New Paper: Creating Sustainable Service-Learning Programs

Posted by on July 12, 2002

[National Service Learning listserv]

Creating Sustainable Service-Learning Programs: A Role for Student Organizations

This paper examines the role of student organizations in implementing sustainable service-learning programs. By integrating noncredit activities of a student organization and course-based service-learning, academic programs can (1) sustain student involvement over more than one semester, (2) challenge students to examine how service activities contribute to their own understanding of what it means to be an “engaged citizen,” and enhance value to the community. We discuss how one chapter of a global student organization (Students in Free Enterprise – SIFE) in a large public university in California has succeeded in developing and sustaining service-learning partnerships over the last eight years. A well-defined mission, clear objectives, external assessment and program design have contributed to the sustainability of S-L. The program design emphasizes extended involvement of students and provides opportunities for the most experienced students to assume significant project management and leadership responsibilities for (1) mentoring younger students, (2) resource generation and utilization, (3) community partnerships, and (4) marketing. The service learning projects completed by the SIFE students have created a civic connection that has brought local and state policymakers together with leaders in the business community to improve school-to-career programs in California high schools.

National student organizations such as SIFE also enhance sustainability by providing mechanisms for disseminating successful models through regional and national meetings, and through peer coaching opportunities. Other national student organizations, both in the business discipline (e.g., Beta Alpha Psi, the Marketing Association and Delta Sigma Pi) and other disciplines, can use the SIFE model to enhance their own service-learning objectives, while at the same time strengthening the civic connection between the university and the community.

[Ed note: For a complete copy of the paper, please email me at I can email it to you with the author’s permission.]

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