So What Is Service-Learning?: Reflections of a Novice Service-Learning Enthusiast

By: Kristine Cody

I have gotten acquainted with Service-Learning through my work as a graduate intern in Azusa Pacific University’s Center for Academic Service-Learning & Research. With that statement, I feel that I must also give a disclaimer – I’ve been in this position for a month and a half. I know my words won’t perfectly capture what Service-Learning is but I hope that they will shed light on the journey of discovering its likeness.

Service-Learning is when service – and – learning are equally incorporated in an institution’s efforts to address community needs. Whether done by a department, an individual, or by educators themselves, there is a key coordinator, such as APU’s Service-Learning office, in this process that matches classroom curriculum with relevant service projects.

Participating students intentionally apply knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom to assist others, which both enhances their service and authenticates what they are learning.  Those being helped contribute to the process also by sharing their experiences and feedback in a way that allows for practical understanding of academic concepts as well as realization of impact. Therefore, optimal service and learning occurs when both parties are recognized as playing an essential role and mutual benefit is gained.

In addition, for those committed to living their life for Christ, there is also a spiritual impact in doing Service-Learning. One of our Service-Learning Advocates (SLA’s) shared her experience of doing Service-Learning in India over the summer. She talked of her volunteer experiences and interaction with the local people that taught her lessons in disregarding unjust, societal divides and loving in a Christ-like manner. Her stories and reflection illuminated the fact that incorporating Service-Learning into your lifestyle has the potential to foster intellectual, moral, and spiritual development.

In my efforts to define Service-Learning I have discovered that it is a concept better experienced than explained. You know it by doing it. I know those statements alone will not result in an epiphany for most, but I hope that it will at least prompt people to discover it for themselves.


Kristine is a graduate assistant at the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research serving as the 2012 - 2013 Coordinator for Student Professional Development. She is working towards her Master’s of Science in College Counseling and Student Development.