An important element of Pacific Union College’s mission is preparing students for productive lives of useful human service, and during the 2013-2014 school year the college further committed to this calling by establishing a formal service-learning program and hiring a service-learning coordinator.
“Ultimately, service-learning aims to create a reciprocal relationship between the college and the community in which both students’ learning goals are met, and the community also benefits in a positive way,” explains Alisa Jacobo, PUC’s new service-learning coordinator. Jacobo, a PUC graduate who holds a master’s in social work from the University of Michigan, accepted the new role in addition to her teaching responsibilities as an instructor in the department of psychology and social work.
Service-learning is a teaching method that involves service projects selected by the faculty. Projects chosen for a course will addresses a community identified need while simultaneously fulfilling student-learning goals. Students work directly with the local community while receiving assistance from community leaders and a specially chosen professor. In completing the service-learning process, students increase their knowledge of human service while expanding their viewpoint about their own involvement in the community.
Although PUC has always been dedicated to including service as part of its teaching approach, this is the first year that service-learning has been implemented as a formal program. Jacobo explains that the efforts for this first year focused on educating the administration, faculty, and staff. “We have spent considerable time researching many successful service-learning programs across the country, and have connected with state and national service-learning leaders,” she states. “We are taking this new information and sharing what we’ve learned with our PUC community.” This involves defining terms like “service-learning” and “community engagement.”
“I have been so impressed by the interest our faculty has in service-learning,” says Jacobo. “They are not only curious, but also passionate about giving back to our extended community.” The educational events coordinated by Jacobo have seen significant faculty and staff attendance
Without rushing into immediate partnerships, the service-learning program at PUC will eventually make thoughtful, intentional connections that will be beneficial to both the college and the community at large.
Additionally, the 2013-2014 school year witnessed the establishment of a Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program, which supports faculty as they discover the essential components of service-learning and brings the group together to discuss how to include these components in their classrooms. The first of these groups are going through the full program this summer.