Service-learning is an objective-based type of volunteerism that allows students to earn credits at the University of Indianapolis. Through a variety of opportunities, students can go beyond volunteerism and connect what they learn at the university to what they learn through service, according to Marianna Foulkrod.
Foulkrod is the Director of the Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement and teaches service learning classes. This volunteerism is a community engagement opportunity and a commitment and emphasizes a reflection on the experience, Foulkrod said.
“Volunteerism is not about just giving your time, but what you are learning and how you develop yourself personally and professionally,” she said.
UIndy offers a community leadership and engagement minor for undergrads. Some majors, such as occupational and physical therapy, require a civic engagement course, such as volunteering at the local YMCA. Foulkrod said business majors are involved with service learning projects all the time. There are multiple service learning opportunities through spring term courses, mainly the travel courses, and even some art courses. Students typically learn about service learning and potential opportunities that may interest them through their faculty or through the Center for Advising and Student Achievement. Graduate student Erin Gahimer assists Foulkrod with the CSLCE.
“A lot of times students will just stop by [Esch 231, CSLCE]. So when they come in, I’ll usually ask what they’re interested in and think about our main agencies to find a good fit for them,” Gahimer said.
Gahimer said that learning in a service-learning format allows students to see with their own eyes what they have learned in class. Instead of memorizing it and taking a test, they can start to put the pieces together on their own. Another difference between service learning and volunteerism is the amount of information the student acquires approaching their volunteer service. With some types of volunteerism, little information is necessary.
Through the CSLCE, students are matched with an agency that they have interest in. They are given all the information they need before they serve, and the faculty give students these experiences, according to Foulkrod.
“Through service learning, you serve to learn and you learn to serve,” Foulkrod said. “A lot of people ask us if volunteerism is required for graduation, [but] then it wouldn’t be volunteering.”
UIndy’s motto is “Education for Service,” and volunteerism and service-learning opportunities are available to the students. UIndy is one of only a handful of schools nationwide that has received the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Community Engagement Classification in 2010, according to the CSLCE website. The university also was selected for the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service the same year.
Students do not have to be enrolled in a service-learning course in order to volunteer or support a good cause. For example, sophomore psychology major Brittany Finigan never took a service -learning course and started the UIndy Food Recovery Network last year after she started thinking about where all the leftover food from the university goes.
“We started last March, and since then we have probably recovered around 800 pounds of food,” Finigan said. “But since we’re not a club on campus, it’s hard to get volunteers.”
Finigan said she appreciates all the help she can get and collects food every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Schwitzer to package, weigh and record donations. The recovered food is donated to one of four agencies on a weekly rotation. These agencies are the Wheeler Mission Ministries, Salvation Army, Women and Children Shelter and Holy Family Shelter, according to Finigan.
Any student can enroll in a service-learning course, talk to faculty or their advisor or simply stop by Esch 231 to talk about available opportunities. Finigan welcomes help on Tuesday nights as well as at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria. Students who exceed any volunteerism required for their course, or those who volunteer when it is not specific to a course, can get those hours notated on their transcripts. Potential employers will be able to see student volunteer hours spent serving others.