EDITORIAL: Connecting service and academics more would better serve

Buena Vida Coffee is a student-run business that also provides meals to kids in Honduras. Photo via Facebook.
Buena Vida Coffee is a student-run business that also provides meals to kids in Honduras. Photo via Facebook.

For some students, incorporating service and learning opportunities is a big part of the Marquette experience. For others, service-learning is just another class assignment that means more effort or denotes a certain class that should be avoided.

Everyone understands the importance of service and volunteering within society, yet everyone relates to service in a different way. Some students find ways to do it throughout the semester or on trips, while others may claim to be too busy to make the effort or that available service opportunities do not align with their other interests.

While service is not everyone’s thing, these excuses should not be a cop-out from participation. There are many different ways to get involved with service on your own time wherever you desire. Marquette and student organizations do a good job facilitating opportunities throughout Milwaukee and in other locations, yet, as evidenced in some recent student projects, more can be done to integrate service into the academic curriculum voluntarily.

As the Tribune reported March 31, two physical therapy students tailored a wheelchair to meet the needs of 2-year-old Sam Wollenhaupt for a biomechanics project. The result of their efforts was making a young boy in Milwaukee independently mobile for the first time. Students Katie Hoffmeister and Becky Voss worked directly with Sam, improving their patient care skills while serving Sam.

Another service-learning opportunity for students is Buena Vida Coffee, a student-run, not-for-profit company run out of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship. The business’ policy is for every bag of coffee sold, one meal will be given to a child at Sociedad Amigos de los Niños orphanage in Honduras. Students from any major can gain experience in graphic design, outreach and marketing while serving a greater purpose.

These are practical examples of how various and life-changing service opportunities can be for both students at Marquette and affiliated parties. Service can be done anywhere, even within the academic buildings at Marquette. Moreover, both these examples emphasize utilizing skills necessary to advance careers.

Integrating service into the classroom is a great way to get students more involved in different ways while having a wider impact. Final projects can be more engaging if there is a greater social or interpersonal purpose for the work going into it rather than just better a understanding of the class material. This way, students could get more out of the service and class experience.

Drawing an academic focus to service can make it more appealing to those already taking classes in their area of interest. Chances are they will enjoy service-learning that is connected to what they are studying. Students’ interests can be met as well as the greater needs of Milwaukee and other communities.

Service at Marquette can be more than an extracurricular and integrated into the curriculum. Many students are busy and find it hard to pursue service opportunities as well as manage academics, other activities and life outside of school. Having a chance to do service that is well-integrated into the class or leads to other learning opportunities would be a time efficient way for students’ educations to have a greater impact.

At Marquette, the title of “volunteer” can be made just as important as “student” by connecting more service to academics. Faculty and administration can encourage a service initiative and it is very likely students will participate.

Service-learning has a great impact and if the university wants to maintain its dedication to service, this is a good idea to promote.