Impacts of Sustained Institutional Participation in Service-Learning: Perspectives from faculty, staff and administrators

Amanda L. Vogel
Sarena D. Seifer


The movement for greater civic engagement in higher education in the United States has taken hold across the core academic missions of teaching, research and service. One manifestation of this movement has been growing participation in service-learning, a teaching method grounded in community-university partnerships in which students provide services that simultaneously address community-identified concerns and meet key learning objectives. In order to assess the benefits of long-term sustained institutional involvement in service-learning, in 2007–2008 we interviewed 23 faculty members, staff and administrators from 16 academic institutions that had participated in a national demonstration program for service-learning, which ended in 1998. We found that 15 of these institutions had sustained service-learning to some degree and 12 had integrated service-learning into the curriculum, with varying degrees of institutional support. Interview participants described five main impacts of their institutions’ sustained participation in service-learning: 1) increased community engagement and community-engaged scholarship, and increased valuation of both, among participating faculty members; 2) greater capacity for community-university partnerships among academic and community partners; 3) improved community-university relations; 4) diffusion of service-learning and/or principles of community-university partnerships to other departments and schools; and 5) recruitment of students seeking community engagement opportunities. This study provides evidence that sustained institutional participation in service-learning can foster an understanding of the scholarly value of community-engaged teaching and research among participating faculty, and increase community-engaged activities at participating academic institutions. These findings suggest that funding agencies, faculty members and academic administrators can use service-learning as a strategy to foster a culture of community engagement in higher education institutions.

Community-university partnerships, service-learning, community engagement, sustainability, impact, higher education

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