Service-Learning is a method of learning that integrates service in the community with academic content. In service learning courses, classes partner with community agencies to achieve mutually beneficial ends. These shared goals and outcomes ideally meet the learning objectives of the course and fulfill a specific need in the community.
In 2016, the Provost’s office selected the Religion Senior Seminar course to take part in UNI’s renewed emphasis on engaged learning in the Cedar Valley community. Our unique course objectives–synthesizing and applying the Religion major to life after college–puts students in a position to be forward and community focused in ways other classes cannot. Through service learning our class didn’t merely talk about what students can do with a Religion major, we actually did something with the Religion major before graduation.
This Senior Seminar course partnered with EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center). This partnership allowed Religion students to apply their knowledge and skills through service experiences addressing issues affecting our community. By partnering with EMBARC, our class was able to confront refugee resettlement of ethnic minorities from Burma. Inside the classroom, we studied the intersection of religion and refugees on local, national, and global scales while serving EMBARC outside the classroom. By taking on this service, we not only participated in a once in a lifetime opportunity to help our community, but we also gained valuable skills and experiences to help students move forward in their own lives.
Because this class was based on a partnership, we were responsive to the needs of EMBARC throughout the semester. This meant our schedule & priorities changed based on our shared progress or setbacks. Recognizing when change needed to happen and managing those changes as they came was a learning opportunity for students’ character development and job preparedness alongside content-specific learning goals.
At the end of the semester, the class shared their experiences with the Cedar Falls-Waterloo community and local reporter Christinia Crippes wrote about this presentation for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.