Service meets academics in Community Engaged Learning

Meghan McCallum

Community Engaged Learning is a unique type of community involvement at Lawrence. This concept is also known as “service learning,” which has different meanings for different contexts.
In “A Service Learning Curriculum for Faculty,” Robert Bringle and Julie Hatcher describe it as “a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and (b) reflect on service activity as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”
Service to the community can be either direct or indirect, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter or researching and presenting information on homelessness in the area.
The main difference between CEL and community service is the direct connection between service and academic learning, through which students can apply what they learn to the world outside of the classroom.
Through this method, students become interested in their communities and the ways in which they can personally improve the quality of life. In turn, students also better understand their academic discipline.
President Jill Beck supported this type of education in her 2004-2005 Annual Report Message “A Question of Values: Community Engagement, Altruism, and Liberal Education.”
“To strengthen the ability of its students to make informed ethical choices and develop empathy, learning opportunities outside the classroom that promote altruism and civic engagement as moral values and practice should be actively encouraged,” Beck stated.
“Programs that engage students in partnerships with the community facilitate the refinement of knowledge obtained through formal education and enable students to challenge themselves as they develop a moral framework for their lives.”
While the responsibility of active participation and reflection falls on the student, President Beck states, “The college’s responsibility is to provide community-based opportunities and formal coursework as contexts for enhancing moral cultivation.”
In the biweekly CEL column, The Lawrentian will feature Lawrence students and faculty involved in Community Engaged Learning this year.
If you are a faculty member or student who would like your course or project to be featured, please contact Meghan McCallum at
Contributions to this article were made by Mica Tucci, AmeriCorps*VISTA member and ArtsBridge Assistant Coordinator.