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Service-Learning & Volunteer Programs


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Service-Learning & Volunteer Programs

Office Location:
705 S. New Street
Lawrence Center, Room 241
West Chester, PA 19382

Phone: 610-436-3379
Fax: 610-430-5600

Service-Learning Overview

Staff from the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs offer resources and support to faculty who are implementing service-learning in their courses and programs.

West Chester University defines academic service-learning as a teaching method that combines community service with curricular goals, as it focuses on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility. This growing area in higher education is distinguished from other experiential education approaches by benefiting both the provider and the recipient. During the 2015-2016 academic year service-learning courses were taught in all five colleges. Click here for a list of courses offered at WCU.

Getting Started

The Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs has a plethora of resources for faculty to utilize, including a resource library, located in our office. Some of these resources include recent publications about service-learning in a variety of disciplines, information about the benefits of service-learning , timesheets for students to track their hours , risk management information , and sample syllabi.

There are several areas to consider when starting a service-learning course. The following are steps that will help faculty (re)design and prepare a service-learning course.

  1. Identify your goals and objectives.
  2. Determine the type of service project that will complement your learning goals and objectives.
  3. Select a community partner.
  4. Involve the community partner in the planning stages.
  5. (Re)design and share your syllabus with the community partner.
  6. Introduce students to the concept of service-learning and the community work they will be doing.
  7. Explain how the community work will allow them to gain a deeper understanding of the core concepts taught in the course.
  8. Provide opportunities to reflect on the service experience throughout the semester.
  9. Assess the overall service-learning experience.

If you are faculty or a chair interested in incorporating service-learning into your course or academic program, please contact Jodi Roth-Saks, Director of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, or Dr. Liz Wang, Service-Learning Faculty Associate, to get started.

Additional Useful Websites

10 Principles for Successful Service-Learning

Excerpted from Howard, Jeffrey, ed., Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning: Service-Learning Course Design Workbook, University of Michigan: OCSL Press, Summer 2001 pp. 16–19.

The following ten principles were created by Jeffrey Howard for the Michigan Journal of Community Service in 2001. Howard believes that, in order to fully understand and authentically integrate service-learning into coursework, faculty must adhere to each of these principles equally.

  1. Grades are assigned for classroom activities, not the service activity
  2. Do not compromise academic rigor
  3. Establish learning objectives
  4. Establish criteria for service placements
  5. Use educationally sound learning strategies
  6. Prepare students for learning from the community
  7. Minimize distinction between the community learning and classroom learning
  8. Rethink the faculty instructional role
  9. Prepare for variation in student learning outcomes
  10. Maximize community responsibility of the course

Creating Partnerships: Finding a Community Agency

When selecting a community agency for your service-learning course, be sure to connect with staff from the agency to discuss their volunteers’ expectations, the students’ expectations, and your learning outcomes. By giving the agency an overview of what your students are studying and how it directly relates to community involvement, the community agency can assist with the learning outcomes. Talking about expectations will allow for open communication.

Many service-learning classes invite community partners to class for an orientation and overview about the agency during the first few weeks of the semester. If you need assistance with selecting an agency, you can speak with Jodi Roth-Saks, Director of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs. Although we have hundreds of social service agencies in our area, here is a list of agencies that have reached out to our office to find resources.

Reflection: Encouraging Critical Thinking

Reflection is an integral component of service-learning pedagogy. It is through the process of structuring and guiding a student's reflective process that faculty can help students integrate lessons from their community experiences with classroom theories. This allows students to begin responding to experiences by using a more critical framework, correct assumptions, challenge their stereotypes, experience personal growth, develop citizenship skills, and share their reactions and feelings with their peers.

Learn more about encouraging critical thinking in your classroom through reflection.

Service-Learning Work Group

The Service-Learning Work Group is comprised of 15 faculty from a variety of disciplines and colleges. They assist with coordinating and promoting efforts in service-learning and are available for faculty assistance. The Service-Learning Work Group also acts as a steering committee for the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs. They meet regularly to discuss ongoing projects, reporting, assessment, and planning. If you are interested in becoming involved with the Work Group, please contact Dr. Liz Wang.


  • Dr. Hannah Ashley, Department of English
  • Dr. Eleanor (Ellie) Brown, Department of Psychology
  • Dr. Tina Chiarelli-Helminiak, Department of Graduate Social Work
  • Dr. Ashlie Delshad, Department of Political Science
  • Dr. Martin Helmke, Department of Geology and Astronomy
  • Dr. Travis Ingersoll, Department of Social Work
  • Dr. William (Bill) Lalicker, Department of English
  • Dr. Lisa Marano, Department of Mathematics
  • Dr. Elizabeth Munz, Department of Communication Studies
  • Dr. Katie Solic, Department of Literacy
  • Dr. Linda Stevenson, Department of Political Science
  • Dr. Andrea Varricchio, Department of Languages and Cultures
  • Mrs. Anne Walsh, Department of Communication Studies
  • Dr. Chun-Chen (Liz) Wang, Department of Marketing
  • Dr. Jacqueline Zalewski, Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Community Engagement Scholars

Community Engagement Scholars are trained student leaders who assist faculty who are teaching academic service-learning courses or departments with growing community partnerships, community-based research projects, or other community-engagement efforts. Scholars receive training from the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, as well as a stipend and the opportunity to participate in professional development workshops.

Each week, Community Engagement Scholars spend approximately 5-8 hours coordinating service-learning programs and services. The Community Engagement Scholar's position may include assisting with logistics for service-learning courses, preparing an orientation/training, collaborating with community agency staff, leading a reflective dialogue in the classroom, researching partner agencies for future service-learning courses, or assisting with a community-based research project. Community Engagement Scholars typically receive a $500 stipend. Currently the program is pending funding.

The application deadline is December 1, 2015. Faculty will be notified of their acceptance by December 8, 2015. Individual faculty and departments are responsible for assisting with recruiting and selecting a student. Spring 2016 CE Scholars should be identified prior to January 1, 2016. To apply download the application, here. If you are interested in the CE Scholars Program, but need assistance with creating a plan of action for your course or department, please contact Jodi Roth-Saks.

Distinguishing Service-Learning from Other Forms of Experiential Learning

Research and national trends indicate that universities are moving to more inclusive language of community-engaged learning, or community-based learning, to incorporate all types of service-learning under one umbrella term and adopting the Furco Model (2001). The Furco Model has been incorporated into service-learning planning and development at more than 300 colleges and universities worldwide. Moving forward, this model will guide and shape the way West Chester University develops and assesses service-learning courses and course sections.

International Service-Learning Programs

In collaboration with the Center for International Programs, the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs regularly assists faculty and staff interested in creating and implenting service-learning abroad programs. These are trips coordinated during spring break, winter break, or summer sessions and are geared towards students interested in public service. More information about the current service-learning abroad programs can be found here.

The Alternative Break movement has grown substantially within the last 15 years. The WCU Alternative Break program is a proud member of Break Away, the national organization that trains university staff and students on organizing service-learning trips worldwide. Resources from Break Away are available to faculty interested in coordinating a program. The Active Citizen Continuum is one of the many terrific resources available. The Active Citizen Continuum is a developmental model that illustrates the process of becoming a lifelong active citizen. The Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs leads workshops about this process for student leaders and academic service-learning courses.

If you are interested in coordinating an international Alternative Break Trip, please contact Jodi Roth-Saks to get started.