UCA launches academic service learning program

The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) will launch its first academic Service-Learning program to advance student learning and make a positive impact on Conway and surrounding communities.

Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich classroom learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

UCA Provost Steve Runge said, “We are very pleased to launch this formalized service learning initiative at UCA. While service learning has been a mainstay in many courses across campus, we have not actively coordinated this highly effective learning strategy before. The establishment of a formal service learning program will facilitate the addition of more service learning into our curriculum and hence, create a stronger, more meaningful learning environment for our students.”

This project is a campus-wide initiative supported by UCA administration, academic colleges, and various departments on campus. The Academic Service-Learning program is a collaborative effort between UCA and the community it serves.

Dr. Peter Mehl, Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Faculty Liaison for Service-Learning, stated, “Service-Learning is a way to create a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and giving.” He added, “Service-Learning also improves student learning by providing meaningful class activities that lead to positive student learning outcomes.”

A primary focus of the service-learning initiatives will be working with local nonprofit organizations that are faced with obstacles in meeting the needs of underserved populations.

Laura Lee McCool, Director of Community Development for the City of Conway, said, “Exposing citizens to the benefits of higher education could be the difference in lifting a person out of generational poverty. At the same time, the humanitarian lessons learned by aiding an abused child, disabled adult, homeless family or senior citizen cannot be taught in a classroom.”

For the first time this summer, there will be a pedagogical seminar for faculty who wish to integrate service-learning into their teaching activities.

For more information about UCA’s service learning program, please visit uca.edu/idc/servicelearning/.