I am writing a grant for an AmeriCorps position to help coordinate service-related activities at my university, and we’ve just identified the three main components of the job description:
1) Develop and coordinate service learning curriculum / pedagogy across the University;
2) Facilitate campus-based, service-oriented activities (food drives, outreach, etc.);
3) Develop service-oriented strategic partnerships between the University and other organizations.
Part of why I am so inspired to push this forward at my university (and do the work of writing the proposal in less than 2 weeks) is because I am inspired by the argument that Art Chickering makes about how such opportunities can, in fact, strengthen democracy: that service opportunities can support the development of sophisticated analytical abilities and help “lift our culture from dualistic perspectives that tend to drive our social policies” (from Editor’s Notes, p. 1, of Linking Adults with Community: Promoting Civic Engagement through Community Based Learning, edited by Susan Reed and Catherine Marienau, both from DePaul University’s School for New Learning).
Specifically, Chickering writes this:
An involved community is not a given, passed down as part of our place and time; it is chosen. Depending on the roles we choose or accept, our participation does not offer predictability or comfort, but challenge. The time, energy, and emotion we invest give purpose and meaning to our lives. Active participation offers us a chance to create meaning for ourselves on the basis of our particular contributions to something larger than ourselves and our families. (p. 90)
Something larger than ourselves…we need more of that in any way we can get it.