Reaching the second wave: faculty involvement

March 24, 2015

The task of increasing faculty involvement in service-learning has been described as coming in two waves. In the first wave are typically innovators who look to be ahead of the field, taking risks and believing strongly in the idea of service-learning as a pedagogy. The second wave comprises those faculty who are not as easily convinced, and will come on board only after the practice has gained some broader acceptance and is presented not as a risky innovation, but as a tested idea.

Every campus has to start with a first wave of faculty who lead the pack. But some schools have developed the support networks and structure to appeal to the much larger second wave.

At the University of Utah, interest in service-learning is already high. Seven thousand students and more than one hundred faculty members are involved. In order to continue to expand the program, the university maintains a service-learning advisory board of leading staff and faculty who engage in a host of activities.

The advisory board maintains a high profile on campus, looking for various entry points to drive home the message of service-learning. One entry point is at orientation for new faculty, where members of the advisory board make initial contact and present the idea of service-learning. Presentations are also available to all faculty throughout the year. Another entry point is through faculty publications, where deadlines are printed for the designation of service-learning courses, a practice that helps to keep awareness high. The advisory board has found that contact between faculty members is most effective in recruiting new service-learning professors and supporting old ones. With support from outside funding, the university has established a Borchard Fellow. This position, similar to faculty fellows programs adopted by many universities, is filled by an experienced faculty member on call to field questions about service-learning. In addition, presentations are made to department chairs who can, in turn, provide incentive and support for faculty to get involved in service-learning.

Some other methods bring second wave faculty into service-learning one at a time. A key recruitment strategy has been to fill vacancies on the advisory board with well-respected, experienced faculty members who are new to service-learning, but interested in learning about it.

Sometimes students are the best recruiters. Students in the university s service-learning scholars program are required to engage in an independent service-learning course under faculty advisement. Many students end up seeking supervision from faculty who have never been involved in service-learning before. When they work closely with a student committed to the idea, many of these faculty are won over to service-learning as well. As the work of the University of Utah shows, there is no one way to approach the second wave of faculty. By engaging in a variety of methods from publications to presentations to peer-to-peer discussion the university s advisory board continues to expand the idea.

 

From Service Matters 1998: Engaging Higher Education In the Renewal of America s Communities and American Democracy

Contact people: Meg Stephenson (mstephenson@sa.utah.edu ) and Rick Van DeGraaff (rvandegraaff@sa.utah.edu ), Service Learning Coordinators

University of Utah - UT, Utah
President: Bernhard Machen
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