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Service Learning Morgridge Center UW-Madison

Now posted: Check out fall 2016 service learning courses

Posted Mar 14, 2016

Have you ever thought about taking a service learning course? Here's your chance to get off campus and gain hands-on real-world experience.

These unique classes, which have been growing rapidly in popularity across campus over the last few years, are offered by more than 30 different departments. There’s a good chance one of the 50+ service learning classes offered fall 2016 will interest you.

So what is service learning?

Service learning courses look at lot like all the other classes you take: They include regularly scheduled time in the classroom every week, readings, exams or papers and you earn credits towards graduation for completing one.

But on top of that, service learning students partner with a nonprofit or government agency beyond campus (typically in Madison), committing at least 25 hours throughout the semester to applying what you learn in the classroom towards a project with your partner. Your instructor will help set up your partnerships, but you often get to choose from a few options.

Service learning gives you the chance to get off campus and into the community. The classes also provide real, hands-on opportunities to learn.

"If you have a hands-on experience that ties the class to real-world issues, you have a lot better connection to the material," said senior Corey Little, who worked with the Tiny Houses project in Madison through his course, Community Issues and Service Learning. "It's hard to get bored with a class like that."

Past service learning students have run afterschool science programs, paired up with city alders to work on policy and community organizing and produced promotional videos for nonprofits. Just to list a small sampling.

Service learning partnerships are intentionally reciprocal: Students gaining expertise in a subject area offer their services to the community partner. And in turn, the community partner offers the student hands-on, real-world experience to apply what they’re learning. Community partners often also become additional teachers, passing on their own wisdom and expertise.

"It's important to detach yourself from this bubble we live in at the university and find out what’s actually happening in the community,” said junior Mariel White, who took Chican@ and Latin@ Studies 530 her freshman year. “I really loved this class. It was one of my favorite classes."

Fall 2016 service learning courses range from the hard sciences to the liberal arts. Departments offering the classes include biology, art, political science, kinesiology, pharmacy practice and more. See all the departments offerings classes next fall here.

When it comes to service learning, the extra experience really matters.

A recent survey found that over 91 percent of UW-Madison students who took a service learning class got more out of it than a traditional course. And additional research has shown that service learning students earn higher GPAs and gain better critical thinking skills than their peers.

Ready to try service learning? Talk to your advisor or visit our course listing to learn more.