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Education Beyond the Classroom

by Jaime Garispe '11

“Because we are called to love our neighbor we must be engaged in our local community,” said Robert Duke, Ph.D., assistant professor of biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University. Duke explains that this idea is precisely why he focuses on service-learning with his students.

Education at APU is distinguished by professors like Duke, who do much more than teach traditional classes in lecture halls. Duke harnesses hands-on service opportunities so that students at APU receive their education in two ways—part learned in the classroom and part learned in the community.

“I could not have asked for a better way to integrate academics and service,” said Mya Randle, a student in one of Duke’s service-learning classes. “This unique kind of class gave us an opportunity to put words into action. When a group of students come together and study a text that calls for action, the most effective way to learn is to do.”

“It’s about finding opportunities where APU can interact with the community,” said Duke. “A quote I love is ‘we are greater than me.’ However, in higher education, both as students and faculty, we are often encouraged to be consumed with our own research, studies, grades, etc.” In his effort to foster a sense of community, Duke helped start the Rotaract Club with local Rotarians and serves as the club’s faculty advisor. The club promotes opportunities for community interaction and is a great way for students to work with local Rotarians on larger projects.

As part of his focus on service-learning, Duke also encourages his students to become involved in the Office of Ministry and Service-sponsored program, A-Town. An after-school support system, A-Town provides opportunities for Azusa students and APU students to interact through educational and recreational activities. Of course, all of these service-learning projects need funding, which is why Duke worked on obtaining a Carnegie Grant for their continuation last summer.

“APU is a flagship institution when it comes to interaction with the community,” said Duke. “This interaction occurs in many ways, but a key to connecting scholarship with the community is academic service-learning.”

Duke represents the dedication that all APU faculty have to Christian education that blends service-learning with traditional textbook and classroom coursework. Integrating service with academics promotes APU’s role and mission in education—to graduate well-rounded scholars who care about the world around them.