Empowering Engagement: Why Join The Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Program

Are you a graduate student or faculty staff member looking to participate in a program that will help student classroom engagement?

Service learning is a way to incorporate theory and practice into your classroom while helping out the local community. Currently, 87 faculty members at Clemson University reported teaching a service-learning course with 43 faculty teaching at least one service-learning course as part of an academic department’s offerings. This University offers the invaluable opportunity to seamlessly integrate community engagement and service engagement into your research, public service and teaching.

The Pearce Center’s Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program allows Clemson Ph.D. students and its faculty without any previous experience in service-learning to participate in it. And there’s even a bonus! The program includes a $2,500 fellowship award. The Pearce Center advocates for having people of all kinds of backgrounds and ranks engage in its comprehensive year-long faculty development initiative. 

An English lecturer at Clemson University, Seth McKelvey, was happy to share his thoughts on the program. 

“The Pearce Center Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program has been great. I came into the program with zero experience in service learning and only a basic, surface-level understanding. I have learned a lot through the Fellows program, through readings and guest speakers, yes, but also and especially through conversations with other faculty, listening to their real-world experiences with service-learning as well as getting feedback on my own fledgling ideas for incorporating service-learning into my courses.” 

For someone who was initially a bit intimidated by the idea of service-learning, McKelvey now feels confident leading his students into their first service-learning project together.

The Pearce Center Service-Learning Fellows program is committed to supporting participants in ventures that range from accounting for ways to integrate service-learning throughout a program’s curriculum to linking to public service, outreach resources, University partnerships and considering collaboration opportunities with faculty from other specialties.

An RCID doctoral student in the Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program, John Falter shared his insights from the project he has taken on for the program.

“I have two groups of 1030 students working with two area museums. 

The first group is working with the Clemson Area African American Museum, helping them start a social media campaign to raise awareness  about their oral history project. 

The second is working with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in South Carolina. We hiked through the woods to get a drone photograph of Oconee (formerly “Station”) Mountain. From here, the group will make an historical marker to stand outside the museum in downtown Walhalla.”

By encouraging the use of creating signs for historical monuments, Falter is not only implementing a well thought out service project but also applying it into a class filled with college students, which is one of the requirements for the activities. As the semester progresses, Falter and his classes will continue meditating on the question of memorial–what do we enshrine, recognize, and why?

“This project shows rhetoric in service. By helping museums express themselves and memorialize important information, we are showing how rhetoric moves out of the clouds and into building real community partnership.”

Adding on to that, Arelis Moore, an associate professor of community health at Clemson University, explained how broad and diverse the service-learning approach is when it comes to the Faculty Fellows program. 

“There’s so many different angles and perspectives on how we look at service learning,” she mentioned.

As a Faculty Fellow, Moore has been working to refine service learning in a course known as “Health and the Hispanic community.” Her purpose is to help students learn about the socioeconomic, cultural, and historical determinants that influence Latinx health and wellbeing in the United States.

 “And so what I pursue with my students is to expose them to efforts to transform those social determinants into protective factors that promote Latinx health and well-being,” she added. 

She wanted to make her students think critically about those social determinants. For instance,  whether achieving a post-secondary education degree and a subsequent higher paying job would contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty that most Latinos in the U. S.  experience.

“And we need to do more by working with the families, by working with the students, by providing tools, resources, knowledge, connections that can help those who aspire to acquire a higher education degree to do it, despite their socioeconomic situation and other barriers.” 

The idea that the Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program refreshes the way service-learning is not only an opportunity to serve but can also be a form of professional development networking.

This program serves as a beacon of innovation that encourages teaching students the importance of implementing service-learning into their daily learning through the methodical projects faculty members take on themselves. It not only equips graduate students and faculty members to provide students with enriching experiences but also helps make a positive change in their community. Joining this initiative isn’t about just fulfilling a requirement and gaining an award, it is about embarking on a journey that transforms lives.

(Statistics have been found on synergy.clemson.edu)

By: Arya Desai