St. Norbert College
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October 2008

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Center for Community Service and Learning opens this semester

A new center that takes community service into the heart of the academic and co-curricular experience should prove a resource for campus and community alike.

According to Dan Robinson, director of St. Norbert’s Center for Community Service and Learning (CCSL), an important goal is to establish long-term relationships rather than creating a one-day experience.

Robinson says, “We're trying to initiate a conversation on campus about what we mean by service and learning, and how to integrate the wider community. We're talking about projects for the common good. We as a college have something to give, but we also have a lot to receive and learn from the people and community groups with whom we work,” says Robinson.

“A lot of community service is done in one-time projects, like an afternoon of raking leaves, fixing a home or helping with an event for children. The center strives to help classes, student groups and other members of the college community develop service projects that allow for more long-term relationship-building, and have preparation, reflection and evaluation components to them as well.”

A handbook in preparation defines service-learning as an endeavor fostered inside and outside the classroom — “a multifaceted concept that embraces both curricular and co-curricular approaches to service and educational opportunities. The hyphen between the words ‘service’ and ‘learning’ strongly suggests a balance between learning goals and service outcomes that can be achieved only through an integration of each.”

While the Department for Leadership, Service and Engagement already offers several service programs — like TRIPS (Turning Responsibility Into Powerful Service), the M3C program and Into the Streets — the CCSL will not limit its services to students. It will provide service opportunities for students, faculty, staff, alumni and local organizations or agencies.

A resource for anyone looking for information on how to prepare for, carry out and reflect on good service experiences, the center aims to strengthen connections between the college and its surrounding community.

It will advocate for best practices in service and learning, working with and supporting existing initiatives already developed by the college’s Mission and Heritage, Student Affairs and Academic Affairs divisions.

Linda Beane Katner (Faculty Development) will work with the center to create meaningful academic service-learning opportunities. “One key element is providing resources to faculty interested in adding a service-learning component to existing courses or creating new courses,” she says. “Our vision is to deepen the experience of communio by engaging with the wider community through works of service and social justice, and by building relationships of mutuality. We do so inspired by our Catholic, liberal arts and Norbertine traditions.”

Robinson and Beane Katner discuss the Center for Community Service and Learning on October’s “Conversations from St. Norbert College” television show.

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