MTSU ACTIVE PLAYER IN PROVIDING ‘SERVICE LEARNING’ OPPORTUNITIES
Sept. 10, 2007
CONTACT: Dr. Jill Austin, 615-898-2736
MURFREESBORO—During the week of September 17-23, Middle Tennessee State University will join thousands of education institutions across the country taking part in “Learn and Serve Challenge Week” to raise awareness of the benefits of service-learning.
“Learn and Serve America,” a federal program that supports service-learning at all levels of education, enables 1 million students to engage in this work with the aim of instilling an ethic of life-long community service.
On Friday, Sept. 21, Dr. Joe Raelin, Asa S. Knowles Chair of Practice-Oriented Education at Northeastern University in Boston, will lead sessions at MTSU in teaching faculty members how to develop experiential-learning (EXL) activities, which includes hands-on service-learning opportunities. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Tom Jackson Building.
Service-learning is a teaching method that incorporates community work into the curriculum, thereby giving students real-world experience in their field while meeting pressing community needs. Examples include finance students creating micro-loan programs to jumpstart local economic development, engineering students building wells and radio systems in remote African villages, and English students tutoring at-risk youth in reading and writing.
Colleges and universities are increasingly adopting service-learning as an integral component of the education experience. MTSU adopted the concept of experiential learning two years ago as part of a Quality Enhancement Plan mandated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Since then, the university has created new service-learning courses and encouraged faculty members in several disciplines to explore the possibility of integrating a service-learning component into their coursework.
“Our experiential learning program here at MTSU serves as a model program for other universities across the region,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “We take it seriously because we know, and research supports the notion, that when students are actively engaged in hands-on learning in addition to the classroom experience, they are more likely to remain in school and graduate. Learning for learning’s sake is admirable, but applying that knowledge and making a real difference in the trenches of daily living increases its value exponentially.”
During the 2006-2007 academic year, MTSU offered nearly 60 experiential-learning courses in the sciences, liberal arts, business and student affairs. In the fall of 2006, 474 students participated in EXL courses; in the spring of 2007, that number increased to 1253. Now the university has launched an EXL Scholars Program that will require 18 hours of EXL classes. After completion of the program, a student will receive an EXL Scholar designation on his or her transcript and will wear special cords at commencement to signify that achievement.
“The EXL program had a successful first year with growth in both the number of students enrolled in EXL classes and the number of EXL faculty,” commented Dr. Jill Austin, chair of the management and marketing department and director of the EXL Scholars program. “Hopefully, interest in the program will continue, and the first EXL Scholar will graduate within a year. This academic year we are offering EXL-designated classes for the first time in both service learning and leadership studies, and we are working to develop some partnerships for service learning activities with the Division of Student Affairs.”
As an active participant in this movement, MTSU is proud of the contributions its students and staff have made to the community and grateful to community partners who have enriched the lives of those on campus.