“Let Knowledge Serve the City”: An Evolving Service Paradigm supported by student leadership

March 24, 2015

Over the past six years Portland State University (PSU) has been creating an institutional culture that practices the motto, Let knowledge serve the city, and the focus of our current Learn and Serve program is Students Serving the City. This emphasis includes developing mechanisms to support student leadership and student voice in the initiation, implementation, and assessment of curricular-based service-learning. By providing resources for faculty and student initiated service-learning, we have been able to institutionalize service-learning on our campus. Although there are still many ways to improve our work, we are happy to say that we currently offer more than 100 service-learning courses each year.

Student leadership and student voice contribute to PSU s service-learning program in the following ways:

Partnership between the Offices of Academic and Student Affairs
A sophomore inquiry service-learning course called Leadership for Change has been developed. It is thematically related to upper division service-learning courses. These courses have become part of a required sequence in undergraduate general education curriculum. Students in these courses are given the opportunity to understand leadership by taking initiative in their community. Students from these classes have gone on to support faculty and other students in subsequent service-learning courses.

Student Leaders
The Offices of Student and Academic Affairs jointly support a team of students called Student Leaders for Service. This newly-created team develops and assists faculty and students in implementing curricular-based service projects. They plan and implement special service projects in conjunction with national service days, and have partnered with co-curricular service organizations to encourage and support broader campus participation in their sponsored projects.

Students Assisting Faculty
Targeted support is made available for students and faculty who collaboratively work together to design, implement, and assess curricular-based service-learning courses. Through these partnerships, student leaders are able to focus attention on mentoring and supporting their faculty colleagues and community partners. The faculty member is able to focus attention on course content.

Student Initiated Service-Learning
Through a partnership with the Community Development Department, a course has been redesigned to include community partnership development and service-learning course designs. This arrangement allows Community Development students to conceptualize, negotiate, and design sustainable community partnerships and service-learning courses, while providing student driven and student-focused service-learning opportunities. Most of the service-learning courses designed through this method are offered in subsequent terms.

All of these accomplishments are evidence of university commitment to integrating service into the academic structure of the undergraduate and graduate curricula. Although we believe we have made productive use of Learn and Serve America program funds to achieve these accomplishments, we are aware of the need to continue to create an infrastructure to build student, faculty, and community leadership capacity. We want to listen to community voice as they address a host of needs, and then focus energies to produce demonstrable impacts from service and learning.

Portland State University - OR, Oregon
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