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Service Learning Certificate Program, residential learning community among endeavors SU’s Center for Public and Community Service plans to undertake
Service Learning Certificate Program, residential learning community among endeavors SU’s Center for Public and Community Service plans to undertakeJanuary 20, 2001Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
The Center for Public and Community Service (CPCS) has launched an ambitious, two-year initiative designed to significantly increase the opportunities for, and impact of, service learning at Syracuse University. The four-part initiative, which received a 2001 Vision Fund grant, includes the establishment of a service learning certificate program for undergraduate students, a University-wide seminar program, a residential learning community on South Campus, a series of workshops for faculty and staff, and a community-based assessment program. “The project is designed to unify many of the efforts that are already under way across campus and to integrate those efforts in a more formal way into the curriculum,” says Stacey Riemer, CPCS associate director. When it was established six years ago, CPCS placed 150 students enrolled in two service-learning courses–one in The College of Arts and Sciences and one in the School of Education–in community agencies. Today, CPCS places more than 1,500 students enrolled in more than 30 courses throughout the University’s schools and colleges in sites across Central New York. “While the project is ambitious, we believe all of our goals can be accomplished,” says Pamela Heintz, CPCS director. “As service learning continues to grow in importance in all areas of the University, we hope to be the catalyst that brings folks together to share ideas and disseminate information that will increase awareness of the exciting things that are happening across campus.” The residential service learning community is slated to begin during the Fall 2001 semester. Students will be housed in a single row of apartments near the Goldstein Student Center on South Campus. They will be required to attend a pilot, one-credit service learning seminar program and be enrolled in either an independent service project, a course with a service learning component, or work as a tutor in the SU Literacy Corps, Riemer says. The pilot, one-credit seminar will eventually be expanded into a three-credit service learning seminar that will be open to all SU and SUNY College of EnvironmentalScience and Forestry students. The three-credit seminar and the completion of a capstone service project will be among the requirements for a University certificate in service learning. The certificate program anticipates incorporating existing courses that have service learning components, which it is hoped will be designated in course registration materials by a special prefix or suffix. The distinction would then also be represented on student transcripts. “The certificate program will give academic recognition to a University-wide, interdisciplinary service learning curriculum,” Heintz says. “Models for the capstone project already exist in a number of areas on campus. We intend to gather information on things that are already happening that would meet the criteria we set up for the certificate program.” During the next several months, CPCS will also develop workshops that will enable faculty who already use service learning as a teaching strategy to network and share information with each other and provide resources for other faculty who want to become involved in this area. Other informational activities CPCS will be involved in include developing faculty and staff resource materials, publishing a newsletter that shares information and provides resources, and organizing service learning fairs and poster sessions that will feature student, faculty and community work from service learning courses. CPCS will also collaborate with the Higher Education Program in the School of Education to sponsor a one-day regional conference, “The Synergy of Service Learning,” on June 11. Finally, CPCS plans to begin working with community agencies to develop methods of evaluating the overall impact of the program on the community and to identify research opportunities for faculty based in legitimate community needs. “Building an evaluation tool is perhaps the most challenging of all of the new initiatives we will be undertaking,” Heintz says. “How do you measure and understand the impact our programs are having on the community? The Vision Fund grant will help us begin a dialogue with community agencies so we can work together to develop tools we need to get started in this area.”