What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is an academically rigorous form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs, together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve and assess desired learning outcomes.

- Adapted from a definition by Dr. Barbara Jacoby

Service-Learning at Benedictine College

In June 2016, Benedictine College launched the Center for Service-Learning in order to facilitate the implementation of service-learning for our faculty, students, and community partners. Our service-learning program is rooted in, guided by, and an expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our identity as a Catholic, Benedictine institution. We believe it will advance Benedictine College’s mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.

Since service-learning is a highly adaptable teaching method, it may look quite different from one course to another. Here are some characteristics that academically rigorous service-learning courses – in their variety of expressions – have in common:

  • Careful Selection:  Service experiences explicitly align with one or more of the course’s learning outcomes
  • Critical Reflection: Structured and challenging academic reflection opportunities integrate the service with other course content
  • Mutually Beneficial: Service experiences address unmet, community-identified needs and advance students’ academic, moral, and personal growth

Here is a sampling of the numerous courses offered at Benedictine that include a service-learning component. You can also see more on our Facebook page or Instagram page.


In Dr. Richard Coronado and Dr. John Rziha’s team-taught Catholic Social Teaching course (ECON/THEO 3260), students fulfill eight hours of service working directly with the poor. In addition to helping those in need, this experience adds to the course material: at the end of the semester, students demonstrate their level of understanding when they write a paper applying the general principles outlined in the Catholic social encyclicals to the particular example of their service-learning project.


Dr. Matthew Ramsey’s section of Psychology of Individuals with Exceptionalities (EDUC 2222) introduces students to key topics in special education. During the semester, students have the option to increase their understanding of course content, such as the contributions of assistive technology and best-practice educational methods, through a variety of service experiences including helping at Special Olympics or acting as a companion to a child with a disability. A short reflection paper provides students with the opportunity to directly relate the service experience to the other academic content and to consider what their experience means for them as a future teacher.

Exercise Science

In Professor Mary Flynn’s Organization and Administration of Physical Education and Sport course (EXSC 4402), students come to see the important role of community interaction in the field of health and wellness while applying management experience during ten hours of service at local agencies, including the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA or Medicalodges Atchison, a long-term care facility. Structured opportunities for reflection, such as papers and group discussions, encourage students to consider their service experiences in light of other course content, including effective leadership techniques and legal concerns in the field of exercise science.


In Dr. Amy Posey’s Psychology Service Experience course (PSYC 4850), students spend three hours a week serving in settings such as school counseling, home health and hospice, employment counseling, or a Head Start preschool. Through this, students make progress towards course objectives such as the ability to discuss community needs and systemic constraints faced by the service population. Reflection papers and a simulation activity provide additional means for students to synthesize what they are learning, both in the classroom and at the service site.


In Dr. John Rziha’s section of Christian Moral Life (THEO 2000), students engage in five hours of charitable work, which provides an occasion to both further examine and apply course content. Afterwards, an application paper gives students the opportunity to continue reflecting on how the charitable work implemented principles of Christian moral life. Students propose their own projects, and examples have included tutoring elementary school students, visiting the elderly, and serving the homeless.