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Service Learning - Service Learning Partnerships

Community Partners are groups or organizations that provide a venue for a service learning project. Entering into a partnership with the Service Learning program requires a commitment of time, resources and effort, but the benefits for the agencies, instructors, service-learning students and communities can be dramatic and transformational.

Many of our community partners were surprised but interested when they got a phone call from a University of Maine professor asking if they’d like to participate as a partner in a course project. They’ve found themselves working with a team of University of Maine students who are using their academic knowledge to address a problem or situation that the community partner faces.

Working with Community Partners

“…the natural development of university community partnerships begins with work between the university and well-organized local agencies and organizations that have the capacity and sophistication to interface with the more bureaucratic university.”

Holland, B. & Gelmon, S. (2003). The States of the Engaged Campus: What We Learned About Building and Sustaining University-Community Partnerships. In Introduction to Service-Learning Toolkit. Providence, RI: Campus Compact, p. 197.

What can a community partner expect from a service-learning project

  • Working with a group of energetic students and a dedicated professor. Our experience shows that most of the professors who choose this strategy are excellent teachers who care deeply about their students’ learning. The students generally enjoy this sort of learning and quickly see the merit of it.
  • Clear and consistent communication with the team and the professor.
  • A well-focused project with clear criteria. The project should meet real needs or situations for the client.
  • A project delivered on time.
  • Professional behavior from the student team.

What are the responsibilities of the partner?

  • Enjoy working with people who are learning how to be professional. Our partners often say how important it’s been for them to meet students and mentor them as they apply their academic knowledge to the professional world.
  • Be accessible to the student team by phone and/or by e-mail. Money and lavish resources aren’t necessary, but communication is key to this sort of learning project. Students will be working in a tight timeframe.
  • Be able to narrow the scope of the project to fit the time available to the student team. The professor of the course will have designed the project to allow students to learn and to practice certain skills and to complete the project by the end of the semester.
  • Be flexible. Allow for individual learning styles while still expecting professional results.

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