Service Learning Initiative Celebrates Community Partners

Deaf United Organization representatives enjoy an evening at Noodles hosted by the Service Learning Initiative.
Chloe Regelean

Deaf United Organization representatives enjoy an evening at Noodles hosted by the Service Learning Initiative.

Hundreds of local businesses, community organizations and governmental agencies have partnered with the U of A's Service Learning Initiative since its inception in 2014. These organizations join forces with faculty to provide students with experiences working directly in the field they are studying.

With a service-learning designation, these courses are credit-bearing and provide invaluable skills to students as they transition their knowledge from the college classroom to real-world experiential learning opportunities. Learner outcomes are met as students simultaneously develop soft skills like empathy and conflict resolution. None of these benefits would be possible without the many hours community partners provide to students to gain these skills. 

"At the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, we have enjoyed having the U of A nursing program come for service learning," said Hunter Engel, direct services coordinator with the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. "Health stems from nutrition, and with the help of your students, we are able to send more food out to the community." The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank provides healthy food to those in the community who experience food insecurity. Their powerful organization is one of many whose efforts provide crucial guidance to students who've worked with them.  

In a showing of gratitude, the Service Learning Initiative welcomed all past, present and prospective community partners with a first-of-its-kind celebration in the beginning of May. Held at Noodles Italian Kitchen in Fayetteville, faculty and community partners were able to meet to tell stories, share ideas and enjoy delicious food as they bonded over their shared experiences in service learning.  

At the event, Lisa Bowers, director of the Service Learning Initiative, spoke with gratitude to all who attended for the partnership and efforts in making service learning successful. Daniel Levine, who co-instructs the service learning course Strategic Philanthropy alongside Rogelio Garcia Contreras, spoke about the benefits their students have received while learning about philanthropic giving. A slideshow of community partners who attended was displayed, Service Learning swag given out and guests were entered into a $100 gift card raffle (later won by the Deaf United Organization). 

"[Students] are always a delight to have at the warehouse and also at Feed Rogers," Engel said. Speaking of U of A students, Engel commented, "We can always count on them and their uplifting personalities, and we can't thank you enough for partnering with us!" 

If you are the instructor of a course where students gain experience by working in the community, your course may qualify as Service Learning! Visit the Service Learning Initiative website to learn more!  

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