Faculty Highlight Service Learning for Students

Each year, College of Liberal Arts faculty seeks ways in which to move students beyond the classroom. The result? Service-learning projects that have real-world impacts.

According to the American Association for Higher Education, service learning is “a method under which students learn and develop through thoughtfully-organized service” through civic responsibility, integrated and enhanced academic curriculum and structured experiences. Several Liberal Arts departments introduce a service-learning component to students early on and make it a mainstay through the program.

As part of a project for the Alliance for Children, Communication major Tino Gonzales, right, presents strategies and tactics for educating teens and young adults that there is an alternative to abandoning infants in unsafe places. (Photo contributed)
As part of a project for the Alliance for Children, Communication major Tino Gonzales, right, presents strategies and tactics for educating teens and young adults that there is an alternative to abandoning infants in unsafe places. (Photo contributed)

In Communication Lecturer Suzy Nead’s COMS 2304 class, student groups spent the fall semester working with several local non-profit organizations, including Mission Arlington, pet shelters in Grand Prairie and Arlington, and an ROTC Secret Santa program benefitting children at the Pythian Home in Weatherford. Other student groups provided letters and donated items for the troops through Package Brigade; developed and filmed a PSA for the North Texas Council of Governments 911 program; and participated in several local after school programs.

Earlier this fall, the Department of Modern Languages partnered with the Arlington Public Library to create a program in which UT Arlington students could promote literacy, the love of writing, library appreciation and family story-telling among Latino families. Led by Associate Professor Alicia Rueda Acedo and Department Chair Chris Conway, students in three Spanish 3000 level courses will help edit and format Spanish language manuscripts for the APL. Spanish interns from UTA will also interview and assist parents at participating Arlington ISD schools with their family stories.

Conway said future projects with APL include using service learning in his section of SPAN 4313 next semester to develop an in-depth research report and guide to help their acquisitions department select and acquire Spanish-language comics, and a new internship program in which the department’s best French and Russian language students work with the library to build their collections in those languages.

Often, Liberal Arts majors don’t have to go too far to use the skillset they develop in the classroom. Students in Associate Professor Shelley Wigley’s public relations campaigns class worked with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) this semester to promote its services to students at UT Arlington. They designed and implemented several on-campus events, including a CAPS Carnival in October, a haunted maze that ended at the CAPS entrance in Ransom Hall and a wishing well on the Library Mall. In early November, PR students hosted a “Wrestling Stress” event and encouraged classmates to sumo wrestle each other to reduce stress.

“I am so proud of our students,” Wigley said. “Two hundred students participated in the Haunted Maze. Approximately 80 students tossed a pebble in the CAPS Wishing Well. The balloon artwork canvass created by our UTA students [at the carnival] now hangs in the lobby of CAPS.”

Other service-learning projects this semester included:

  • Students in Communication Lecturer Carie Kapellusch’s class created reflection journals to record their experiences supporting Heifer International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty.
  • Four student teams from Communication Senior Lecturer Mindia Whittier’s public relations class created and initiated events for Streams & Valley’s annual Friends of the River Party on the Plaza in late October.
  • PR students developed communication plans for Alliance for Children to help the group increase awareness throughout Tarrant County about the “Baby Moses Law” and the Safe Haven Sites.
  • Through the Native American Languages Lab, Professor Colleen Fitzgerald (Linguistics and TESOL) guides her students to partner with members of Native American tribes to work on language revitalization efforts. In November, the lab hosted several workshops in Texas and Oklahoma.

Most faculty, who are required to include a service component in their tenure bids, view service learning as an opportunity to help their students move outside their comfort zone and apply the things they have studied in class.

“We believe in promoting the professionalization and real world learning of our students,” Conway said. “We encourage our students to be proactive about pursuing internship and service learning opportunities through our department’s programs, as well as those of other departments on campus.”


(Story by James Dunning/COLA Communications, jdunning@uta.edu. Barrie Hill contributed to this story.)

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