John W. Alford Center for Service Learning
The John W. Alford Center for Service Learning promotes and supports local community service by engaging the Denison community in four areas:
- Denison Community Association - Our student led and operated umbrella organization for 24 student service committees.
- America Reads - Our program for Federal Work Study students to provide tutoring services to area elementary schools.
- Curricular Service Learning - Denison courses which include structured service work as part of the text of the course.
- Denison Service Orientation (DSO) - The Center partners with First Year Programs to provide a service orientation opportunity for freshman in Washington, DC each year.
The Interconnectedness of Action and Reflection
Service-learning courses and projects should combine activity in the community with appropriate examination of theory relevant to that activity. Part of the educational mission of an institution of higher education is to instill a sense of community responsibility through experiences such as student participation in community service activities. When a student participates in a community service experience that is integrated with a structured opportunity for reflection on that experience, the "service" and the "learning" each enhance the other, creating a richer and more meaningful educational environment.
The Key Component: Structured Reflection
Even though service-learning may assist students in career preparation, service-learning experiences are fundamentally different from internship programs in that the emphasis is upon the integration of the community service experience with the student's educational experience through structured opportunities of reflection. Those opportunities may take shape in curricular, co-curricular, or extracurricular programs, but the assistance of appropriately qualified reflection leaders is an essential ingredient. Curricular service-learning experiences will generally incorporate reflection opportunities led by Denison faculty.
The Importance of Reciprocal Working Relationships with People in the Community
Through service-learning experiences, students develop a sense of community responsibility and help address societal and environmental needs. Integral to this pursuit is the importance of citizens and organizations in the community interacting with service-learning participants as partners in the community enterprise. Through the ongoing programs of the Center for Service-Learning, opportunities can arise for students and members of the larger community to act together in the identification of local problems as well as in the execution and evaluation of service intended to address those problems. In developing such partnerships, the Center for Service-Learning encourages service-learning participants to engage with organizations and agencies that operate for educational, charitable, religious or scientific purposes. In this way, Denison, students, faculty and staff will take their place as part of the wider community of central Ohio.