The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Service Learning at the U: Scholars find unique service projects

By Ryan Shelton

A devoted group of students in the Service Learning Scholars Program at the U is actively reshaping the traditional notion of service work.

Giang Tran recorded the life stories of the terminally ill as a keepsake for their families. Elise Dumke-Miller taught creative dance to grade school students and organized an annual Halloween trick-or-treating event at the U for disabled children. Cameron Jennings xeroscaped the property of a local cancer support organization.

These are the projects of three of nearly 100 U students involved with the rigorous, hands-on academic program that aims to reinforce scholastic learning through new and creative civic service projects.

The Service Learning Scholars Program, which operates out of the Bennion Community Service Center, “really nurtures your humanitarian side,” said Tran, a senior biology major. “It taught me so much about how to approach people — especially the terminally ill.”

To receive recognition during graduation ceremonies, students in the program must complete 400 hours of community service, finish 10 credit hours of service-related courses at the U, attend eight workshops, create and maintain an integrated service project and write in a journal regularly about their experiences. Twenty-five students from the program were honored in the 2007 spring commencement.

“(The program) helped me build character and learn how to commit to something,” said Miller, a junior studying family and consumer studies. “I’m someone who loves service, but it’s nice to get recognized for the work you do.”

Until recently, the program had little structure and relied on students to take the initiative to complete the program and document their work. According to Sara Barclay, the program’s coordinator, this resulted in a lot of students falling by the wayside. To combat the problem, Barclay enlisted the help of the program’s five student leadership scholars to design a new guided-structure system that involves a thorough application and orientation process and requires that students have at least two academic years left before graduation.

“We’re hoping to keep more students engaged and focused on completing the program,” Barclay said. “We’re also hoping this will add to the fellowship of the program. Right now, a lot of scholars don’t know who other scholars are, so having everybody start on the same cycle will let them interact more frequently.”

The new system will be implemented at the beginning of Fall Semester 2008.

Thirty-two percent of Utah’s college students are involved in service activity. This ties the national average, according to a 2007 study by Campus Compact, a coalition of more than 1,100 university and college presidents from around the country. The same study estimated that college students in Utah donated more than nine million service hours in 2006, calculated to be worth $177 million.

Students interested in joining the Service Learning Scholar Program can get more information from the Bennion Center, located on the bottom floor of the Union.

[email protected]

Elise Dumke-Miller

Creative movement classes give special attention to children with disabilities, helping them fully enjoy the freedom of movement and self-expression.

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