Service Learning During the Pandemic

How Waynesburg University Service Learning classes are adapting

Service Learning has taken a new direction at Waynesburg University for the fall semester of 2020.

SLR 105 is a service-learning credit that every student is required to take before they graduate, completing 30 hours of service with a non-profit organization. The dilemma for this school year, however, is that service hours can only be done virtually meaning domestic and international service trips (SLR 106) have been cancelled.

Despite the setbacks, sophomore Bonner Scholar Tyler Funk said, “Being virtual makes the connections a lot easier.”

“Our office has really adapted to the needs based upon our current situation and we have new offerings for our students that we’ve never had before,” Kelley Hardie, Assistant Dean of Student Services, said.

Hardie met with service-learning instructors earlier this year to discuss ways in which students can still serve without risking their health and safety.

“We now have multiple new service partners both nationally and globally,” Hardie said, “conducting virtual service projects with them and working with them to fulfill their mission.”

Grant writing, fundraising and marketing are some of the areas in which students have contributed their time to service.

Students can take online instructional courses and receive certification after they complete the courses. For grant writing and marketing, two hours of course work are completed while fundraising completes four hours. After students get their certification, the remaining 30 hours can be fulfilled through a local nonprofit organization. 

“Students are participating in lots of different types of experiences,” Marie Leichliter Krause, Director of Service Learning, said. “They’re still connecting with various community organizations that we have partnerships with to get them different kinds of experiences.”

In fundraising, for example, Krause said, “Students learn about helping nonprofits specifically tell their narrative and be able to put that story together so that they can fundraise and do so effectively.”

In addition to local nonprofits, Hardie said that students are also working for organizations like the Smithsonian, Crisis Text Line and others. Funk is currently working with the American Cancer Society, doing a variety of fundraisers and collaborating with people from Greene County and others from all over the state of Pennsylvania.

“There (is) a limited amount of resources, that way it kind of forces us to work together in a broader community which is very helpful,” Funk said.

The ACS is another opportunity that students can receive SLR hours from. Virtual service has not only enabled students at Waynesburg this fall to obtain required hours, it has also given the opportunity to connect with people locally, nationally and globally.

If any students are interested in finding creative ways to serve, there is a service tab on MyConnect that lists all the opportunities that Waynesburg University has to virtually offer.

“From the students that I have heard from, they have had great experiences, and they haven’t let the physical distance impact our ability to be able to go out and provide tremendous services to the local community.” Krause said, “we want students to take the opportunity in service learning to explore their vocation and really explore purpose and figure out career goals.”