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Service Learning at SLU

Service learning at Saint Louis University doesn’t just help enhance your understanding of the course curriculum, it guides you toward a deeper consciousness of how social justice can promote the common good.

Service learning is a teaching method that integrates lessons learned from community service into the curriculum. While gaining work experience outside the classroom, you also gain wisdom and knowledge from the community partner, and in turn, the community benefits from what you bring to the table.

After your service work is completed, you will have the time to fully integrate your experiences outside the classroom with the academic content of the course and the Ignatian mission of the University.

Students crafting with children

Why Service Learning?

As a Jesuit institution, Saint Louis University puts a great deal of emphasis on service to the community. Last year, students, faculty and staff performed over one million hours of service work to the greater St. Louis community. Service learning lends itself to the goal of becoming men and women for others in many ways:

  • Enhancing your learning by empowering you to use the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to be of service to others.
  • Assisting community organizations in meeting their needs, while at the same time allowing them to act as a "co-teacher." They become community partners and are vital collaborators in the learning process.
  • Enabling faculty to provide meaningful learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.

If you are unsure where to begin, our staff is here to help. Contact us regarding the details of what you are looking for and a member of our staff will guide you through the various opportunities available with our community partners.

Submit a Service Interest Form

Your professor may require that you keep track of your service hours for your course. This form contains your course and community partner information, as well as the number of hours you completed with dates and times. The form needs to be signed by the community partner.

Download a Service Learning Course Hours Form

Frequently Asked Questions

How does service learning work with my class?

In addition to lectures and the normal texts for the class, your service experience is also part of the academic experience. The specifics of your service-learning experience will be communicated in your course syllabus.

How will I be graded for the service-learning component?
 There are various ways that your professor can make the service experience a part of your grade. In addition to the service you perform and the reflection that follows, you may be expected to write a paper relating your experience to the course theories or objectives. Or, if you are working on a particular project for a community partner, you may be graded on the quality of the project itself. Grading information should be included in your course syllabus.
What kind of service would I do?

SLU’s Center for Social Action has a community partners database that includes hundreds of agencies willing to work with students in service learning courses. Your professor may also already have sites that will correlate with your course. Your service experience could be anything from working with children to helping an organization with a marketing or public relations strategy to researching and writing reports for an agency to further its mission.

How many hours of service would I do?
While it is up to your professor, your service experience will typically require anywhere between 15-30 hours for the semester.
How will I get to and from my service site?
Many service sites are within walking distance of campus; however, some are farther away. The vast majority of these are along a MetroBus or MetroLink route. For ones that are not, you will need access to a car or carpool with another student. Some sites may not require you to be there regularly but will allow you to work from campus. 
What happens if I am unable to go to my site on a scheduled day?
If you will be absent from a day of service, you must contact your site and inform them of your situation. Your professor may wish to be contacted as well. 

For Faculty

If you are a faculty member who would like to integrate community service into your existing curriculum or are just starting to develop the framework for a new service-learning course, the Center for Social Action is available to consult with you on syllabi development, and can connect you with a range of academic resources.

Resources for Integrating Service into Your Curriculum

For Community Partners

Every semester, our faculty teach 80-100 different service-learning courses. By enrolling in those courses, students will serve hundreds of agencies in St. Louis. The partnerships created through these efforts are helping to strengthen urban communities across the St. Louis region.

The Center for Social Action administers a survey to local agencies in order to discover the level of interest in forming a partnership with Saint Louis University. It also provides valuable information about what areas the organizations would like assistance in. If you are a community organization interested in forming a service-learning partnership with Saint Louis University, please take a few moments and fill out the Community Organization Survey.

Sometimes the differences between a service learner and a regular volunteer are unclear. The important thing to remember is that service learning, while providing an avenue to perform community service with your agency, also places an equal amount of emphasis on academic objectives. The students' experiences with your organization will be the "course text," and they will relate their experiences to what they are studying in class.

When you become a community partner with Saint Louis University's Center for Social Action, you are our partner in the education of our students. It is designed to be a true collaboration, in that you are providing the student with a hands-on learning experience. Without you as our partner, the program would not work, so thank you in advance for all your effort and hard work.

What Does Service-Learning Require?

  • Designate someone from your agency as the contact person for students.
  • Provide meaningful service experiences, either directly with the clients you serve, or indirectly "behind the scenes."
  • Give a basic orientation to all of the students who will be working for you.
  • Provide basic supervision for the students.
  • Be accessible to answer questions from students or faculty that pertain to the service-learning experience.
  • Maintain strong, open lines of communication.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will students typically be working?

The students' schedules vary greatly but are generally flexible and can often adapt to your needs. During the fall semester, expect the students to begin working around mid-September through the end of November. During the spring semester, students will be typically available from late January through the end of April.

How many hours of service will the students be doing?
While it is up to the individual professor, the service experience typically requires between 15-30 hours for the semester.
How will I know what the faculty member's expectations are?

Your expectations will be explained to you before the service begins, either by the course professor or by one of the Center for Service and Community Engagement staff members.

Will I know what the course objectives are?
If you work with a faculty member, he or /she will share the syllabus with you. Students can also provide you with a copy of the course syllabus and the service-learning requirements. Reviewing the syllabus is a great way to figure out a position that will meet your organization's needs and also benefit the students.
What if students don't show up for the required times?
If a student does not show up for a scheduled session or if you have other concerns, please contact the faculty member directly. You can also call Leah Sweetman at 314-977-4214 and she will discuss the matter with the faculty member.