“Engaging our Students in the World Beyond the Village”
Texas Southern University has embarked on a new era, one that will seek to diminish the borders that
separate the University from the community surrounding it. The Urban Academic Village concept is an
innovative approach to creating a community whereby students, faculty, and staff are more involved in
the surrounding community and share living, entertainment, work, and study spaces with the
surrounding community. This type of approach to coexistence between the University and the
community lends itself to multiple opportunities for students to engage in activities or experiences that
will enhance their understanding of the world beyond the academic borders of TSU. It is also part of
TSU’s urban mission that focuses on high-quality teaching, research, and public service to prepare
students for leadership roles in urban communities worldwide.
Why should service-learning be a part of the QEP?
Service-learning is an approach to teaching; whereby, learning objectives from the classroom are
experienced or taught through service in the community. The learning is enhanced through the
students’ reflection on how the experience relates to their didactic work and students’ documentation
of their discovery of new information about themselves and the community. These experiences often
reinforce or add value to students’ knowledge, skills, and altruism. Creating opportunities for students
to engage in meaningful service-oriented activities on the local, national, and international fronts is an
opportunity to prepare students of TSU for the ever-growing diversity in the workplace they will
encounter and deliver more culturally sensitive services to patients and customers.
Service-learning is a form of community engagement in which students explore or reinforce concepts of
social and behavioral aspects of human behavior, communication skills, and research methods. For
example, students enrolled in a research methods course might be required to provide a “service” to a
local research study of their choice. As students are trained in research recruitment, concepts of
research methodology are reinforced. As students go out into the community to recruit subjects,
students would acquire 1)skills in communication; 2) an awareness of the factors that influence different
groups to participate in research; and 3) an understanding of the different levels of health literacy
within and between different groups. Another example might involve math majors’ administration of
patient satisfaction surveys at a local clinic. Students might be required to build the database for the
data as well as enter and analyze the data. Not only would this exercise reinforce the students’
statistical skills, but also lend itself to the students’ exploration of strategies to improve the delivery of
patient care services. Each of these examples also provides the research team and clinic with a much
What are the key elements of service-learning?
Each of the key elements of service-learning yield value added dimensions to the academic training of
students. These elements include development of social responsibility among students; exposing
students to environments beyond the University and interaction with diverse groups of people in the
community; and the development of community partnerships.
Service-learning provides opportunities to build a sense of civic responsibility within the students. By
performing hours of service in the community, students will develop specific interests in certain
populations and issues. It is common for students who participate in these types of activities to pursue
additional training or education in careers that focus on social and health policies or services.
Another key element is the opportunity for faculty to engage partnerships with community community
stakeholders. These partnerships will provide faculty with the potential to develop community and
research grants as well as possible publications on the students’ experiences. An increase in extramural
funding increases the number of paid internships and research positions for students.
These partnerships also enhance the University’s recruitment of students. Faculty, staff, and students
who work with community stakeholders are able to showcase the University’s degree programs. They
would also be able to identify students in the community who have the potential to excel academically
at the University.
The community’s perception of the University’s commitment to creating positive change in the
environment is also enhanced, making it less difficult to attract support for intern and employment
programs, technology, facilities, etc.
Who are the implementation partners?
A community advisory board made up of key leaders from the community and designated students,
staff, and faculty from the University would develop guidelines that would lead the efforts to recruit
organizations and programs that serve the community and meet the needs of the University.
Community partners would include local and state government programs, non-profit social service
agencies, international programs, hospitals, schools, research centers etc. The number of community
partners identified would be determined by the number of hours that students would be required to
serve as well as the number of students targeted to participate in the program.
Faculty members would be significant to the implementation process. Interested faculty members
would be trained in the development and implementation of service-learning programs that
complement their course areas or research interests.
An office of community engagement could be established on campus to oversee the maintenance of the
advisory board, training of faculty, and implementation and assessment of service-learning programs.
How would we know if the QEP was successful?
If accomplished, we expect that the next seven to ten years would yield a more successful class of
graduates who are more altruistic and able to compete globally. The University would experience an
increase in the number of graduates who take on leadership roles locally and globally in the
establishment of policies and services to address social issues. Items that measure civic involvement
and professional achievement could be included on alumni surveys.
Within four years of implementation, this plan would accelerate undergraduate students’ understanding
of the impact of becoming involved in civic duties both locally and abroad and their intent to pursue
graduate training in fields that promote social awareness and policy building. Reflective exercises
completed by students who participate in service-learning activities would serve as a measure of their
awareness. Items related to their understanding of civic engagement and future educational goals could
also be added to end of year student surveys.