Community Engagement

Course Designation

The University of Northern Iowa’s Initiative - Enhancing Service-Learning at UNI - allows faculty/instructors to designate their courses as a service-learning course. The service-learning (SL) designation allows students to intentionally seek out courses that include a high-impact practice. High-impact educational practices have been proven to be significantly beneficial for students of all backgrounds.  

Definition

At the University of Northern Iowa, service-learning is a class-based experience, co-created with community partners, intended to expand and deepen discipline-specific knowledge and skills, strengthen the community, and develop a student’s sense of civic responsibility.

In service-learning classes:bowl of tomatoes served on person hand

1. Students build critical thinking and professional communication skills

2. Service-learning activities align with academic coursework, providing a deeper understanding of the academic discipline. 

3. Service-learning activities align with community strengths and needs.

4. Faculty prepare students to work with the community partner.

5. Service-learning activities prepare students for active citizenship and social responsibility.

6. Faculty engage students in purposeful and guided reflection.

7. Service-learning builds students’ cultural competence for engaging with diverse populations in diverse settings.

Service-learning is the integration of service and learning to enhance each.


Information to Consider before Applying for the SL Designation

Prior to applying for the service-learning designation, faculty/instructors are encouraged to review:


Frequently Asked Questions

Question #1: What is meant by service-learning activities as written in #2 of the definition about critical thinking and professional communication skills?

Answer: Service-learning classes can include a variety of activities. The entire class can participate in one activity such as organize an event for a local nonprofit organization, or doing a river clean up. Activities can also be different for each student or groups of students. Service-learning activities can include live-client projects common in the College of Business. Service-learning can be project based. Also, see types of service-learning for more ideas.

Question #2: What do you mean by community?

Answer: Community applies to both the local community as well as the global community.

Question #3: How do I align activities in my class with community strengths and needs?

Answer: Faculty and staff are encouraged to consult with their community partner(s) prior to, or as part of the project/activity development. The activities and/or projects should be mutually defined by both the community and university partners and be mutually beneficial to both enhance student learning and contribute to the betterment of the community.

Question #4: What types of activities, discussion or assignments could address #7 of the definition about engaging with diverse populations in diverse settings?

    Answer: This criterion could be addressed in an assignment, a class discussion or be a major component of the class. Issues of diversity and inclusion can be broadly applied across all disciplines. Examples include:

    • How does the service-learning activity address stereotypes?
    • When designing a website, discuss who has access to the information, who don’t, did you provide closed captioning, why or why not?
    • For a trash clean up service project, discuss waste as it relates to poverty and wealth.  
    • A project that includes removing invasive species from parks might include an assignment or discussion on how non-native species can cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health

    Service-Learning Course Designation Process and Application

    The service-learning course designation requires:

    • The completed application.
    • The syllabus attached for which you are applying for the SL designation.

    Contact

    Should you have further inquiries about the service-learning designation review or designation process, please contact Dr. Julianne Gassman at gassman@uni.edu or 319-273-2204.

    Additional Resources

    These links contain great activities, information, and research that you can use with your students and/or may work well as you address the development of civic agency into courses.