Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Communities in Schools

“One of the reasons I decided to apply to the Tulane University Center for Public Service AmeriCorps VISTA position was due to one of Tulane’s unique university requirement for graduation.  This graduation requirement is a service-learning component.  As someone who has benefited tremendously from service-learning courses during my undergraduate years, I thought that Tulane was very innovative in requiring a service-learning component in order to graduate.  Service-learning differs from community service in that it is not supposed to be episodic, one-sided, or completing a number of community service hours in order to graduate.  Service-learning is supposed to compliment what is being taught in the classroom.  While I still believe Tulane’s service-learning requirement is very innovative, I no longer believe that such a requirement will become as popular as I once believed. 

During my years at Notre Dame, service was something everyone did.  I believe the statistic is around eighty percent of students do some type of service work before graduating.  Notre Dame doesn’t have a mandatory service-learning component or any type of community service requirement.  Because of my experience at Notre Dame, I believed everyone wanted to do some type of service.  I had never come across an undergraduate student who did not participate in some type of service.  Professors encourage students to become involved with the South Bend community.  After working with Tulane, I don’t know how I feel about service-learning graduation requirements.  In order for them to benefit both parties (the volunteer and the recipient of the service), a number of things have to occur. 

First, systems that allow students to find and access places to perform their service work have to be in place.  So, students have to be able to find out about the places they can perform service at and they also need to have reliable transportation to those places.  Next, professors have to make sure that their students understand what is required/expected of them.  Community partners must have the resources to accommodate these students.  Finally, students have to want to do the service.  Now, I know I have just oversimplified a very complex system, but I think these are some of the main things that have to be in place for a service-learning graduation requirement.  In order for such requirements to work, I believe students have to want to do service.   I volunteered a lot in college but I don’t know how I would feel if someone told me I had to not only volunteer but complete coursework that focused on my experience as well.” -Ashley, AmeriCorps VISTA Member

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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2010 by in Communities in Schools and tagged , , , .

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