Volunteering takes on a new meaning at Butler University with classes that have a service learning component. This component integrates both the traditional classroom setting and involvement in the Indianapolis community.
Butler has offered service learning since the mid -1990s, but more students will be exposed to the program now because of the Indianapolis Community Requirement, which requires all students to take a course involving active engagement in the Indianapolis community.
Service learning is one route to fulfill the ICR.
“The experience in the community is directly related to the academic learning goals,” said Donald Braid, the director of the Center for Citizenship and Community.
Service learning courses vary widely, but each class meets in the classroom and requires 20 hours of community service throughout the semester.
Spanish professor Terri Carney has taught one of the service learning courses for students enrolled in Spanish courses.
“(The purpose of service learning is) to connect the real world with the academic world, which has traditionally been sort of separated,” Carney said. “It has a profound effect on the vast majority.”
Senior Alex Tallentire has been involved with service learning most of his Butler career. He has been a student in a service learning class, a student advocate for community engagement and a teaching apprentice for a service learning course.
Tallentire said he is particularly excited about the service learning partnership with Nora Elementary School. At the school, 40 percent of students are English as a New Language students.
Butler students will go to the school during its lunch hour to interact with and help ENL students with homework. Tallentire said it is important to have consistent interaction with the students and said 20 hours is needed.
Butler service learning contains many different ways to engage the community.
A few of the partnerships that service learning has are with the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, the Martin Luther King Community Center and the Indianapolis School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Butler students go to these places and work with youth and seniors through tutoring, mentoring and providing companionship.
Sophomore Molly Swigart said her service learning class met with an Iraqi refugee family and also went to the Nur-Allah Islamic Center to go to service and volunteer at the weekend school.
Tallentire said students may find difficulty fitting the service learning requirement into their schedules.
“The one initial hesitation of students is, ‘Well, I’m not going to have time for this,’” Tallentire said.
Margaret Brabant, a professor of political science, has been using service learning pedagogy since the mid-1990s.
“Our classrooms are enhanced and enriched by the kind of work the students are doing in the community,” Brabant said.
More than 30 service learning courses are offered now at Butler.
Brabant said the virtues students acquire from their service learning experience are courage, empathy and humility.
“The ripple effect of this is extraordinary,” Brabant said.