Senate Document Number    1911S


Date of Senate Approval      03/17/11


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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:



APC Document 12:                                          Change in the description of the Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service Learning;

                                                                                Formalize the designation of Service-Learning Courses                                                                                                                                                                                               


Effective Date: Fall 2011

1.    Delete:           On p, 59, the entry under Key Center:

                    The Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service-Learning, located in Highsmith University Union, assists students in finding placements for volunteerism and service learning; assists faculty members in incorporating service-learning into the curriculum; organizes service activities for students and staff; and promotes community involvement and active citizenship. Additional information is available at The Key Center may be contacted by email at

                Add:      On p. 59, in place of deleted entry:

                    The Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service-Learning is the university’s hub for the promotion of service learning, a form of experiential education in which students work primarily with non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and other civic groups on community problems or issues.  The Key Center helps faculty, students and community members use best practices in service learning so that both the community and students benefit from their work together.

                    The Key Center, working with its advisory council, also coordinates the approval of Service-Learning Designated Courses and the recommendation of graduating students for the Community Engaged Scholar designation, which honors those who have demonstrated outstanding work in service learning. Additional information is available at The Key Center, located in Highsmith University Union, may be contacted by email at



Impact Statement:

This proposed change does not affect any major, minor or university requirements.  Nor does it affect staffing needs or course offerings.


Having courses designated as SL does not require a professor to apply for the designation, nor does it restrict a professor from offering service-learning in a course or undertaking a service-learning endeavor that does not meet the Service-Learning Designated Course requirements.


The proposal does require the creation of a Key Center Advisory Council, which would have four committee members: one faculty member from each major division and one student. The creation of that council has been recommended by the provost and is being considered by the Faculty Welfare and Development Committee.

The new description more accurately reflects the mission and work of the Key Center.  It also provides faculty, staff and students information about new academic opportunities (i.e., the Service-Learning Designated courses, as well as the Community Engaged Scholar distinction).  Below is the rationale for creating Service-Learning Designated Courses; an APC proposal for the Community Engaged Scholar Designation is being submitted simultaneously with this document.

Service learning has the potential to play a more vital and visible role at UNCA, as it does at many universities.  The UNCA mission statement says in part: “We respond to the conditions and concerns of the contemporary world both as individuals and as a university. … With a range of associated centers, partnerships, and initiatives, we fulfill our public responsibility to address the needs of our community through a continuum of learning. We develop a commitment to continuing service characterized by an informed, responsible, and creative engagement with the Asheville area, the southern Appalachian region, the state of North Carolina, and a diverse and increasingly connected world.”

In addition, the university’s student learning outcomes include that “students demonstrate that they are responsible, engaged citizens.” Service learning is a major mechanism for students to become engaged during their undergraduate years.  Other student learning outcomes include that students develop critical thinking skills, respect human diversity, and understand the relationships among academic disciplines.  Service learning has the potential to contribute strongly to students’ development in each of these areas.  Engagement with “real-world” issues shows that problems (a) are challenging, and gives students opportunities to develop critical thinking as they work on those challenges; (b) often involve people with backgrounds that differ from our own, giving them opportunities to explore human diversity; and (c) come from multiple sources, giving students opportunities to see that problems and issues are not solely political, biological, historical, environmental, sociological and so forth – but rather in most cases are influenced by a combination of these factors. 

UNCA, like all UNC campuses, also is being asked to increase its engagement with its surrounding communities.  The final report of the UNC Tomorrow Commission recommends that campuses “encourage faculty to address important societal issues, and reward them for doing that work well.”  The report was guided by a 28-member “blue-ribbon” group of leaders across the state that included Tom Ross, the incoming president of the UNC system.

In short, UNCA is being called upon – and has its own mission – to involve students in community engagement.  This work can often take place in the form of service learning, as students take on important social issues and problems through their work in the community.  Such work has the potential to offer strong benefits to students, faculty and the community. 

While the potential of service learning is vast, it works well primarily when practiced well, following guidelines that research has established as desirable.  In fact, not following best practices can lead to service learning having no or little impact on the student or community, or even worse, having a negative impact on one or the other. 

There are currently problems with service learning at UNCA that limit its effectiveness.  Among them:

·         Service-learning courses are not well promoted to students (giving them little means of knowing which courses will involve service learning).

·         Service-learning courses are not officially documented well (i.e., we do not track their existence or effectiveness with precision), leaving us in the dark as to how much service learning we are doing and how well our efforts are paying off for students, faculty and community members.

·         Professors who undertake service learning with students may not use best practices; there is currently no means of knowing.  Faculty members on the whole did report in a recent Key Center survey that they lacked training in service learning.  This means, among other things, that service-learning courses may not be as tightly tied to academic content nor be as academically rigorous as desirable.

·         The university currently has limited means for encouraging or recognizing service learning efforts by its faculty and students.

A means to address these problems is the creation of Service-Learning Designated courses.  Having such courses would:

·         Create a means for enhancing the quality of service-learning courses, as professors seeking the designation would have to meet a set of criteria based on service-learning best practices (see Appendix 1 for the criteria and Appendix 2 for a detailed explanation of the criteria).  The Key Center would require an interactive workshop for professors seeking the service-learning course designation on best practices in service learning; this would give them knowledge to enhance service-learning quality.

·         Require professors who teach Service-Learning Designated Courses to participate and have their students and community partners participate in evaluations of their service learning experiences.  This will help each professor improve service-learning in current and future courses.  It also could provide the university information to know whether service learning is helping UNCA meet its Student Learning Outcomes.

·         Create a means for students to know during the registration process which courses involve service learning (Service-Learning Designated courses would appear as an “SL” beside the course, just as writing-intensive courses have a “WI”).  This should allow more students to register for courses they will find interesting.  Thus it would enhance the fit between students and courses, making professors and students happier and better engaged. 

·         Make it easier for the University Service Council and Key Center to prioritize funding for projects that are service-learning designated (i.e., help ensure that money spent goes to projects that have a high level of quality).

A final benefit of having Service-Learning Designated courses is that they create a means for having a Community Engaged Scholar distinction at graduation, akin to the Undergraduate Research Scholar designation.

In addition to a proposal for Service-Learning Designated courses and the designation of Community Engaged Scholar, the Key Center is asking the senate (via the FWDC) for the creation of a Key Center Advisory Council, composed of three faculty members from each major division, as well as one student.  The council, which the provost has expressed her approval for, would be responsible for approving (a) Service-Learning Designated Courses, (b) student applications to become a Community Engaged Scholar and (c) completion of all Community Engaged Scholar criteria. It also would serve as an advisory board to the Key Center.  This will help stabilize and institutionalize efforts to enhance service learning.  Note that the council is akin to the Undergraduate Research Program’s URPAC panel. 

In sum, the creation of Service-Learning Designated courses is designed to raise the visibility and quality of service learning.  Creating the honor of Community Engaged Scholar is designed to give students a framework for undertaking outstanding work on community issues and problems, and acknowledge their work at graduation.

For more information on Service-Learning Designated courses, see Appendices 1 and 2.  For more information on the Community Engaged Scholar designation, see Appendices 3 and 4.

Appendix 1:  Criteria for Service-Learning Designated Courses


Service-learning courses have the following characteristics, which are based on best practices learned from research on service learning:


1. The course has as a central feature a required service-learning project that strongly relates to the academic content of the course (i.e., it is not an add-on or afterthought, but rather is integral to the course and its goals) and makes up at least 25% of the course grade.


2.  The project is designed as a joint, equal effort between the faculty member and community partner (or partners), with a clear goal that students’ involvement benefits the partner. 


3.  The faculty member prepares students to undertake their service learning.


4.  Students regularly reflect on the service-learning experience.


5.  The course requires a minimum of five hours of service to the community for each credit hour (e.g., a three-credit course would require a minimum of 15 hours of work in the community). 


6.  The professor, students, and community partner complete a pre-, mid- and post evaluation provided by the Key Center. 

Appendix 2:  Explanations of Criteria for Service-Learning Designated Courses


1.  The course has as a central feature a required service-learning project that strongly relates to the academic content of the course (i.e., it’s not an add-on or afterthought, but rather integral to the course [theory, research, and/or practice of the course and its goals) and makes up at least 25% of the course grade.


The centrality of service learning should be evident with a prominent placement in the syllabus, including in the course goals.  The service-learning work should be explained as an integral part of the course in the syllabus. The ways that service learning relates to the academic content of the course also should be explicit and clear. 


As for grading, service learning should be academically rigorous.  Courses give academic credit to students for learning derived from the service and not for the service alone, as academic credit is given for demonstrated learning.  (Any service given to the community should be the top effort a student can give, or in other words “A” work or as close as the student can get to that level.)  Thus, the course assesses the learning that students gained from their service.  The assessments should account for a minimum of 25% of the students’ grade.  Such assessments can take the form of questions on an examination, academic papers, journals (if a rubric for grading is established), class participation, or other formats. 


Most internship courses do not qualify as service learning.  The aim of service-learning courses is to have students gain a richer knowledge of theories and academic content in a class, while benefitting the community, whereas an internship’s primary goal is to for students to get hands-on experience in a field.


2. The project is designed as a joint, equal effort between the faculty member and community partner (or partners), with a clear goal that students’ involvement benefits the partner. 


The partnership, for which planning typically should begin well before the course begins, should be equal in that the faculty members and community partners have ample opportunities to express their needs and desires for what students will do and how they will do it.  (In this process, sometimes faculty and community members will realize that they are not well-matched partners and can avoid a negative outcome by not partnering.)  It is vital to avoid the faculty member (or students) coming up with independent visions of what the community needs and then pushing those ideas without collaboration. As Porter Honnet and Poulsen (1989) wrote in their Principles of Good Practice for Combining Service and Learning:  “An effective program allows for those with needs to define those needs.”  Good projects also consider people’s strengths and possibilities for building on them.  But whatever the nature of the project, the community members should define their needs and assets.  Students’ efforts thus work on matters the community has stated it wants addressed, in ways the community has stated it wants them addressed. 


The faculty member’s regular involvement with partners is crucial.  Faculty members are more experienced and stable than students, and their communication with and availability to partners increases the possibility of longstanding, positive partnerships in which future students will be welcome.  Faculty involvement also decreases the possibility of negative events, as well as the damage that occurs when negative events (e.g., an irresponsible student whose presence is detrimental to the agency) occur. 


Student involvement in designing projects also is desirable, but given the brevity of a semester, it is not imperative.  One way to involve students is to work before the semester begins with those who have enrolled in the course and are interested in helping design the service-learning experience.  Another way is to have students in previous service-learning experiences provide feedback that helps improve and design experiences for future students.  Even if students are not involved in planning the experience before the semester, faculty and community members should be receptive to student opinions and ideas as the project begins and takes shape. 


It is desirable for faculty members, community members and students to sign a contract detailing responsibilities and expectations for each.  This can help avoid misunderstandings and make it easier to solve any problems that arise.

A good goal, if possible, of service learning is to leave behind significant, demonstrable, and sustainable community benefits.  If possible, the faculty member or students should assess community benefits during, and after, the service learning takes place.


Partnerships typically take place between the faculty member and a non-profit organization or governmental agency.  Exceptions to that practice will be considered. 


3.  The faculty member prepares students to undertake their service learning.  The overarching point is that faculty members should bear in mind that most students are novices in community work, and therefore benefit from guidance.  Without it, there is the risk of negative experiences for students and community members with whom they work. 


      This means discussing and providing readings on topics such as:

·      being professional representatives of the university and fitting in with the culture of their placements

·      respecting cultural norms of people different from themselves

·      understanding how students’ cultural norms have influenced them and their views

·      understanding students’ assumptions and expectations about service-learning as they head into the experience

·      being open to learning from community members (their supervisors and others)

·      understanding that change and progress on issues and problems usually takes time

·      understanding the role of reflection in service learning

·      understanding how they will bring their service into the classroom

·      understanding typical problems that can occur and solutions for them

·      understanding ethical considerations, such as confidentiality

·      understanding the agency where students will work, its role and place in the community


      One vital area to cover is risk assessment and management.  Faculty members should assess any risks that students are likely to face and develop a plan for minimizing them.  Part of that plan should include faculty members communicating regularly with students about risks or concerns they have.


      This does not mean that all risks have to be eliminated.  Rather, it means that a project assessed as too risky might need alterations.  It also means that students and faculty members should be in regular communication before and during service learning to ensure that no one’s safety is in jeopardy. 


4.  Students regularly reflect on the service-learning experience.


As Eyler and Giles (1999), emphasize, reflection is a critical element of good service learning.  It should help students connect the service experience with academic content.  It should be challenging, asking them to use critical thinking.  It also should be regular, which typically means an average of at least one reflection activity at least every other week (which would mean a minimum of roughly six to eight in a semester in which the project lasted most of the course).  Ideally, reflection begins before students enter the field, as that gives faculty members a chance to understand and address any concerns, anxieties, and other views students may have and address them as needed.  A final reflection should occur after the work is done. Reflection also should give students a chance to learn from each other, as well as from the instructor and community partners.


The reflection can be in multiple formats (e.g., class discussions, class activities, journals, papers, wikis).  If graded, a rubric with clear criteria should be used. 


5. The project requires a minimum of five hours of service to the community for each credit hour. 


Hence, a three-credit course would have a minimum of 15 hours of service. Ideally, courses will go past this minimum.  Although agencies vary, when students come for very short stints, the organization spends more time orienting the student than receiving service from him/her.  The hours of service may be divided over a number of service sessions, at the discretion of the faculty member and the community partner. Faculty should try to ensure that the arrangement works well for the partner as well as for students.  Service means work done directly for the partner; it does not mean journaling, paper writing for the course, or other academic parts of the project that do not directly benefit the partner. 


6.  The professor, students, and community partner complete a pre-, mid- and post evaluation provided by the Key Center. 


The results will be provided to professors, students, and, if appropriate, community partners.  Professors and partners are welcome to do additional evaluations, but may not do their own in lieu of the Key Center evaluations.  The evaluations are designed both to help professors keep their courses on track and understand ways to improve them, as well as help the university as a whole understand the overall impact of its service-learning efforts.






Eyler, J. & Giles, D. (1999).  Where’s the learning in service-learning?  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.


Porter Honnet, E. & Poulsen, S. (1989).  Principles of good practice for combining service and learning.  Racine, WI:  Johnson Foundation. 




Appendix 3:  Criteria for Graduating with the Designation of Community Engaged Scholar


Students who graduate as Community Engaged Scholars must:


1.    Complete at least six academic credit hours in Service-Learning Designated Courses, with a minimum grade of B- in each course. 


2.    Take a workshop at the Key Center on best practices in service learning.  This must be completed before undertaking the Public Service Project (described below).  The student must pass a quiz after the workshop with a grade of 70% correct or higher.


3.    Complete a Public Service Project for a community organization.  [See Appendix 4 for more information on the project.] 

Appendix 4:  Explanation of Community Engaged Scholars’ Public Service Projects

The Public Service Project is usually the final work students undertake in becoming a Community Engaged Scholar. The project must have the student work on a problem, issue or need in the community via an effort involving the student’s academic expertise.  The project must be developed as a collaboration between the student and community, with each side working as partners.  Students should become experts on the problems on which they are working by the end of their projects.  Students should strive to create projects having sustainable impacts that do not depend on their continued presence. 


The project must follow either the:


A.  Product model:  Students create a product (e.g., work of art, video, ad campaign, documentary, software, database, handbook or manual) for a group or agency, with the goal of solving a problem or helping the organization with its mission.  Community members can create the product with students (e.g., children and a college student paint a mural), but this is not required.




B.  Community-Based Research model:  Students conduct archival research (e.g., reviewing scientific literature or existing documents) and/or collect and analyze data for an agency, with the goal of understanding a problem or how well the organization is doing in its efforts to combat a problem.  Typically, students write a final report on findings for the agency. 


A project that does not fall into the above categories may be used if the student writes a brief proposal for his or her project.  Such proposals, which should be written after consultation with the Key Center, must be approved in advance of the project by the Key Center Advisory Council.  


Because the project must be both beneficial to the community and academically rigorous, the student must have a faculty and community agency advisor.  The student must complete a brief form describing the project and obtain the signatures of both the faculty and community agency advisors.  To avoid problems and promote good outcomes, it is desirable that both advisors come into contact with each other at regular intervals.  The form must be on file with the Key Center before the project begins.  The form must be completed whether or not the project is done in a course.


After the project is complete, students must write a report on their project that is a minimum of 10 double-spaced pages.  The report, which begins with an abstract, should explain the project's origins, the methods and work undertaken, how the work ties to the student’s academic field(s), challenges faced and methods used to deal with them, the results, the likelihood of sustainability of the work, and a conclusion discussing implications of the project for the community partner and for the student’s field of study.  The papers are published in a Key Center journal.  If the project involves writing a report for the agency or class, parts of it may be adapted for the Key Center report, but such reports may not be copied or extensively quoted for the Key Center journal paper. 


The community advisor, academic advisor and department chair must endorse the student’s completed product.  The report and overall project also must be approved by a UNCA faculty member who was not the student’s advisor. 


Finally, students must publicly present their project at an end-of-semester service-learning poster session on campus. Multiple presentations (e.g., for the agency or others in the community) are encouraged. 


The project may be completed as part of a course, but the course cannot be one of the courses used to complete the first requirement of becoming a Community Engaged Scholar (i.e., two Service-Learning Designated Courses).  The course in which a Public Service Project originates does not have to be a Service-Learning Designated Course.  If the work is done for a course, the final grade on the project must be a B- or higher. 


The project may be done with a partner or partners, if all partners are UNCA students.  In the case of partnerships, each partner must write a separate report for the Key Center.  Each partner also must do a separate presentation, or each must have a major role in a single presentation. 


The project may not be used to complete other university requirements (e.g., a thesis or project required for the student’s major).  Thus, it cannot be a duplicate or mostly unrevised work from a previous effort.  It also cannot be duplicated or revised slightly for credit on a subsequent project.  However, the project may grow out of the student’s previous academic work or service, and it may lead to subsequent academic projects or service efforts.