For the past several years, William Woods University has been enhancing course content, engaging students in experiential learning and promoting community involvement through academic service-learning.
WWU implemented academic service-learning to allow students to apply what they learned in the classroom to real-world problems in the community.
Academic service-learning is a teaching methodology aligned with a course’s curriculum and objectives. It utilizes community service to help students gain a deeper understanding of course content, acquire new knowledge and engage in civic activity.
“Applied learning gives students the opportunity to take classroom knowledge and apply it to real life scenarios,” said Cassie Davis, academic service-learning coordinator at WWU. “It also offers a meaningful and exciting way for students to enhance resume experience, build civic engagement early, and it is great for networking.”
Davis is an AmeriCorps*VISTA member working with the Missouri Campus Compact Community-Campus Partnership Project at William Woods University. Since she came to campus in the fall of 2007, it has been her responsibility to maintain, enhance and build longevity into the service-learning program at WWU.
“My position includes networking with and educating the campus and community about service-learning; developing handbooks, web pages, procedures, events and trainings; establishing, chairing and serving on committees, and applying for and managing service-learning grants,” Davis said.
“I work most directly with faculty and community-based organizations, but also with students, staff and the greater community.”
The average number of courses utilizing academic service-learning has increased from 11 to 65 per academic year in the past two years.
This past academic year, of the 58 full-time faculty members who actively teach undergraduate courses at William Woods, 39 used academic service-learning in the classroom. Altogether, 67 percent of WWU faculty members have at some point used service-learning projects in their curriculum.
“Service-learning on campus is indeed shifting from a teaching methodology encouraged by our administration to one that the campus community is actively employingas a valuable resource in both the classroom and the community,” said Davis.
“And we continue to see new service-learning projects, witness the sustainability of existing ones, and progressively aid faculty in piloting public scholarship-based grassroots initiatives to impact learning.”
William Woods University recently received a $1,000 grant from Missouri Campus Compact for 2010-2011 to help continue this effort in the coming year.
Recent service-learning projects that have benefited the community, as well as William Woods faculty and students, include:
Management Information Systems students designed, developed and uploaded a website about Wiley House, Fulton’s homeless shelter, in hopes of spreading information to the public.
- The Western Club, in conjunction with WWU’s therapeutic riding program, offered a new set of classes for riders with disabilities during the annual Western Fun Show.
- An upper-level public relations class revamped the local Clothes Cupboard’s branding, logo and signage by creating a new look and mission statement for the nonprofit agency, creating new brochures and improving their website.
- An advanced nutrition class created healthy recipes that utilize foods commonly donated to food banks and spent some time serving in the local food pantry.
- Painting I, II and IV students created therapeutic paintings that they donated to beautify SERVE’s main office.
- Equestrian faculty and students provided basic equestrian knowledge and hands-on opportunities to youth in Callaway County who otherwise wouldn’t have had the privilege to be around horses. They learned about what horses eat, grooming, what to look for in a horse at a show and the different styles of riding.
- Grant writing students successfully wrote and applied for money to purchase a telescope for WWU that has enabled students taking astronomy to teach local middle school students about astronomy by exploring the night sky.
- Students in the child abuse and neglect class provided child care to children in Callaway County foster homes while their foster families attended mandatory foster parent meetings. This was beneficial to these students because they were able to identify child behaviors that they learned about in class.
Some projects are regular occurrences, such as:
Education students teach English to 5th graders in Taiwan each semester using online video conferencing software, which was upgraded thanks to a grant from Missouri Campus Compact.
Students from the teaching remedial mathematics course conduct an annual math fair, partnering up with local 4th-grade teachers to help prepare 4th-graders for MAP testing.
Davis also implemented an annual service-learning fair, which allows students, faculty and staff to learn about local volunteer opportunities. This fall will mark the third year for the fair.
Davis, whose VISTA-MoCC