University of Southern Indiana


Frequently Asked Questions 

How does service-learning differ from community service?

Service learning requires some form of community service, but the service experience must also involve purposeful civic learning and enhanced academic learning. The hyphen is the key. As a community partner, you are part of a service-learning experience when you work with faculty and staff at USI to intentionally design student service experiences that are relevant and meaningful to everyone involved. In most cases, community service becomes service-learning when it meets the following criteria:

  1. The service is relevant to the community and to specific learning objectives. 
  2. The service involves students in activities that the community views as meaningful and that the associated faculty or staff member(s) views as appropriate to specific learning objectives.
  3. The service is developed in cooperation with the community partner, not merely for the community partner.

What is the community partner’s role in a service-learning project?

Community partners work with faculty and staff to design mutually beneficial, meaningful service experiences for students. There are a wide variety of potential service-learning experiences, so it is impossible to specify exactly what the community partner’s role is until a particular experience is designed. You should expect that your role as the community partner will be appropriately outlined as each service experience is designed, though. Additionally if you ever have questions or need help you can always contact a USI Service-Learning representative via email, phone, or in person.


What is the faculty or staff member’s role in a service-learning project?

In addition to designing the service-learning experience with the community partner, faculty and staff members are also responsible for designing and implementing methods to help students connect the experience with specified learning objectives. For example, faculty and staff members work to insure ongoing, active reflection opportunities for students.


How do community partners benefit from service-learning?

When done well, communities and community partners can anticipate many of the following possible outcomes:

  • Access to needed human and intellectual resources to fulfill meaningful community needs.
  • Enhanced awareness and access to USI resources and collaborative opportunities.
  • Sustainable partnerships with faculty who can provide research and insights relevant to community problems.
  • Real opportunities for the community to inform faculty, staff, and students of community needs.
  • Effective platforms for community members to promote their services and share relevant information.

How do students benefit from service-learning?

At USI, we strive to achieve the following student learning outcomes through our service learning activities:

  • Enhanced Civic engagement
  • Enhanced capacity for difference/change making
  • Enhanced learning through disciplined reflection
  • Enhanced learning through disciplined reflection
  • Enhanced ability to interact and work effectively with diverse groups and environments

How can my organization become a partner orientation in the service-learning program?

The first time an organization partners with USI for a service-learning project, it is sked to complete a Community Partner Application on our Org Sync website

While you can complete this form and submit it before contacting a member of our program, we would love to speak with you before you fill out the form to introduce you to the USI Service-Learning Program and answer any additional questions you might have. You can contact a member of our program by phone 812-465-7058/812-461-5363 or email.

How do I find the right faculty and/or students to work with for service-learning?


You may contact the USI Service-Learning Program by phone 812-465-7058/812-461-5363 or email to receive help identifying a faculty member, staff member, or student group to work with. We can help direct you to the right person or people for the project.


What types of service can students do for my agency or organization?

There are many forms of service-learning. In general, most projects are either direct or indirect service-learning projects. Direct service projects involve students have personal contact with you, your organization, and potentially even the people or portions of the community that you serve. Examples of direct service might be teaching in a school or helping with a community beautification project. Indirect service projects involve students completing work for your cause or purpose, though there may no direct contact. Additional examples and definitions of various types of service-learning can be found at the Colorado State University Service-Learning website.

If I don’t partner for a semester or more, is my organization still eligible to partner again?

Absolutely! We understand that your capacity to interact with service-learners changes from year to year and that it may not always be feasible to commit to service-learning. Any time you want to partner with USI Service-Learning, simply contact a member of our staff or an appropriate faculty.

Are there risks associated with service-learning?

One of the most important liability issues involves a requirement that we not expose children (under the age of 18) to sex offenders. USI faculty are required to check that students working with children are not on the sex offender registry. 

Since risks can differ from project to project, it is important for faculty and community partner to discuss and take appropriate steps to minimize risks to students and community partner participants.

Contact USI Risk Management with any additional questions pertaining to risk and liability Risk Management & Safety.


How do I report a concern or emergency issue?

A community partner should establish a protocol with the faculty or staff partner you work with for each project. You can also contact a member of the USI service-learning program at 812-465-7058/812-461-5363 for assistance.


What happens at the end of the service-learning project?

 If an outcome of the project is for students to provide you or your organization with a product or report, we recommend that you work with the faculty or staff partner with whom you design the service-learning experience to identify the best way for students to deliver this.

At the end of each semester, you or a designated member of your organization will also be asked to provide an assessment of the service-learning experience and the partnership.

This assessment will be shared with you through the Org Sync online platform.


(adapted from UT Knoxville)



Contact Marie Opatrny-Pease


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