Service-learning center offers students grants for community programs

Undergraduate students can now receive grants for projects supporting community service, thanks to a growing service-learning program at TCU.Mark Dunleavy, a junior physics major, received $500 this semester to fund a physics olympics program for local high schools.

The olympics, in its second year, is coordinated by TCU’s Society of Physics Students and will expose high school students to experiments and presentations in the sciences.

“Last year we had four schools attend, and it cost us right about $500,” Dunleavy said. “This year, we’re expecting eight schools.”

With help from a faculty steering committee, Vision In Action funding and a recently passed resolution from the Student Government Association, TCU’s Center for Community Involvement and Service-Learning is aiming to expand this semester, making such assistantships possible.

Service-learning encompasses both academic learning and real-world experience by “combining service tasks with structured opportunities,” according to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.

TCU’s service-learning program started in 2001 as a division of student ministries but later moved to Student Development Services and became the Center for Community Involvement and Service-Learning.

In 2005, the center started receiving VIA funding to provide grants for classes with a service-learning emphasis.

With the growing support, TCU hired Rosangela Boyd as director of service-learning and created the faculty steering committee at the beginning of the 2006 school year.

“At this point, we’re really not sure what the best structure would be for TCU,” Boyd said. “I’ve seen several models at other universities, such as making it a requirement, offering minors or having certificates.”

SGA has also taken an interest and passed a resolution that encourages more student input into the program. SGA will put out a survey within the next two months, which will include questions focusing on student perception of service-learning.

“SGA is putting our hand into this on behalf of the student body,” said Justin Brown, chairman of student relations. “We’re trying to see how this can really benefit students.”

Boyd said she hopes to continue expanding the program with increased input from both the faculty steering committee and students.

“If you look at our mission statement, you can’t accomplish it by sitting in a classroom and reading books,” Boyd said. “You have to be interactive with the community, play a role in it and make changes. It’s not all academic.