UMass Amherst Receives State Funding to Expand Civic Engagement, and Service-Learning Courses

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has been awarded a one-year, $112,501 grant from the state Department of Higher Education’s Vision Project to fund the design and teaching of service-learning courses. The new money will support faculty members to develop new courses or to adapt existing courses by adding a service-learning component.
Funding is now available for UMass Amherst faculty members interested in participating in the program either as individuals or as part of a teaching team. The courses they design will be offered to students in the spring and fall semesters in 2013.
Service-learning is the integration of community service with classroom instruction. Its goals are to help students understand both themselves and their academic field better and to help them develop knowledge and skills needed by citizens of a democratic society. It can also enable students to make significant contributions to communities where they serve and learn.
A well-known example of a service-learning course is the Boltwood Project, a 43-year-old program where more than 200 UMass Amherst students work each year with organizations in the Amherst area that serve people with disabilities.
John D. Reiff, director of UMass Amherst Civic Engagement and Service-Learning, says this new grant is great news for students, for the faculty and for the local communities that benefit from service-learning courses. “By funding this project and similar ones across the commonwealth, the state affirms the importance of public higher education in preparing students for democratic citizenship—committed to working throughout their lives to improve the society we share.”
The new faculty fellows program has four components. It provides financial support for faculty members who design new courses with an award of $1,500. The grant also will support experienced service-learning faculty who will work with the new faculty fellows to design systems to assess learning by students in the courses and the impacts of their service on the communities.
Another aspect is the development of student leaders through funded summer internships in the community organizations where they do their service; the students will then return next year to work with their service-learning courses as Campus/Community Student Liaisons, providing support to the new students who are just starting service with these organizations.
There will also be collaboration with faculty and staff at Holyoke Community College, which will be doing a similar process of course development and assessment.