Service-learning options to increase at KSU

Liz Laubscher

Kent State accepted the Corporation for National and Community Services in its National Learn & Serve Challenge this week.

The week is being used to bring awareness for service-learning and service-learning initiatives across the nation. Service-learning is a newer form of teaching that uses the curriculum taught in class and applies to real world experiences.

Eric Smer, the AmeriCorps*VISTA service leader for Kent State, is involved in the service-learning initiatives across the eight campus network as part of Kent State’s Academic Quality Improvement Project.

“I’ve experienced service-learning as a student, as a course developer, as a community partner and now as an administrator,” Smer said in a press release. “No matter which angle you approach it from, it is an experience you will always remember. It’s a way where you can truly make a difference in the lives of others but get course credit and area expertise at the same time.”

For the 2006-2007 school year, service-learning went beyond just one class or department of Kent State. It’s incorporated at six of the eight campus, including the Kent, Stark, Tuscarawas, Salem, Trumbull and Geauga campuses.

Andrea Adolph, who coordinates service-learning at the Stark campus and is also an English professor, said service-learning is a combination of community service and a form of experiential learning.

“What are the real needs of the community, and what are the academic needs of the students in the class, and as the instructor how do we find a good fit?” Adolph said. “How can we find a project where real important needs of the community can be met while the students are actually learning things they should be learning in the courses?”

Don Thacker, marketing instructor at the Stark campus, implemented the program in his Introduction to Marketing class. Thacker replaced his semester-long research paper with a semester-long service-learning project in which students use their marketing skills.

Students applied those skills when they conducted marketing research, analysis and marketing plan construction for a local not-for-profit organization.

Other service-learning projects that have been done throughout Kent State’s campuses are not limited to any particularly academic department. Political science, sociology, psychology, history, English, geography, just to name a few, are involved in the project.

At the Kent campus, students in different design and architecture classes designed and built playhouses that were auctioned off in a fundraiser for the alternative-break program that sent students to Biloxi, Miss., where they helped with the Hurricane Katrina relief.

Students from different education classes also got involved in planning crafting lessons to be used in Cleveland-area museums and other venues.

To learn more about service-learning courses and what is available at Kent State, contact Smer at [email protected] or (330) 672-7876.

Contact social services reporter Liz Laubscher at [email protected].