New Online Exhibit: 50 Years of Service-Learning History in US Higher Education

Posted by Stanford University on August 13, 2019

On July 31, 2019, Stanford University Libraries released the online Service-Learning History Project Archive. Curated by Tim Stanton, Seth Pollack and Josh Schneider the archive contains freely accessible and downloadable audio and video interviews, films and manuscripts and other documents, which tell the story of the emergence and ongoing institutionalization of the field of service-learning from its beginnings in the 1960s to the current time.

How should colleges and universities relate to social challenges? What role should civic learning play in the education of college students? Should higher education study, theorize and conceptualize; or, should it also act and engage with communities to foster social change? These are some of the questions that service-learning educators have been wrestling with over the past fifty years. In 1995, thirty-three early adopters of service-learning came together at the Wingspread Conference Center in Wisconsin to discuss their roots, their aspirations, their concerns and the challenges they faced as service-learning emerged as a viable educational practice in the 1960s (Wingspread 1995).

Then in 2017, the Service-Learning History Project convened a second meeting in Colorado, bringing together not only early pioneers who continue to work in the field, but also younger service-learning practitioners, researchers and advocates in the US and internationally (Gathering 2017). The purpose of this gathering was to engage in critical, cross-generational review and reflection, to identify and address the field’s current challenges, and to deepen understanding of how incorporating community service into the life blood of academic institutions improves instruction, empowers communities and enhances the civic life and skills of young people.

Now, documentation of these two seminal meetings is accessible in the new exhibit: The Service-Learning History Project Archive. This archive contains audio and video recordings of these two meetings, documenting service-learning practitioners’ reflection on their practice and the state of the field. Together, they explore the field’s emergence and ongoing institutionalization over the past fifty years –from its beginnings during the social upheaval of the 1960s, to its current efforts to enhance higher education civic engagement. The archive also contains other items (documents, videos, etc.) collected over the years that further shed light on the emergence and institutionalization of service-learning in higher education. As efforts to extend and expand the archive are ongoing, the curators welcome additional historical contributions.

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