Faculty Views on Service Learning

That sense of service to a greater cause, in tandem with powerful educational experiences that help Maverick students on their paths to their degrees, forge the backbone of the Center for Service Learning (CSL), one of the key programs under UTA’s Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary at UTA, the CSL works with faculty members to integrate community service into academic coursework, a union that promotes both civic responsibility and the advancement of students’ educational and career goals.

“Service learning allows students to experience the power of collaboration with community partners through their coursework,” says Susan Dequeant, director of the CSL. “Students get real-world experiences and richer, better-rounded learning processes.”

students with containers of water for a service learning science courseAt UTA, service learning also fits into the Maverick Advantage program, which provides opportunities for UTA students to distinguish themselves through experiential learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. Service learning can take many forms at UT Arlington. Public health students have created campus wide anti-smoking events in partnership with Human Resources. Broadcast communications students develop promotional videos for area nonprofits. Landscape architecture students have worked with municipalities to protect coastal islands from floating garbage. Communication technology students build websites for fledgling community groups.

Regardless of the project, the community becomes an important part of the curriculum. Moreover, the lessons can be local or global.

“One of the great things about service learning is that it allows students to put their skills to the test,” says Diane Jones Allen, CAPPA professor and director of UTA’s Landscape Architecture program. “Students learn how to be creative for someone else, to really serve others.”

That sense of service is an element that Rebecca Garner, clinical associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI), tries to instill in her Introduction to Public Health course. She says her students need opportunities to apply their lessons in the real world.

“Public health is a person-centered field,” says Dr. Garner, who is also director of CONHI’s undergraduate public health program. “Students need to practice the skills they’re learning in the classrooms.”

Garner’s students partnered with UTA Health Services and the Office of Human Resources on anti-smoking campaigns. They created one-hour seminars, interactive educational exhibits, and even a large-scale campus event called “Smoke This, Not That” that gave free Texas barbecue to Mavericks who viewed their smoking-cessation displays.

She says the key benefits to service learning are participation in community service, forcing students outside of their comfort zones, and providing students with opportunities to learn in different ways.

Courtesy of UTA Magazine