Community Service Learning
Service-learning is a form of experiential learning that is both a pedagogical model and an educational philosophy combining student engagement in community work with academic course work. Its objectives are balanced between specific academic goals on the one hand, and strengthening civil society on the other. Service learning thus supports a broader set of values and priorities in higher education such as fostering student leadership and enhancing connections to the community at large.
Laurier’s Centre for Community Service-Learning is introducing and expanding community service-learning in curriculum across multiple faculties at both our Kitchener-Waterloo and Brantford campuses, and conduct research on the results of such a system-wide implementation of service-learning.
Laurier’s connection to service-learning dates back to 1971 and is rooted in our Psychology Department. Through Psychology’s current community service-learning program, approximately 600 students volunteer annually in community organizations and schools. Honours Bachelor of Arts Psychology students are required to complete at least one service-learning course credit to earn their degree. There are also a variety of other departments and faculties that participate in some form of service-learning. Laurier is known for its community involvement, therefore, expanding service-learning across the entire university, is simply an ethos extension of our commitment to students and to the communities we serve. As an example,Shinerama, Canada’s largest post-secondary fundraiser in support of cystic fibrosis research and care was actually started at Wilfrid Laurier University back in 1961, by one student who wanted to make a difference.
It is our hope and expectation that all Laurier students will participate in some form of co-op, service-learning or other volunteering opportunities. What sets Laurier apart from other institutions is that we have been involved with service-learning for over 30 years and we are performing extensive research on service-learning.
The structure developed for the Laurier Centre for Community Service-Learning is modeled, in part, from the structure that has proven to be effective within the Psychology Department. The leadership of the Centre will be comprised of faculty and staff who have strong backgrounds in researching, teaching, and/or implementing community service-learning at the university level. The Director of the Centre is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the Centre and working with the other staff of the Centre and the Steering Committee to establish the annual goals of the Centre.
Over the last 30 years, Laurier has established, developed and strengthened service-learning relationships with over 130 community partners. These partners are primarily located within the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Brantford, and surrounding areas. Such community partners include: YMCA, Leadership Waterloo, Habitat for Humanity and K-W Special Olympics.
We would like to also acknowledge The J.W. McConnell Foundation who has awarded Laurier with a $1M grant, for service-learning. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is a private family foundation established in 1937 by John Wilson McConnell (1877-1963). The Foundation funds initiatives of national significance which address challenges for Canadian society by engaging people, by building resilient communities, and by developing a strong knowledge base for the work that it supports. The Foundation’s vision is a Canada where all people have the opportunity to develop their potential and contribute to the betterment of their communities and country.
Wilfrid Laurier is one of nine universities that have received a grant through the Foundation’s University-Based Community Service-Learning Program.
For further information regarding the Laurier Centre for Community Service-Learning please visit their website.