project
- Engage the CEL directly for any interdisciplinary, multi-class, or longer-term commitments
- If you're considering writing a grant to support project costs, ask the CEL to write a letter of support so the funder knows you're partnering with the University
Get Students to Spread Your Message!
(AKA the Community Education/Advocacy Model)
Sometimes students in a course take material they are learning in class and share it with audiences in the broader community, often to inspire community action or influence policy on a particular issue. Students may prepare workshops, host events, produce videos and white papers, do community organizing, or run media campaigns to get the message out there. Again, this sort of class may involve a significant research component. For example, students in a nursing class may run a health fair for the local community; students in an environmental studies class may partner with local schools to run a poster contest about water conservation tips; students in a history class may hold a symposium on contemporary forms of slavery.
The "Win-Win": Students must master ideas in order to teach them, and build communication/presentation skills; YOU get your message out there, often in a creative or contemporary way!
Making it Work:
- Presentations or events require lots of lead time and coordination, so approach the CEL or faculty member at least three-six months ahead of the start of the semester when you hope to develop the program/event
- Assign a particular staff member to supervise the development and content of student's work. He/she should review it at least twice to give feedback and to make sure it reflects your organization’s goals/message
- A message is only effective if it has an audience, so lay the groundwork to build one! Consider inviting other area non-profits (and their clients) to participate in events, symposia, or campaigns; think about prominent ways to display or share web- or media-based efforts
- Make sure that all educational/communication materials developed by students are shared with your organization in modifiable formats so that you can update and use them again even after the students have moved on to other experiences
Need some direction as you brainstorm ways for YOUR organization to partner with the service-learning program? Download our "Advancing Your Organization's Priorities through Service-Learning" Worksheet!