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Service-Learning at Northeastern University

Countries Visited

Benin (West Africa), Costa Rica, India, Mexico, and the U.S.

Past Projects

Northeastern University has offered a variety of classes (56 in the 2011-2012 academic year) with prominent faculty members who have developed both domestic and international service-learning opportunities. The Service-Learning Program was created, so that faculty could access the network of  resources and expertise. Over the last seven years, students have also being able to participate in faculty led trips where they received credit for two academic courses. During these trips, students learn about the course content through in country lectures by the faculty member and local experts and work on a variety of service projects. Most of these service-learning project are related to learning about the way human services are facilitated in that country and learning the local language.

In one international service-learning course, students traveled to Costa Rica and worked with an organization to develop materials to help people learn English to improve their economic opportunities. They also created volunteer brochures and a binder to explain the role of volunteers in the organization. It allowed students to practice the language skills they developed in the classroom on a more regular basis.

“It’s a great institutional priority to make sure students are educated as global citizens,” said Kristen Simonelli Doggett, Associate Director and Service-Learning Coordinator.

Campus Profile

Northeastern University has a long tradition of experiential education and service that goes back over 100 years, with service-learning as one models for well over 20 years. They have developed a service-learning program in the last 12 years that provides the resources around how to incorporate civic responsibility, collaboration, integrated learning, high quality service, reflection as well as assessment and evaluation into a given course. Reflection takes places through multiple academic tools, such as class discussion, discussion boards, final presentations, among other avenues.

Three different models are utilized by the campus, including direct service-learning, project-based service-learning (and community-based action research), and a hybrid of the both. Service is integrated within courses from over 16 disciplines to give students the most well rounded experience. The direct service-learning is most often utilized with students who are at the introductory to mid-level courses and engages them in  more traditional volunteer roles that organizations have already established. On the other hand, project-based service-learning requires students to act as consultants or researchersand tends to be more often for students who are taking mid-level to graduate level courses. Many students who participate in project-based service-learning address  organizational or administrative needs, such as developing a new communications plan, researching  legislation to advocate for social  issues, and translating marketing material from English to Spanish or Chinese.

“Throughout the semester, students are learning and serving at the same time and their service and academic courses content inform each other. There’s a cycle of preparation, service, reflection and assessment that all students engage in weekly and over the courses of the semester as they are in class and  out in the community,” said Simonelli Doggett. “We really make sure to find service that is appropriate for the academic level of the course, and take into consideration whether they come in with previous experience in the field.”

As part of another aspect of helping students develop personal and professional skills and knowledge, the S-L Program at Northeastern University offers leadership opportunities for students. Students can apply or be recruited by their faculty member to be service-learning teaching assistants for these courses.  In this position,  they  act as liaisons with the community, thought partners to their faculty member, and as mentors to students in the class. There is also a student organization called Northeastern Students 4 Giving, that developed out of a service-learning course in which  students can learn what it means to be a philanthropist.  Through this service-learning course, students support community-identify needs, by giving out grants to support initiatives the organizations want to develop or expand.

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