Engaging Los Angeles through Service Learning Courses

Did you know that every quarter UCLA undergraduates perform meaningful work in the diverse communities of Los Angeles AND earn course credit at the same time through the UCLA Center for Community Learning? As you learn alongside our region’s inspirational leaders, you can build skills in critical thinking and gain experience working in teams to address some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century–from hunger and homelessness to educational equity, environmental justice, and more. One of the best ways for first year students to get involved in community learning is through service learning courses. We interviewed Assistant Director Beth Goodhue to learn more.

Question 1: What are service learning courses?

Service learning courses can be found throughout the undergraduate curriculum–from GE and Writing I and II courses to upper division electives in many different majors and minors. Service learning courses meet as traditional lectures or seminars, but part of the homework load involves rolling up your sleeves and working with local nonprofits and government agencies on projects connected to the content of the course. For example, students enrolled in a course on food justice would learn about food deserts in class and then spend time each week working with a nonprofit to build and care for community gardens–or students enrolled in a GE course on wetlands and water quality would spend part of their homework hours each week teaching K-12 students about water systems. I want to stress that these courses are NOT more work than traditional format courses but rather DIFFERENT work. Service learning courses offer a unique opportunity for hands-on learning in the community, and the traditional homework load is adjusted to make time that off-campus work.

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Service learning students working at Kindred Spirits Care Farm on the campus of John R. Wooden Continuation High School.

 Question 2: What are the benefits of taking service learning courses?

Many lower division service learning courses satisfy GE, Writing I and II, and/or College Diversity credit–and many upper division courses count as electives for majors and minors and may also count for Diversity credit. But above and beyond helping students meet graduation requirements, service learning courses are a great way to get experience applying complex concepts from you college courses in real-world settings. This is exactly what you’ll be asked to do regardless of your career path once you graduate from college–and we want to give you the opportunity to build those skills while you’re earning your degree at UCLA. As first year students, you’ll gain experience and connections that can help you land internships and jobs later on. But at the same time, you’ll get to explore the city we call home as you collaborate with community leaders on projects that promote social justice and help make LA a place where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive. It’s win-win all around!

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Promoting early childhood literacy through service learning

Question 3: Are there particular courses you would recommend for first year students?

Absolutely! For first year students, I would recommend our service learning courses that satisfy Writing I (English Composition 3SL) and Writing II credit (English 4WS), as well as courses that satisfy general education requirements and/or diversity credit. Civic Engagement 50SL: Engaging Los Angeles satisfies BOTH Society & Culture GE credit and College Diversity credit, so it’s a great two-for-one option. All of these courses are offered every quarter, including Spring 2016! We actually have two sections each of English Composition 3SL and English 4WS this spring. These courses explore great themes like equity and access in education, visions of LA and the California dream, the role of storytelling in daily life, and social justice in urban spaces. Download our flyer for more detailed course descriptions.

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English Composition 3SL with Hitch Faculty in Residence Tara Prescott

Question 4: What sorts of community organizations partner with service learning courses and what sorts of projects do students work on?

 Service learning students work with organizations all across the Los Angeles region on a wide variety of projects each quarter. Some projects involve direct service (such as tutoring and mentoring) while other projects engage students in research or policy analysis. Areas of emphasis include arts & culture, education, food justice, health and wellness, and much more. We recently launched a digital map documenting our service learning partnerships, so you can go there to learn more about where students have been working and what they have been doing with our community partners.

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UCLA Center for Community Learning Service Learning Map

 Question 5: What is the time commitment like for service learning courses–and how do students get to and from service learning sites? 

Most service learning courses (including all of the GE and writing courses mentioned above) ask students to commit a minimum of 20 hours during the quarter–or about 2-3 hours per week. A few upper division service learning courses require more hours per week. The estimated weekly commitment is generally listed on the schedule of classes as “fieldwork” hours. Each service learning course will have several community partners associated with it, and our center works make sure that there are options for students to work in both the morning and afternoon each weekday, and sometimes also in the evenings or on weekends. You can select the site that best fits your schedule.

In terms of transportation, there are always service learning sites for each course that are accessible via bus from campus so it is NOT necessary to have a car to participate in service learning. Students also carpool and share rides, so there are lots of transportation options available.

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 Teaching cooking classes for children at the Venice Family Clinic

 Question 6: How do students find out which service learning courses are being offered each quarter?

 The easiest place to get up to date information on service learning is on the Service Learning page of the Center for Community Learning’s website. We also send out email blasts to academic counselors and other campus groups, and you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date on our programs. You can also identify service learning courses in the online schedule of classes because most service learning courses have an SL suffix at the end of the course number–as in English Composition 3SL. If a course already has a mandatory suffix (like a W to designate Writing II), it may just have an S for service learning–as in English 4WS.

Question 7: How do students enroll in service learning courses?

 Students enroll in service learning courses on MyUCLA–just as they would enroll in any other class. Many SL courses (including all of the GE and writing courses mentioned above) have no enrollment restrictions. In some cases, upper division SL courses may be restricted to particular majors/minors during certain enrollment periods or may require instructor consent–but just follow the instructions on the schedule of classes and MyUCLA as you would for any other course. If you have questions about service learning, feel free to contact the Center for Community Learning at any time via email (cclmeetinsg[at]college.ucla.edu) or phone (310.825.7867) or visit our website (www.communitylearning.ucla.edu).

16S Service Learning Flyer

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing with us the benefits of service learning courses!

Cover photo credit: Slices of Light 

Written by Elizabeth Goodhue, PhD
Assistant Director
UCLA Center for Community Learning


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