The SOCW 413 course is the senior capstone class for BSW students. The course requires a service-learning project that serves as a culmination of the student’s undergraduate work. This year, the BSW students completed over 70 different service-learning projects, with five faculty members overseeing the process.
As the faculty for one section of the course, I had the privilege of working with 16 different student projects. The projects are initiated and conducted by individual students. The students begin by identifying a personal learning goal. Then, they each partner with a different agency within the community in order to perform a service that will assist them in achieving the learning goal.
For example, a student who wanted to learn more about fundraising for nonprofits, partnered with a local agency that needed to purchase a new stove to use in their life skills classes. She engaged in the fundraising efforts, in cooperation with the agency, and was able to generate the necessary funds for the stove. Another student wanted to learn more about working with aged individuals and increase her comfort level interacting with this population. I connected her to a local facility, where she was able to assist the activities director in engaging in one-on-one activities with some of the residents who were not able to participate in group socialization activities. This assisted the facility by providing a necessary, yet time-intensive, service, freeing the activities director to engage in other projects. Additionally, the student identified various activities that staff could engage in with the residents and developed a detailed guide of those activities.
These are just two examples of the ways in which the students identified their learning goals and initiated individualized projects in order to accomplish those goals. Too often, faculty feel the need to manage and direct the service-learning activities, which does not allow for the opportunity to individualize projects to the specific needs of the students or the community agencies. The SOCW 413 course demonstrates that it is possible to allow students the freedom to pursue projects with moderate oversight from faculty.