January 16, 2020

UW-Superior celebrates tenth anniversary of Academic Service-Learning

Dr. Maria Cuzzo, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, speaks to guests at the Academic Service-Learning Ten-Year Celebration.

Dr. Maria Cuzzo, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, speaks to guests at the Academic Service-Learning Ten-Year Celebration.

One of the hallmarks of a University of Wisconsin-Superior education – Academic Service-Learning – is celebrating its tenth anniversary and was recognized as part of spring semester Opening Week activities on campus this week.

Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) is community-based learning embedded within a credit-bearing course, enhancing students' understanding of the course's learning objectives and of their sense of civic responsibility. AS-L allows students to apply what they are learning in class in the community and learn while serving, benefiting both student and service recipient. 

While the concept is widespread in higher education, UWS’s model is unique in that it has elevated the place of AS-L to the point of being included in a substantial number of courses and in the institution’s mission statement. UWS has also dedicated a full-time AS-L coordinator to assist faculty with integrating AS-L into their courses and to match community organizations with student learning opportunities.

“We are very intentional about this,” said Chancellor Renée Wachter. “It is one of the things we excel at and want to be known for.”

To date, UWS has integrated AS-L into 134 courses, involving 551 community partners and 11,686 student experiences, resulting in 241,614 community service hours.

One example of the transformative nature of AS-L was shared by Mary Lee-Nichols, associate professor in the education department, and Kaitlyn Baumann, AS-L coordinator, who explained how they worked together to integrate AS-L into Lee-Nichol’s multicultural education course, a required course for all students seeking teaching licensure.

“Students in both our on-campus and online courses are required to complete service learning hours as a way to break down stereotypes and bias and become more culturally responsive teachers,” said Lee-Nichols. “They serve in organizations such as the Damiano Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northland, Upward Bound, Men as Peacemakers, and others. These experiences put theory into practice and are truly transformative for students.”

Madison Hale, a junior social work student, spoke about her experiences with AS-L at the ten-year celebration event. “In the past year, I’ve had six different AS-L experiences in six different classes,” she said. “I was aware of UWS’s commitment to AS-L when I came here and it was a big part of the reason I chose UWS. I want to thank the university for making this a priority on campus in our community.”

Jill Hinners, community engagement director at the Center Against Sexual & Domestic Abuse, Inc. (CASDA) spoke about how UWS’s AS-L students have benefitted her organization. “AS-L students expand our ability to carry out our mission and they become agents of positive change,” she said. “In addition to the projects students carry out as part of their course work, some even remain on with us. One student has become a 30 hour/week volunteer, another joined our coordinated response team, and we even hired a UWS graduate to be a triage advocate.”

Dr. Maria Cuzzo, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, speaks to guests at the Academic Service-Learning Ten-Year Celebration.

Dr. Maria Cuzzo, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, speaks to guests at the Academic Service-Learning Ten-Year Celebration.

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