The Next Generation of Service-Learning

by Ahmed Sedam '11

On Monday, January 31, Azusa Pacific University hosted a service-learning colloquium, “Community-University Partnerships: A Match Made in Heaven, or an Earthly Challenge? A 15-year Retrospective on Civic Engagement.” More than 70 city and school representatives – including schools such as UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine University – attended the event co-sponsored by California Campus Compact. The goal of the colloquium was to share the best practices and discuss how to expand service-learning.

Colloquium organizer Judy Hutchinson, executive director of APU’s Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, enjoyed the day’s events. “I was very pleased having so many schools represented, and also such a good representation from APU and the city of Azusa including APU faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, student life staff, as well as community partners," said Hutchinson.

Keynote speaker, Elisabeth Hollander, senior fellow at Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service spoke about how service-learning is important for both schools and the community. “We need to go deeper into service-learning, not broader,” said Hollander. “We are trying to teach students about how change is made. Never take it lightly.”

However, in a time of economic turmoil, service-learning departments across the country are being cut. “Our communities are broke, and higher education is facing cutbacks, which affects enrollment and service-learning seen as extra,” said Hollander.

After her keynote, APU student representative Jessica Sizemore ’10 and Director of Liberal Studies Paul Flores, Ph.D., spoke about APU’s C.H.A.M.P. program and its impact in Azusa.

Sizemore shared her experience and how the program connects students to the community. “College becomes tangible for these students,” said Sizemore. “It also forces APU students out of the bubble.”

Flores, a former Azusa Unified School District teacher, is also pleased with the evolvement of the program. “I invite parents into my classroom, and they want their children to be where we are at,” said Flores. “I also believe that my students learn more from 10 hours of service-learning, than from 10 hours of my exciting lectures.”

Hutchinson also acknowledged the import role faculty play in creating successful, meaningful programs. “We have a very strong service-learning faculty,” said Hutchinson. “They serve as a fine model of the potential of service-learning to make a difference in both the education of our students and in the community.”