The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Service-learning increasingly popular

Bruce Levy is embarrassed to admit that he did not volunteer before becoming a professor. He focused on his personal needs instead of the needs of others. However, after becoming a professor at SMU, he started volunteering as a tutor with the Inter-Community Experience Center (ICE) House.

“I am pretty much self-taught when it comes to service, which is really the only way of doing it,” said Levy, an English professor.

Levy spent his Spring Break participating in a bike race to raise money for the ICE House. And while he readily admits that he did not volunteer during his youth, he now realizes the impact that he personally can make in the community.

Many SMU professors volunteer in the community in their personal lives. They, in turn, bring back the experiences they gain to the classroom.

“Throughout the 26 years that I have worked at SMU, I have consistently and personally known a very high number of faculty and staff members who volunteer large amounts of their personal time to many worthwhile causes like Special Olympics, food banks, Alternative Spring Break,” said Provost Ad-Interim Tom Tunks, who is actively involved with Sea Scots, an offshoot organization of the Boy Scouts of America.

Tunks is currently in charge of the entire faculty on the SMU campus.

“All I do when I am not in the classroom is serve others,” said Dr. Rick Halperin, director of SMU the Human Rights Education Program.

Halperin teaches a class on human rights every semester. Each student has the option to either write a 20-page paper or perform 20 hours of community service.

“Most students choose the service because who wants to write a 20 page paper,” said Michelle Wigianto, a former student in Halperin’s human rights class.

The service requirement in Halperin’s class falls under the service learning model of higher education. Service-learning is a teaching tool that is being embraced by approximately 60 professors on the SMU campus. This program allows students to venture out into the community and volunteer with a particular agency for course credit. This opportunity provides a way for students to apply what they learn in the classroom to a real-world setting.

“Faculty members tend to respect the concept of service in the classroom, however, there is not always departmental support or more institutionalized rewards and recognition,” said Halperin, whose office in Dallas Hall is packed with books and papers that discuss and defend human rights.

There is a breakdown in service learning at a campus-wide level that comes from a lack of general awareness. Many professors are not aware that these tasks can be implemented in their classes.

“Generally, professors who have a service-learning component within their classes are a direct result of their own volunteering experiences,” said Stella Mulberry, assistant director of leadership and community involvement. She volunteers her personal time with Alpha Phi Omega.

The Office of Leadership and Community Involvement is charged with helping eliminate this communication breakdown. It also plays an important role in making sure that both students and faculty members are aware of the countless community opportunities to be involved in community service.

The school most involved in community service is the Dedman School of Humanities. However, Meadows School of the Arts Dean Jose Bowen has recently begun to look for opportunities to incorporate service into the arts.

“Service-learning adds a certain ‘real’ dimension to things that we so often only talk of in the abstract or experience vicariously,” said Tunks.

In addition to service-learning in the classroom, many professors also participate in student-run service programs such as Alternative Spring Break. This Spring Break, Professor Dalia Abedel-Hady participated in a service trip assisting the Navaho nation in Arizona. Professors who volunteer during these types of programs usually serve as faculty advisers for the trip.

Through classroom and student organizations, professors are connecting with their students through community involvement. Community service can be a valuable skill to learn and any opportunity provided as an integral part of college curriculum.

“I know very well that the person performing the service is apt to gain more than the person receiving the service,” said Tunks.

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