Faculty Symposium Addresses 'Real World' Service Learning

March 31, 1999

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- More and more, university professors are taking their students out of the classroom and introducing them first-hand to the challenges of "the real world" through course work that emphasizes community involvement and service-learning.

Educators from throughout Illinois will meet April 8-9 (Thursday-Friday) at the University of Illinois to compare notes and hear what some of the national experts on service-learning have to say about this approach to education, which is gaining momentum on college and university campuses nationwide.

The U. of I. will host the Illinois Campus Compact's third annual faculty symposium, "Promoting Community/University Partnerships for Civic Renewal and Social Justice Through Service-Learning." The event is co-sponsored by the U. of I.'s Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses, and by the University YMCA.

The ICC is part of a national network of universities that joined forces in 1985 to promote greater community and public service and to integrate the values of liberal learning, service-learning and civic responsibility within the core curricula. Ken Reardon, a U. of I. professor of urban and regional planning and chair of the symposium's planning committee, said the U. of I. and several other Illinois colleges and universities were among the earliest members of the Campus Compact.

"During the past 15 years, significant progress has been made in directing the considerable research, teaching and outreach capacity of our higher educational institutions toward the solution of critical social problems," Reardon said. "By creating curricula requiring the integration of theory and practice within the often 'messy' context of local community-building, student learning outcomes have been enhanced."

Among what Reardon described as "excellent examples" of such approaches to learning at the U. of I. are: the Consortium for Collaborative Economic Development, East St. Louis Action Research Project, Partnership Illinois -- all initiatives of the Urbana-Champaign campus; The Great Cities Institute, Nathalie P. Voorhies Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, and Center for Urban and Economic Development at the Chicago campus; and on the Springfield campus, The Springfield Project and Community Outreach Partnership Center.

Reardon, a driving force behind the East St. Louis project, said it's important to bring together individuals with an interest in service-learning because "further progress in promoting community service-learning and other civic education programs has been stymied by a lack of faculty exposure to the principles and practice of experiential education." And, he noted, there is still only limited research available on the outcome of these approaches, along with inadequate models for promoting sustainable community/university partnerships.

The keynote speaker at the symposium will be Dwight Giles, professor of the practice of human and organizational development, Vanderbilt University. Giles is the author of three books and numerous articles on experiential education, service-learning and liberal learning, including "What's the Learning in Service-Learning?" with co-author Janet Eyler.

Other nationally known leaders planning to participate include Mary Ryan, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Experiential Education, one of the nation's premier public internship programs; Jerome Lieberman, associate dean of education and founder of University of Southern Florida's nationally recognized community/university development partnership; and Ray Bromley, chairman of the department of urban and regional planning, State University of New York at Albany, and director of a successful service-learning in South Bronx.

The meetings will begin with a pre-conference session on principles and practice of service learning at 1 p.m. April 8 in Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, 611 E. Lorado Taft Drive, Champaign. Pre-conference presentations and workshops will continue throughout the afternoon, with a dinner and keynote scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Symposium workshops are scheduled the next day, following breakfast sessions with the national leaders, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

The cost to attend the pre-conference and conference sessions is $75 for ICC members, $110 for non-members. The cost for the conference alone is $50 for members, $75 for non-members. Registration forms, which should be completed and returned by April 2, are available at the symposium's Web site: www.imlab.uiuc.edu/eslarp. For more information, call 217-244-5384 or 309-438-8123.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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