A successful academic service learning project or activity requires active participation from both the university participants and the community partner. Good communication and consideration helps ensure collaboration and steady progress toward common goals. Maintaining a positive relationship increases the possibility for future collaborative activities at the site or with other organizations in the community.
Here are some points to consider when working with a community partner.
- Research history, mission and related social issues before making contact with an agency.
- Meet agency representatives at their office when possible.
- When inviting community partners to campus, arrange for guest parking passes by calling Public Safety at 906-227-1476.
- When visiting the agency or service site, note details on location, transportation and parking that will be pertinent to students.
- Ask the agency to consider how what you have to offer might be useful to them.
- Learn about the assets of the agency and clientele. Explore their capacities and abilities and relate this to your students.
- Be open to indirect service projects. Consider how you can help students see the value of service that provides support to the community versus direct contact with people.
- Take care to “do no harm.” The community and the clientele are not a research laboratory. Basic goals of academic service learning include community development and empowerment.
- Invite community partners to be a part of reflections, presentations and related activities (based on Colorado State).
In many cases, faculty will already have a connection or contact in the surrounding community that they want to work with. If not, please feel free to contact the Center for Student Enrichment at 906-227-2439 or stop by the office at 1205 University Center for assistance in identifying potential community partners.