More than 200 classes on Auburn University’s campus are engaging in learning outside of the classroom and in a real world setting, making a difference for the local community.
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During the last few years, Auburn started an initiative for service learning that takes students out of the typical classroom setting and gives them the opportunity to serve and learn in community activities directed by their professors.
According to Joyce Thomas-Vinson, the coordinator of the student engagement and service learning in the Office of Public Service, service learning allows students to take what they have learned in class and apply it to a real life situation for local community members, who are in need of expertise and help from the Auburn campus.
Although it is not required for every major at Auburn, service learning is highly encouraged among Auburn’s faculty.
“At one point, we actually considered having service learning be required for all students in their curriculum,” Thomas-Vinson said, “But rather than doing that, we have encouraged more faculty members to include service learning as a component in their courses. Our ultimate goal is for every student to have the opportunity to do some service learning activities.”
Nan Fairley, associate professor in the department of communication journalism, has incorporated service learning into her classes for the last five years. Her spring 2010 community journalism project resulted in a 32-page special edition newspaper in honor of the 30th anniversary of the city of Valley, Ala. The project has received regional and national recognition.
“Basically the reason why I do it is because I believe in the benefits,” Fairley said. “The projects that my journalism students do really benefit the student in numerous ways. For example, our work in Loachapoka to Valley, Ala., gets them off campus and working in a real world environment, which is very important for journalists. Also, you can learn many lessons by being off campus and in communities, anything from diversity lessons to economic lessons, so that’s very important to our future journalists.”
Thomas-Vinson, who previously worked with the program Project Uplift, said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for all students. I worked with Project Uplift for ten years. I had the first hand opportunity to see Auburn University students who were engaged in making a difference in the community. They grew so much. They learned so much. They were exposed to a side of life that many of them don’t see in their everyday walk. I could leave every day feeling like I had made a difference and that job just really made me interested in service learning on a larger scale because I think it really adds to the students’ learning experience.”
Fairley said, “A majority of students always say they’re glad for the experience after it’s over because it has real consequences.”
Auburn currently has 128 community partners that range from the Lee County Humane Society to the Lee County Youth Development Center. To become a community partner, the potential partners can join the Auburn Serves network and list information about their organization.
For more information on service learning or to join the Auburn Serves network, visit www.auburnserves.com