GOODMAN: Don’t shy away from service learning

Last week, Marquette received recognition. The best part was that it had nothing to do with athletics, a newly constructed building or being a top-tier Catholic party school.

Instead, the recognition came from the National Society for Experiential Education, as it named Marquette’s service learning program the Experiential Education Program of the Year.

According to the organization’s website, the university was assessed on whether the program’s aims were consistent with the NSEE’s. Innovation in design, implementation and evaluation of the program, as well as the outreach and impact the program makes among diverse groups and the community, were taken into account.

If you’re like me and have never taken a course incorporating service learning, here’s the quick breakdown of what it entails. The program provides students with the opportunity to do service outside the classroom with an aim to enhance the course’s curriculum. This community service can be done in the form of tutoring, mentoring, research, surveys – basically, there’s something to pique everyone’s interests.

Pretty great, huh? I was thrilled to hear that Marquette was recognized for its approach to integrating the university’s values and mission into everyday coursework.

This excitement wasn’t the first thing that came to mind upon hearing of the recognition, though.

My initial thought was: Hmm … isn’t it funny that the majority of people I know who have or are currently participating in service learning constantly complain about having to do it?

We’ve all heard the grumbles. “I’m not taking that class because I’d have to do service learning.” Or, “Service learning is too much to manage – I don’t have time, and it’s too hard to get there.” And my favorite, “Why do we have to do this? Isn’t homework enough torture?”

The bottom line: many students avoid service learning like the plague.

Yes, there are many who take classes specifically for the service aspect, and that is fantastic. But there are also the number of people who drop classes on the first day of school if service learning “magically” appears in a syllabus.

So here are my questions. How does it look that Marquette just received such honorable recognition for its service learning program when many of the students who participate don’t want anything to do with it? And why, oh why, would anyone ever complain about the opportunity to do good for others?

It looks pretty awful. And if someone can answer that second conundrum for me, it’d be greatly appreciated.

In my first column of the year, I promised I’d be honest, so let’s get real. We go to a Jesuit university. Service and being a person for others is what we’re all about. If this is news to you, then you might want to check and make sure you are, in fact, enrolled at this school.

In response to the “It’s too difficult to get there” complaint, it’s not that hard to jump on a bus, especially seeing that we all have those oh-so-shiny U-Passes. Use them.

And if you can’t dedicate about 20 hours a semester — the amount of time required for most classes — to helping others through service learning, then you should probably learn some better time management skills. And that’s coming from the queen of not having a second during the day to take a breath.

The benefits of this program far outweigh the costs. Not only is it an opportunity to provide service to others, but it’s also a chance to better oneself. It’s incredibly easy to fall hostage to the “Marquette Bubble,” where the world beyond campus’s 11 blocks seems like a point of no return. Service learning is an introduction to new environments and experiences, pulls you out of the alternate universe that is college and places you back into the real world.

If anything, it gets you one step closer to what we all strive to do at Marquette, which is “Be the Difference.”

So next time you’re dreading going to your site, remember that Marquette’s service learning program is the Experiential Education Program of the Year. Rather than complain, be the person for others that every Marquette student is supposed to be, because if we’re not, do we really deserve such recognition?

  • Courtney

    Preach it, sister.