29 Inspiring Examples of College Service-Learning Programs Across the Country

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the goals, benefits, and best practices of service learning in higher education, as backed by years of research.

Now, let’s turn to some real-world examples from around the country. I hope they will inspire you in your own creation and facilitation of service-learning projects, catered to your students’ interests and local community needs. 

Barea College

  • A Fundamentals of Nutrition course in which students explored factors that contribute to food insecurity in the local area, by visiting the nearest food bank and creating educational nutrition flyers.
  • An Introduction to Astronomy course through which students hosted “Star Parties” and other interactive educational events for local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops
  • An Augmented Reality Team Initiated Study course that had students used augmented reality techniques and technology to build a virtual tool of a local school
  • A fully virtual Fundamentals of Peace and Social Justice course wherein students interviewed community members over Zoom regarding their response to the global COVID-19 pandemic
  • An Adapted Physical Education course through which students implemented a Motor Fitness Clinic for local K-12 students enrolled in special education programs

Elon University

  • A Garden-Based Learning course in which students oversee the maintenance of a local school garden, plan and implement learning activities in an afterschool garden club for 3rd-5th graders, and collaborate with teachers who are integrating garden-based learning into their teaching
  • A Sustainable Food Production course wherein students complete 20 hours of direct service related to bio-intensive food production
  • A Marketing Research course that gives students hands-on experience “developing a research program, collecting and analyzing data, reporting and presenting results, and making final strategic recommendations”
  • A Human Resources Strategy course that requires students to complete HR projects for local nonprofits and small business clients

Tulane University

    • The Peace Corps Prep program designed for students interested in post-graduate service, the Peace Corps, or other year-long service programs
    • The Solidarity Fellows program for “community organizers in training”
    • The Service Learning Assistants program through which students are paid to help coordinator service-learning courses
    • The WaveCorps summer service program in which students work with local organizations that support summer learning lose for K-12 students through entertaining camp programming

Boston College

Portland State University

Notre Dame University

  • A summer service-learning program in which students, who are awarded $3,000 scholarships, serve for eight weeks with non-profit organizations related to healthcare, homelessness, immigration, education, and other social issues 
  • Social Concerns Seminars that challenge students to “engage in social analysis, encounter community partners around the country, and reflect on their experience and its impact on individuals and communities”
  • The Mercy Works program in which students engage in weekly local service, then gather and reflect together “on their experiences of receiving and extending mercy” in light of the Catholic Social Tradition

Duke University

Cornell University

  • The Zambia Global Service-Learning Program through which students spent a summer in Zambia conducting research relevant to partner organizations
  • The Afterschool Language & Social Program in which students “provide fun ways for K–12 students to learn about and engage with our increasingly interconnected world”
  • A Social Entrepreneurship Practicum that gives students experience managing and operating Anabel’s Grocery, a “campus-based, student-led social enterprise … that addresses food insecurity at Cornell by providing fresh, nutritious and affordable food, as well as educational programs on healthy and nutritious eating.

Designing a strong service-learning program is no easy task, but the benefits — to individual students and the institution as a whole — can be monumental. You’ll be giving back to the local community while gifting students with incredible co-curricular skills that will help them persist in their academic studies and excel post-graduation.

But service-learning isn’t the whole HIP thing around; high-impact practices of all sorts can help boost retention at your institution while engaging students in fresh, exciting ways. I invite you to explore more HIP possibilities through our new e-book below. It’ll introduce you to the top benefits shared by all high-impact practices, offer advice on how to develop new ones, and give you some action plans for assessment. Enjoy!

Free Download: High-Impact Practice Ebook
Jodi Tandet

About the author: Jodi Tandet loves writing and editing posts about the complexities of campus life as Presence's Lead Storyeller. She's also passionate about making homemade ice cream, forging peace agreements between her calico cat and lab/dachshund mix, and reading novels about estranged family members with shocking secrets. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

Check I'm Here is now Presence. Learn more about this change in our blog post here.