Office of Service Learning

Mission Statement

The Office of Service Learning, an integral academic component of the Center for Faith & Public Life, supports the education of "men and women for others" by creating opportunities for responsible citizenship, fostering solidarity, and cultivating passion for a just and equitable world. We animate the Fairfield University mission and facilitate the integration of living and learning as participants explore the interconnections of knowledge, experience, reflection, and action through academically-rigorous service-learning courses. We provide resources and links for collaboration among students, faculty, staff, community organizations, and international partners - with a particular commitment to the Greater Bridgeport Area.

Guiding Principles for Effective Service Learning

Service-learning is the term used to refer to the various pedagogies that link community service and academic study so that each strengthens the other.1

Academic service learning is a credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that is both relevant to the course and meets identified community needs. Participants engage in structured reflection on the service activity so that they gain deeper understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, a greater appreciation for diversity, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.2

Understanding "community" as denoting not only geographical vicinity, but interdependence and shared responsibility, we strive to cultivate a spirit of cooperation and sense of global citizenship among the participating individuals and institutions. We are committed to solidarity and collaboration with people and communities who are marginalized economically or in other ways. In addition to being mindful of "best practices" that have been developed in the academic service-learning movement nationally, our work is inspired by the Catholic Jesuit educational mission of Fairfield University that calls for the dynamic integration of academic excellence, social responsibility, and faith that promotes justice.

The Office of Service Learning at Fairfield University was established to facilitate and support service-learning course development, community partnerships for cooperative education, and meaningful reflection experiences. The Office of Service Learning facilitates the connection of specific courses, departments, and programs of study using disciplinary standards for rigorous academic experiences with meaningful and appropriate service that addresses needs identified by and with communities. Reflection on the conceptual/academic, civic/social, and personal/spiritual dimensions of service learning is essential, as is the development of partnerships with the community that are based in mutuality, reciprocity, and cooperative education for the common good. Appropriate collaborations between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, in areas such as Residence Life, Campus Ministry, and University Activities, are also facilitated.

As an Office within the Academic Division of Fairfield University we:

  • Understand that service learning is an accepted, rigorous, academic, and discipline-based pedagogy distinct from other traditional and experiential approaches to teaching and learning
  • Promote service-learning as an effective pedagogy for the enhancement of student learning
  • Value and promote education with diverse populations through service-learning and international-immersion programs
  • Support faculty in the development of service-learning experiences that include preparation, reflection, and evaluation
  • Foster an atmosphere of open discourse and careful, respectful listening where freedom of thought and expression are valued and protected
  • Encourage critical thinking about social, economic and political structures locally, nationally and internationally
  • Promote ethical behavior in instruction, service, assessment, and community-based research
  • Work with all schools and departments, as well as with Student Affairs, to develop meaningful service-learning experiences
  • As a Program dedicated to working with local, national and international communities to promote the common good, we:
  • Understand the community as our co-educator and an essential partner for effective and holistic student learning
  • Respect the integrity and wisdom of local communities and their abilities to develop solutions that address their needs
  • Seek input and guidance from our community partners as we strive to support their efforts and self-determination
  • Work with community partners who promote the dignity of each person, seek sustainable solutions, and protect and preserve natural resources
  • Engage in work that builds upon the respective assets and resources of Fairfield University and our community partners
  • Welcome all members of the University who desire to engage with and learn through service with the community
  • Recognize a special relationship with and responsibility to the Greater Bridgeport Area, as we seek to be a responsible institutional citizen and a caring neighbor

As an Office grounded in Fairfield University's Jesuit Catholic traditions and ideals we:

  • Encourage the exploration of connections among academic learning, service, faith, and spirituality
  • Cultivate a collaborative work environment that fosters the development of each person in mind, body, and spirit
  • Seek solidarity with, and extend care and support to, persons who are marginalized economically, as well as in other ways
  • Develop and coordinate programs that encourage personal involvement and interaction with those who suffer from injustice
  • Create opportunities for student leadership development
  • Promote life-long learning and the habits of service for the common good

1 Thomas Ehrlich, in Barbara Jacoby and Associates (1996). Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass.
2 Robert Bringle and Julie Hatcher, "A Service Learning Curriculum for Faculty." Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Fall 1995, pp.112-122.