About Academic Service Learning

Two women holding up gift bagsAcademic service learning is an exciting teaching methodology that incorporates community service as a means of helping students gain a deeper understanding of course objectives, acquire new knowledge, develop professional expertise and engage in civic activity.

At Northern Michigan University, academic service learning has experienced rapid growth in recent years.  A recent survey revealed that 85 courses in 35 majors employed some aspects of academic service learning methodology.  Through the Superior Edge initiative and with strong commitment from faculty in a number of academic disciplines and added incentive for students, Northern Michigan University is well on its way to reaching the goal of providing at least one academic service learning opportunity for every student.

Academic Service Learning: The NMU Definition

Northern's ASL Advisory Board  has adopted the following as its definition of academic service learning:

"Academic service learning is a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students:

  • participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs; and
  • reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced sense of both personal values and civic responsibility." (Developed by NMU ASL Board, based on Bringle and Hatcher, 1995).

Comments on Academic Service Learning

Here's what NMU student Andrea Jerabeck  has to say about her experience with academic service learning:

“For the last 24 months, I’ve learned theories, practices and cases that relate to public relations. Academic service learning in my PR 330 – Message Design course allowed me to apply those concepts in an area of interest. By working alongside an actual client, I was able to experience breakthroughs and setbacks, like a professional PR practitioner. It’s a priceless learning opportunity that brings the “real world” a bit closer to college students. I absolutely feel I’ve benefited from my academic service learning opportunity.”

And here's a faculty perspective from NMU professor Dwight Brady:

“Academic service learning is a natural fit with our advanced courses in broadcasting.  In working with the U.P. Sled Dog Association, my students not only learned how to produce a television documentary, they also learned why planning and attention to detail are so important to this process.”

The Academic Service Learning Advisory Board, comprised largely of faculty, provides direction for academic service-learning.  The Center for Student Enrichment, located in room 1205 of the University Center, provides logistical and administrative support for academic service learning.  Please contact us at 906-227-2439 or nmuasl@nmu.edu with questions or inquiries.