A Practitioner’s Thoughts and Authentic Stories about Service Learning and Civic Engagement Projects

James G Pappas, Professor of Education and Director of Academic Service-Learning
Central Washington University

Increasingly, I’m convinced that ultimately the scholarship of engagement also means creating a special climate in which the academic and the civic cultures communicate more continuously and more creatively with each other helping to enlarge what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz describes as the universe of human discourse and enriching the quality of life for all of us.

-Ernest Boyer, from his speech on
‘The Scholarship of Engagement,’
October 11, 1995, in Boyer, 1997.


For the past quarter of a century an increasing number of college instructors have been using service learning methods as a way of making course content and the curriculum more understandable and applicable to societal issues. During the last decade, additional faculty have expressed a high concern for civic engagement activities, and within their service learning strategies, made an attempt to have students become more sensitive to issues of citizenship. As one reads the literature and newsletters from national organizations including Campus Compact, the Corporation for National Service, the National Service-Learning Clearing House along with reviewing calls for grants from the US Department of Education and Learn and Serve America, it is evident that academic service learning and civic engagement are recognized as effective teaching strategies. An increasing number of instructors appear to have an interest in these activities. However, with busy schedules driven by heavy work loads in their disciplines, they often face time constraints to implement new techniques. Faculty responsibilities include the amount of time needed to discover new knowledge, revise syllabi, prepare for classes, evaluate assignments, assess student progress, advise students, do research and/or write grants. Because of this learning, the new or different techniques to implement academic service learning or any other new teaching strategies without some professional development time is difficult.

The purpose of this article is to briefly offer some background about academic service learning and civic engagement. This is followed by professional development information to interested instructors to help them acquire additional academic service learning knowledge. The method is to share successful examples of service learning Projects completed by students in my classes at Central Washington University (CWU) and to increase the knowledge base of college instructors in the area of service learning and civic engagement. In doing so, it is hoped that this will make it easier for instructors to think through the process of creating assignments and teaching strategies while advancing the use of the pedagogy.

There are several logistical issues that sometimes make it a challenge for faculty to use service learning strategies. Although it is not the intent to discuss this in any detail, a few are worth mentioning. Identifying and locating agencies to place students is probably one of the most difficult and time consuming civic engagement activities an instructor has to do. Of course contacting, planning and organizing procedures with off-campus agencies or partners take time and effort and must be done by the instructor. Included in this process are the periodic visits to the different organizations for follow-up purposes, as educators involved in these processes know there is much experience to be gained from the feedback and observations made by students and agency staff. If done correctly, an instructor can double up activities that can be extremely useful for future course development, student assignments, as well as possible research for the instructor and positive community relations for the university. Thus there is more to academic service learning than just acquiring an understanding of the pedagogy.

This article used information taken from academic service learning student course portfolios and comments from a cadre of twenty three CWU service learning Faculty Fellows, who for the past five years have attended monthly service learning professional development seminars. They have asked questions and expressed concerns that are similar to those of their colleagues across the country. Those of us who have attended national and regional Campus Compact seminars and other professional development meetings that included discussions among four-year institutions, community colleges and campus partners, have listened to many people who are new to the service learning pedagogy ask questions about how students become involved in civic engagement activities. Specifically, instructors from community college and baccalaureate institutions ask how students apply course content to out-of-class experiences while enrolled in either basic, general education and/or upper division courses.

Research and Learning Outcomes of Service Learning and Civic Engagement

Our research identified six areas to support the implementation of service learning in academic settings. First, there is an increasing amount of research that supports the effectiveness of service learning teaching strategies. Nationally, studies indicated that a correlation emerges when certain ‘good practices’ were employed between service experiences and course content (Gray, M, Ondaatje, E and Zakaras, L, 1999). In the book Educating Citizens by Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Beaumont, E. and Stephens, T. (2003) civic engagement/service learning programs are described at twelve institutions including community colleges, four-year liberal arts colleges and universities. The programs described are varied and involve instructors who teach civic education and service learning activities by connecting students to their communities that result in increased and improved social responsibilities. When students observe and/or participate in structured out of class activities at community agencies and other assigned places they reinforce learning and become better citizens.

Second, quality academic service learning includes instruction and assignments as part of a credit-bearing program of study. This can also be a defined service learning project that produces an end-of-class portfolio containing a goal, plan of action, reflection commentary and an evaluation by a supervisor. The student field experience or out-of-class engagement must be structured, continuous, and lengthy enough for students to apply course content and/or be able to use previous knowledge. A good service learning program blends the concepts of community action and a student’s effort (s) to learn from his/her experiences along with the understanding that they must connect what is learned in class to existing knowledge (Stanton, Giles and Cruz, 1999). Kendal, former executive director of the national Society of Experiential Education (NSEE) notes that a good service learning program enlightens students so they see their service, issues and questions in the larger context of issues of social justice and social policy rather than just in the context of charity (Kendal, J. C., & Associates, Combining Services and Learning. 1990). To elaborate on this point it should be pointed out that too many times individuals fail to understand that if they wish to assist at a soup kitchen or feed the homeless they must understand the complexity and reasons causing the problem and work to change the situation and eliminate the need for soup kitchens. This means a well-thought plan involving civic engagement and a participatory process of one form or another is needed to perhaps change public policy (Colby, A. Ehrlich, T. Beaumont, E. and Stephens, 2003).

Third, when students become actively involved (preferably out of the classroom) with what they are reading and studying in class there is always the potential to improve and increase their understanding of an issue. They also receive multiple perspectives on the academic subject matter as a result of a supervised and structured long range field experience. Students involved with brief or add on volunteer activities do not typically experience similar learning (Eyler, Giles and Schmiede, 1996 and Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning, Eyler J. and Giles, Dwight, 1999).

Fourth, students who have the structured opportunity to reflect with peers in class, write reflection commentaries, and discuss real issues at the work place at least once a week have higher personal social values and perceived academic benefits. This can be compared to those students who only reflect once a month and have little if any course-based structure by a faculty member. Also when students discuss service activities with faculty, agency supervisors, and peers this contributes to significant gains in civic attitudes when compared to students who only discussed the service experiences with their peers (Mabry, J.B. Pedagogical Variations in Service-Learning and Student Outcomes, 1998). Academic service learning courses use experiential education by combining service (the out-of-class activity or field experience) and learning, which includes academic course work, with reflection. These courses offer academic credit and are typically linked to the Academic Affairs side of the college (Kendall and Associates, 1990). On the other hand, sometimes the service learning programs tied to the credit-bearing academic work tend to dwell too much on in-class learning and have a little emphasis on service and as a result leave too much to the agency heads.

Fifth, it was John Dewey who emphasized that experiencing life’s activities is unavoidable, and because of this the challenge by educators on how to better understand these experiences as they relate to learning has long been a subject of discussion. His ‘learning by doing’ concept has become a recognized idea. Even Cal Poly San Luis Obispo uses it as the university tag line, ‘learn by doing.’ Dewey theorized that experiential education begins with a concrete experience that is provided and then processed through an intentional or structured learning format resulting in applicable knowledge (Dewey, How We Think, 1933). Instructors should consider the principles of experiential education and use them for team building, creative problem solving and conflict resolution with students involved in group projects (NSEE Foundations Document Committee, 1997). Most service learning educators are familiar with Kolb’s theory (What? Now what? So what?), in which an academically structured experience improves the process in which knowledge is created through a transformational cycle of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (Evans Forney, and Guido-Dibrito, Student Development in College, 1998). The magic of this process takes place in the future, meaning how well and for how long will students stay involved in civic and community activities?

Sixth, the most common reason for students to do service is to help other people and at the same time they are provided the opportunity to improve society. It is important for faculty to be aware of the general areas in which students do their field experiences. The community schools, social welfare associations, hospitals and community recreational centers tend to make up the largest percentage of service learning activities. With this information in mind, it is worth recommending that, when possible, college instructors be encouraged to point interested students toward community-based activities related to environmental, government, political, and homeland security (e.g. issues related to law and justice, disaster planning and immigration) placements. It is evident from surveys and the literature that these latter areas appear harder to assign students due to a lack of interest or locating placements. It can possibly be the fact that educators view service learning placements as primarily for elementary school, social welfare and recreational center activities. In any case, it is important to identify students with business, health, law and justice and science career interests and get them engaged in, law enforcement related activities, as well as, environmental, medical and health placements. The idea is to get students with these majors, along with undecided majors and even majors in non-related programs of study involved in environmental issues that only require a small amount of technical training. Also it should be noted that the business side of nonprofit agencies offers the same exposure to service and learning that the client side does. In addition these students should be informed that there are places for them at almost every nonprofit agency. In the future these graduates will be needed as nonprofit supervisors and they will gain valuable experience by serving and assisting in these areas while they are in a college program of study. Sandy Austin and associates have provided a lot of evidence that service learning and volunteering seem to offer an individual the feeling of self-empowerment (Astin, ‘Long Term Effects of Volunteers During Their Undergraduate Years,’ 1999). Most students, like most other people, show concern for the environment, poverty, caring for others, and improving societal awareness and leadership abilities (Yates and Youniss, 1998).

Throughout academe some instructors will question if out-of-class learning includes pertinent instructional activities and if the level of academic rigor at the field based sites are on par with in-class assessments. There are faculty who will question the relevance of service learning and whether or not the activities are not just brief add-on assignments. Many instructors seem to imply that some activities are not always directly linked to course content, and in fact are not much different from volunteer activities. Faculty who teach general education courses at community colleges and baccalaureate institutions often ask how lower division courses and students without declared majors can apply course content to field experiences. Later a few examples will be provided to describe some opportunities and how this can be done.

There are many ways to offer professional development to faculty to learn new ideas and techniques, including having monthly seminars like CWU’s cadre of Academic Service Learning Faculty Fellows, described earlier. It is common for faculty to ask for some examples and descriptions of ideal or appropriate field experiences so they can review the level of student learning that takes place. Therefore this paper will briefly describe fourteen authentic projects completed by students so that interested faculty will have an idea about the service learning student’s majors and experiences. Hopefully these examples will generate project ideas for future assignments and class projects. Faculty may also wish to use these examples for the purpose of comparing and evaluating service learning pedagogy and strategies.

What Are Faculty Asking?

Prior to describing examples of Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) and Civic Engagement (CE) field experiences it will be beneficial to explain some background information. First an understanding of the constructivist learning model is helpful when applying the AS-L pedagogy. Constructivism asserts that knowledge is richer when created by the learner and when the learner or student can apply what has been learned. This best occurs when the application includes problem solving, reflection, modeling, and especially when learning is active. Learning is also more meaningful when related to a student’s prior life experiences. Put in another way students who utilize previously learned course content or apply basic principles from their discipline learn better (McIntyre, D. J., Byrd, D. M. and Foxx, S. M. Field and Laboratory Experiences 1996). This conceptual framework is not new as there are of course many examples of out-of-class learning or field experiences to reference. These include nonprofit cooperative education assignments, internships, capstone courses and departmental practicums. For service learning field activities or community-based civic engagement assignments, it is important to separate the weekend charity walkathons, neighborhood beautification, and trash clean up campaigns from more long-term environmental, educational, health, societal and social justice involvements associated at nonprofit government and community-based agencies.

During discussions related to service learning, interested faculty members, community organization supervisors, and the organizations that fund service learning programs often ask the following questions: Describe and list some viable and successful examples of academic service learning projects; and, How do you know there will be quality learning and academic achievement in a student’s service learning experience?

Faculty indicated their skepticism about using campus-based volunteer programs as out-of-class activities. Service learning practitioners are not skeptical about this as they often differentiate the long-term and meaningful activities from volunteer programs and extracurricular activities. The latter is often found in a student volunteer office, a service learning office or civic engagement center which is all housed in a student affairs division. It should be noted that volunteer programs do exist for an excellent purpose because they coordinate the efforts of students who wish to help with community needs. Because there is not a great need for faculty supervision with many of these volunteer activities, they do not involve rigorous academic teaching/learning. The reason is that there is not a well-defined or structured intellectualization process that includes an assessment process as part of a course grade. Also such programs in student affairs are less stable because they are usually on a lower priority within the university mission and do not offer academic credit.

A Profile of Service Learning Examples from CWU

It is hoped that the following examples and highlights from academic service learning programs at CWU will assist instructors in their pursuit of viable service learning and civic engagement assignments (Central Washington University Academic Service Learning Portfolios, 2001-05). Describing some examples of successful Academic Service Learning Portfolios projects can reduce the research, analysis and planning, as well as trial and error time for instructors who want to utilize this pedagogy.

  1. The Escuelita: This project involved two Spanish-speaking bilingual students. The first student was a sophomore (planning on becoming a Communications Major) who emigrated with his mother from Mexico to the United States, and for several years were migrant workers. The second student, also a sophomore, was born and raised in Panama, and was an US Air Force Veteran majoring in Information Technology. Both students are naturalized US citizens. They organized classrooms in the community close to CWU teaching migrant workers basic English. A former migrant worker assisting migrant workers was a powerful image to observe. In this project CWU students used information learned in their college general education classes and from their own backgrounds with the support from faculty to help people learn English. One class was held in the storage room of a local food bank (APOYO) and the other was held in a nice meeting room at the local motel. The classes were taught continuously for a seven month period and involved about eight students at each site. The motel manager at the motel joined the class because he wanted to learn Spanish so he could communicate better with the employees who cleaned motel rooms. The people the CWU students taught were hesitant to attend ESL and GED programs at local schools, yet felt comfortable learning at these informal settings. After completing this ten-week program a few people enrolled in the local community college Americanization Program. This proved to be a tremendous learning experience for the CWU students who were able to share their language and tutoring skills and their personal insights and experiences with the students. They also interacted very well with the CWU ESL Program staff to receive advice and assistance, as well as, local community agencies, businesses and government offices.
  2. Two first-year students who are planning to become teachers spent two quarters at the local Ellensburg Youth and Community Center (EYCC) tutoring middle school students while also being ‘a Big Brother’ or  ‘Big Sister’ to them. This helped the college students with their decision-making process related to their major, and to make a decision on what grade level they wished to teach – either early childhood (K-3) or elementary (three to nine). It also provided them the opportunity to tutor young children from diverse ethnic/economic backgrounds. One of the students wrote in his reflection commentaries that ‘passion is my guiding word for this community service project.’ He indicated he learned in previous classes that if you do not have a passion to impact a child’s life, you are in the wrong profession. He wrote, ‘My passion is being strengthened everyday I step into EYCC and interact with needy children who want to be encouraged (and strengthened) to continue on in their day to day lives. I know that there is a lot of hard work that goes into teaching, (6-8 hours a week at EYCC is draining enough) so this definitely gives me a heads up on what to expect day in and day out when teaching as I am learning so much from these children by being their big brother.’  Later they both decided to enroll in teacher education programs.
  3. A teacher education pre-major became a teaching assistant by teaching mathematics and science to two underachieving grammar school kids. This was her first time to be part of a class and what followed was a tremendous experience working with children. A significant issue for her was being a role model to these children and noting she had to watch her behavior around children and in the community. She wrote ‘I have to be a law-abiding citizen and act responsibly. Children look up to teachers and staff for guidance, and they ask teachers how to act in certain situations. I need to be aware of this and monitor my behavior when I am in the community and at school. This all comes with the teaching profession and I am proud to be part of it.’
  4. As part of a state grant, a Special Education Major, with support from her Special Education Professor and program advisor, implemented a survey to determine the public transportation needs of low-income seniors with disabilities who lived in Kittitas County where CWU is located. First she had to go through the approval process of the Human Subjects Committee. After receiving approval she organized and supervised a group of peers to assist in mailing, calling and/or visiting the homes of senior citizens in order to complete the survey. Completing a county-wide survey of this magnitude is a difficult task. Once the survey was completed the data was tabulated and analyzed. Upon completion, the report was written and presented to local community nonprofit agencies who advocate for people with disabilities. The student coordinating this project and those who assisted her were able to realize, with a deeper understanding, the needs of people who cannot get to the pharmacy, a doctor, a therapist, dentist, or make other medical appointments.
  5. Three students majoring in Psychology, Nutrition and Information Technology formed a team to work with several agencies including the County Sheriff, the Head Start/ECEAP Office, HopeSource (a local community action council) and the County Department of Public Health to complete a survey. In cooperation with the agency heads the students created a survey, circulated it to low-income residents, completed an analysis, wrote the final report, and presented it to the agency heads. The information will now be used for several nonprofit organizations and government agencies in Kittitas County to determine what support services are needed in the community. It is also part of a data bank to be used for upcoming grants and for budgetary requests for additional resources. This project afforded these students the opportunity to learn about the needs of low income citizens, apply principles learned in their discipline such as health, nutrition and family counseling, and using statistical analysis. The students debated which questions to ask and how to ask them. They also discussed issues related to demographics, ethnicity, age income, safety, and so on. From this experience, the students raised issues about power and privilege and noted differences between the poor and the working poor in their reflection statements.
  6. An older student with several years of prior working experience was a Business Management/Human Resources major and worked at KCAC (a local community action council). With the assistance of his professor and the agency staff, he reviewed the agency personnel policies, did some additional research, and then updated and rewrote the KCAC Human Resources Manual. This provided the student with first-hand information on state and local hiring guidelines, affirmative action policies, salary administration, benefits packages and payroll deduction items. He also learned about the agency revenue streams and the budgeting process for nonprofit agencies, as well as the expenditures for services provided to the clients. A co-worker who assisted with computers and office technology had the same feelings while working and observing at that agency. This student wrote in his reflection journal that ‘I was taken by how professional and dedicated this staff is and that they work for modest salaries compared to business and industry.’ He also wrote ‘I have not voted in the past but, I will be sure to vote in the next election and especially for local issues.’ This speaks to value changes that can occur from an out-of-class experience.
  7. A senior student majoring in Sociology and Pre-Law assisted with the evaluation of a major state grant at the Kittitas County and Yakima County Dispute Resolution and Mediation Center, a nonprofit agency. This grant was targeted to low-income residents of those counties. She worked with the director in the development of a follow-up questionnaire. She also established a random sample of the clients who had received assistance from staff who were funded by the grant budget. By telephone this student called and spoke with over seventy-five clients and listened to both sides of the dispute and collected data to see if the clients felt they received a satisfactory resolution. Listening to and recording answers to the questions was a tremendous learning experience in addition to determining if the requirements of the grant and service to clients were met. A written report with the information received was compiled and given to the director of the agency. During this project, the student was able to use the principles learned in her sociology courses, and apply statistical methods to analyze data she collected. In addition, this experience put her in touch with low income people, in real conflict situations, and who were referred to the agency.
  8. A junior Geology major worked at the Kittitas Conservation Department (a nonprofit agency) learning about environmental issues related to agriculture. She specifically learned about water conservation, stream ecology, and soil erosion. She also observed and classified types and sizes of trees that were along the stream and river banks and the effect their shade had on water temperatures. This service learning project brought her close to the issues and challenges of farmers, water rights of property owners, salmon conservation issues and other agricultural issues in Kittitas County Washington. The student was able to learn about these issues first hand by working with agency staff, attending staff and community meetings and county government committee hearings. She became more sensitive to environmental issues, continued volunteering, and later worked part-time for the agency. She is now working for the Washington State Department of Ecology in Yakima a nearby city.
  9. A Tourism major worked as an intern for a nonprofit organization called the Thorp Mill. The Thorp Mill building is on the Historical Register in the state of Washington. The student’s main focus was to learn about the operating budget and how dependent grants and fundraising are for this landmark building to exist. She learned about the operational costs, maintenance and the modest amounts of donations received annually. She helped organize the annual auction, which is the mill’s only major fundraiser. This was a tremendous opportunity for her to use leadership training and fundraising skills learned in her classes. Being an ex officio member of the Board of Directors and attending all their meetings was a great experience. Doing a SWAT and planning promotional materials with the board offered her great hands-on experiences. She wrote that marketing and doing grass root fund-raising for a nonprofit organization was a challenging experience, as she was able to apply the principles of her discipline while being one of the key members of the fund raising annual event.
  10. A History major/honors student, and a Studio Arts major collaborated on a project to write a history of the Sheriff’s Office in Kittitas County from 1893 to the present. Both students met periodically with the sheriff, librarians, archivists, and their faculty advisors. During this difficult process they have developed a deep understanding of the law and justice system, learned about local history and have became highly involved citizens. The History major continues to write and do research. This has involved talking with the past sheriffs and the present sheriff, meeting older community members and past government officials. The Art major continues to locate and research photographs of historical events, and paints portraits of past sheriffs and other artifacts pertinent to the history of the Sheriff’s Office. This project has continued for six months and will continue until it is completed. This effort has been a valuable and exciting experience for the students, faculty, and the Sheriff’s Office.
  11. A Marketing Major developed a marketing plan for physical fitness programs for the Kittitas County Public Health Office. His project focused on researching activities and promoting the various health and physical fitness services to the public. This project offered the student an opportunity to discuss the public health issues with department heads, and learn about the mission and challenges of a county department. He is now aware of the agency’s legal responsibilities, public disaster plans, and vital services available to citizens from that office. A special assignment for him was to learn about and promote the project ‘Shape Up,’ which is a national and state-wide program implemented in Kittitas County. This provided the student with the opportunity to understand the various functions of that department and the operations of a nonprofit agency. Completing the marketing plan and submitting it to the agency head was a process that took over nine weeks.
  12. A Spanish major gathered information, through a questionnaire and direct discussion from a high school ESL class composed of seven Mexican students. The information collected was about the cultural heritage and differences between Mexico and the US. The idea was to understand the difficulties Hispanic students experience in their transition from Mexico to the United States. This information will be used for the student’s own enrichment and for students in her future language classes. This end result involved both Anglo and Hispanic students who exchanged culturally related information. The student’s reflection commentaries indicated the following ‘I was eager to see how these students behaved in a class surrounded by their peers of the same heritage. I have watched them in mainstream classes. In those classes they tend to be quiet, but in the ESL class they appear very comfortable and appear to enjoy the company of other students who speak their language and have similar backgrounds.’ She learned that these students are all in the US seeking a better life, and while some plan to return to Mexico, others plan to stay here permanently. Other questions related to how the high school has treated these students and if they feel welcome. The service learning student also learned first hand information by communicating with these ESL students in their native tongue.
  13. Three students who were sophomores and undecided majors joined the Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health Office and completed the training program for Crisis Line and Domestic Abuse of Women programs. They worked in offices that provided them the opportunity to listen to complaints and refer many adolescents and women who suffer from some combination of abuse, mental health disorders, and chemical dependency to appropriate agencies for help. They have found that some women and children are abandoned by their families and many times have no place to go. The students received some front line experience that offered them first hand knowledge of what transpires in society. Working with populations of (usually) low income youth and families helps students understand issues of inequity and social justice and the need for support systems. The students learned and participated in programs and activities to educate people in order to prevent these situations from occurring in the future. They also learned from the clients by assisting them, and helping them help themselves.
  14. A Teacher Education major was involved in a neighborhood elementary school service project by coordinating an effort to ‘beautify’ the school grounds and paint the walls the building with murals and the handprints of the students. The principal reason for this was the problem with gangs tagging the walls of the school building. The school staff and students wanted it to be known that the building belongs to the (Garfield) community (in Yakima, WA). There was also an effort made to plant bulbs, and so on in areas that could use some cheering up, and encourage staff and students to patrol the outside to clean up litter and make sure the building looked nice on the outside. This was an effort to work and learn with students, staff, and parents of the Elementary School, as well as the community that surrounds it. The cleaning up of the outside helped the children take ownership in their school. This education major also worked with a local artist to create ideas for wall murals. The student was excited about working on this project with staff and children that enhanced the school and that built community pride. The student wrote, ‘I looked at this project as an extension of who I am, someone who wants to do things for others, someone who wants others to have the glory of a job well done, and someone who will do whatever it takes to help others realize the value in who they are and that what they do is just as important as what others may do.’


    These are only a few examples of what students can accomplish. There are many more projects completed by students from accounting, biology, music majors, and other disciplines. The above descriptions do not include all of the student experiences and accomplishments, nor all the reciprocity between the institution and the campus partners. However, these examples demonstrate the importance for college and student involvement in a broad band of long-term urban service learning activities and projects that actually took place in a rural college town of 15,000 people located in a county with a population of 33,000.

    Depending on their service activities students learned about the complexities of life as they related to the environment, nonprofit community based organizations, government, low income individuals, senior citizens, and the disabled. Students are able to survey and assess community needs. Most importantly, in the process they are become engaged citizens by participating in community affairs. In addition, at various levels, they are now more aware and sensitive to the notion of being an engaged and informed citizen.

    To summarize, it is clear to many educators that colleges should be places that are committed to learning, scholarship, and community building, and are dedicated to helping students become self reliant and prepared for life in a diverse and global society. As Ernie Boyer concluded in his book, The Undergraduate Experience in America (1995) colleges must first educate students to be human. Institutions of higher education should be deeply concerned about encouraging students to be of service to others as a central part of their education and by helping they recognize that they are not autonomous individuals but members or part of an intentional community outside the sometimes isolated college campus.


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    Central Washington University: Academic Service-Learning Program. Student AS-L Project (class) Portfolios, 2001-2005.

    Colby, Anne, Thomas Ehrlich, Elizabeth Beaumont, and Jason Stephens. (2003). Educating Citizens, Preparing America’s Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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    Mabry, J. B. Fall, (1998). Pedagogical Variations in Service-Learning and Student Outcomes: How Time, Contact, and Reflection Matter. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, pp 32-47.

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    About the Author

    Presently Dr. James Pappas is a Professor of Education and the Director of Academic Service-Learning at Central Washington University. He also coordinates a cross campus Academic Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Program. His course specialties are undergraduate and graduate project-based courses in service learning and graduate courses on the History of Education and Public School Budget, Finance and Grant Writing in the Master of Education Administration Program.

    Dr. Pappas was the Dean of Admissions and Records, Dean of Academic Services, Interim President and Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing/Student Affairs and a Faculty Member in the William O Douglas Honors College (Great Books Program) at CWU. Prior to CWU he was an Assistant Professor of History and Psychology and Director of Admissions and Career Planning at Chicago State University. He received the CWU Distinguished Professor of the University Award for Public Service in 2003. You can contact Dr Pappas at 509-963-3075, or at pappasj@cwu.edu.


    The author wishes to acknowledge the dedication and community service work done by many students in his service learning classes for the past four years, as well as the faculty mentors who guided their field experiences. Acknowledgement also goes to the CWU AS-L Faculty Fellow Colleagues who are dedicated to this pedagogy. It was from their commitment to service learning and civic engagement efforts that the author was able to observe, prepare, and share his thoughts for this article.

Community College National Center for Community Engagement (CCNCCE) sunsetted October 1, 2015. Mesa Community College hosts content from The Journal for Civic Commitment, published by the CCNCCE, to ensure it remains publicly available.

The important work of the CCNCCE was made possible through the financial support from many civic-minded foundations and organizations, including the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Learn and Serve America-Higher Education program, the Kettering Foundation, Campus Compact (through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Arizona Community Foundation, Arizona Foundation for Women, Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation, and The Teagle Foundation.