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Service learning and faculty involvement.


This paper begins with an overview of service learning programs at colleges of business and specifically details faculty/student involvement in the service learning process at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT. and its positioning with regard to other similar programs. The paper also highlights three specific areas of program differentiation; its Problem Based Service Learning program, a Community Based Service Learning program nationally recognized by Campus Compact, and a globally focused service learning program established between its students in the College of Business and students in an elementary school in Nepal.

Service Learning in Colleges of Business

Service learning provides a viable transition from classroom to an environment where their classroom knowledge is tested and put into practice. "The business school's very mission is enmeshed with a commitment to interact with and improve the business communities that surround the campus" (Black, 2002, p. 1). In her article, Incorporating Service Learning into the Business Curriculum, Genie Black, Arkansas Tech University, references the importance of service learning in business schools by stating that, "the business school aspires to prepare its graduates for personal and professional success in an evolving global environment. In order to achieve these goals, business schools must continually find ways to allow students to learn by practical application. Internships may be the ultimate application of classroom knowledge, but this may be impractical for all students as well as for the business school. Thus, other avenues for providing students with the opportunity to learn by application must be sought. Service learning presents a viable solution" (Black, 2002, p. 5).

In his article entitled, Service Learning and International Business Education, Ilan Alon, Associate Professor of International Business at Rollins College points out that business schools have been under increasing scrutiny, especially by their accrediting agencies, to provide opportunities that allow their students to put into practice the theories they learn in the classroom (Alon, 2004, p. 1). Although concentrating on opportunities specifically relating to international business, the author highlights issues relating to many business disciplines. He specifically mentions that various experiential learning and service-learning models exist and that regardless of discipline they all deal with the same issues. At Arkansas Tech University "service learning approaches enhance student preparation for the new challenges of today's business world by helping students to understand a variety of issues such as diversity, ethics, social responsibility, illiteracy, globalization, and the digital divide" (Black, 2002, p. 11).

Service Learning at Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University, located in Fairfield, CT, is a co-educational, independent, comprehensive institution of higher learning in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Its primary objective is to prepare men and women to live in and make their contributions to the human community. As a Catholic university, the institution seeks to play its appropriate role in the modern world. It exemplifies in its life the Judeo-Christian values of the god-given freedom and dignity of every human person. It is within this framework that experiential and service learning are embedded, not only in the college of business but throughout the University, Within the College of Business the process of moving the emphasis from traditional classroom instruction to active and engaged experiential and service learning continues to be a priority. Actions taken by the college that reflect this commitment include the following examples. Encouragement of pedagogy that is active and engaging, appointment of a coordinator of Experiential Learning, continuous emphasis on internships as an important learning component and providing additional hands-on learning activities through service learning and volunteer opportunities. It is this last item that this paper will specifically discuss in the context of both students and faculty.

The College of Business offers its students the following experiential learning opportunities: Internships, The entrepreneurs Club, Service Learning, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program, Business Plan Competition, Investment Challenge and Fed Challenge Competition (new for 2004). Business students have also been actively engaged in several projects requested by the local Bridgeport, CT business community through the Greater Business Regional Business council. These projects have included: a study commissioned to determine the impact of potential economic, environmental, community, and health impacts of a depressed section of the community, a study commissioned by the Bridgeport Public Education Fund on sources and uses of funds and best practices in its mini-grants program for elementary, middle and high school teachers, and a consulting project commissioned by the Bridgeport Port Authority for a proposed parking garage, new property leases, and revised fare structures.

Students have also engaged in several marketing related service learning projects. These have included: The development of a marketing plan to enhance the downtown Bridgeport, CT business district commissioned by the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, conducting an analysis and making corresponding recommendations concerning the College of Business web site, conducting a SWOT analysis to determine the benefits of "branding" the College of Business. [A SWOT analysis is a process used in businesses in their strategic planning process as an opportunity to identify a company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats].

In addition to the web page project a second marketing related service-learning project that involved the "Branding" the College of Business was also conducted. Results of this service-learning project were presented to the Dean of the College of Business as the first step in creating a separate identity and awareness of the College of Business as an independent entity as compared to the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education and Health Sciences. In AY 2003-2004 two additional marketing focused service-learning projects were undertaken. These included the marketing of the Sacred Heart University Prayer Book and the marketing of the University Galley of Contemporary Art.

On a pilot basis, faculty from the Finance & Economics Department continue to work with the Director of Career Development to increase the number of internships available and to design a formal internship process that can be used by all business students regardless of major or concentration. The initial results are promising. As more students participate in the internship program the collaboration between the College of Business faculty and career development office continues to enhance the value of the program.

The College of Business assesses student learning and identifies areas where students and supervisors find students to be particularly strong or weak by utilizing the data collected from employers at the end of each internship period. This information is then used for curricular changes as needed. An example is the recent integration of EXCELL as a major component of the introductory financial management course. This incorporation into the finance curriculum is directly related to input provided by Wall Street companies hiring Sacred Heart finance majors as interns and later full-time employees. Data collected from corporations participating in the college service learning program over a five year period ending AY '04 clearly shows a high level of satisfaction with regards to time management skills, organizational skills and communication skills.

Community Based Service Learning

Realizing that most faculty have had little to no experience with service learning programs, Sacred Heart has differentiated itself from other service learning experiences through a program known as Operation Bridgeport "immersion" Weekends. This program has been nationally recognized by Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 900 college and university presidents committed to the civic purposes of higher education. This Sacred Heart Program is one of 81 program models listed on the Campus compact web page.

For over 11 years, Operation Bridgeport "immersion" Weekend has not only introduced faculty to service learning but also to the community. As Sacred Heart has continued to grow and admit students from ever divergent geographical locations and ethnic backgrounds it has realized that in addition to its students its faculty has also had little to any connection with the area in which the University serves. In order to strengthen this relationship, the Operation Bridgeport :immersion" Weekend offers groups of faculty and students the opportunity to spend a weekend together at the St. Charles R.C. Church Urban Center in downtown Bridgeport, CT.. Here students and faculty are transported from the richer parts of town to the impoverished city center. Here they meet with community organizers, and do service work including Habitat for humanity, staff food pantries and together work in youth centers. A highlight of the weekend comes when on Sunday faculty members cook breakfast for students, some of which come from impoverished backgrounds. Later in the afternoon comes a faculty brainstorming session during which time faculty discuss new possibilities for service learning projects based on their weekend experiences. One faculty member in particular now offers a free, after school, art class as a community service to high school students in Bridgeport and neighboring towns.

In addition, as an initiative for faculty to continue to be engaged with service learning a retired University Professor of English donated proceeds from his latest book to establish a monetary reward for incorporating service learning or community based learning into an existing course or for the creation of a new course. The money can be used to cover any of the costs of the service learning project including, books, supplies, transportation, etc.

By having the opportunity to live with a diverse group of people from one of the most impoverished sections of Bridgeport, CT for an entire weekend, Operation Bridgeport "immersion" Weekend provides both faculty and students to opportunity to learn the importance of service learning in a real life, intensive, environment. Not only do students learn to interact directly with faculty and city residents but also the importance of service to members of the community in which they have become a part, if only for a weekend.

An International Partnership: The Nepal Project

Founded in September 2001, The Creative and Educational Welfare Affiliation (CEWA) is an officially registered educational outreach group, created to meet the social and educational needs of young people in the town of Hetauda, Nepal, located approximately 200 kilometers southwest of the capital city, Kathmandu. Founded by Brenda Bushell of Musashi Institute of Technology, Japan and Pratibha Dangol of the Ujjwal Shishu Niketan High School in Nepal, the main objectives of CEWA is to provide education and support for the overall development of students in Hetauda, to give students an understanding of the importance of working together for the benefit of society, raise awareness about social, political, environmental, health and educational issues in the community, and to develop a feeling of international understanding, peace and co-operation among the club members. The program grew out of a concern for the welfare of youth coping with terrorism and war within Nepal and abroad

The Nepal Project brought together professors Beverly Kracher of Creighton University, a University with a tradition of service learning and similar in mission and composition to Sacred Heart and Sacred Heart Finance Associate Professor Bridget Lyons who, along with their students, became involved with the production of Nepali student hand-painted cards which were to be sold by students in the United States. CEWA students in Nepal would design, produce and ship hand painted cards to students at Creighton and Sacred Heart Universities who would then sell them and return the profits to the CEWA students in Nepal to use for ongoing club projects. Students in the college of business looked at this project as an opportunity to apply business knowledge, foster their organizational and leadership skills, and make a connection with people on the other side of the world interacting with students from a country they knew very little about.

CEWA students in Nepal created sample greeting cards that were mailed and then photographed and emailed to student groups in the USA. Cards were selected by students in the USA groups for reproduction based on visually appealing messages. CEWA students hand drew and painted 200 cards on Nepalese paper. The cards and corresponding number of handmade envelopes were then mailed to the USA students for sale at their various institutions. Sales from the cards totaled $300.00 which was transferred back to Nepal.

The project was supported by an international, interdisciplinary partnership whose mission is to prepare young people to become respectful environmental citizens. The card project, and the involvement of students from the college of business at both Creighton and Sacred Heart, has added an international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary service component to their learning paradigm. Its purpose was to inject teaching and learning activities into the community that are crucial for the human development of Nepali youth.

Students from Sacred Heart and Creighton had the opportunity to participate in a real life, real time, marketing project and through this exercise gained valuable insights into issues regarding pricing and promotion while at the same time experiencing, first hand, the challenges of conducting business on a global scale. These issues came to life as the students grappled with real global trade issues, difficulties in cross-cultural communication and operational issues such as problems with international funds transfer. Since the monthly salary for a teacher in Nepal is $15.00 few teachers have a bank account which made the transfer of funds difficult. Teachers therefore pooled their resources and opened an account which made it possible for the funds to be transferred. Through this process students learned to work together towards a shared goal regardless of caste.

Problem Based Service Learning

Problem Based service Learning (PBSL) offers students and teams of students the opportunity to incorporate classroom learning into the workplace by directly working on community problems and/or needs. At the conclusion of the project students analyze their work to determine how it was related to the course material as well as the impact of the project on the community. Students in the College of Business have participated in a number of problem based service learning specifically related to economic development: These include: A study for the Bridgeport Public Education Fund (BPEF) on sources and uses of funds and best practices in its mini-grants program for public school teachers and consulting for the Bridgeport Port Authority for a proposed parking garage, property leases, and fare structures involving the continuation of the Bridgeport, CT to Port Jefferson, NY Steamship Company.

By addressing service learning through a problem based approach students gained an appreciation for the difficulties and opportunities inherent in today's complex business environment. Identifying a problem, such as better communication and understanding of community needs, and the difficulties of conducting business in the international marketplace, reinforce the benefits of service learning in its truest forms.


As service-learning continues to grow and become an essential component of the business curriculum it is envisioned that not only will additional opportunities for study become available but that greater numbers of students will actively become engaged in the experience. As Sacred Heart University and the College of Business continue to grow, the possibility of continuing service learning throughout the University community becomes ever more exciting. While not a new idea, service-learning has the potential to not only keep students of business and other disciplines current with developments in their field but to also provide opportunities to turn those societal developments into a living laboratory for enhancing business pedagogy.


Alon, Ilan (2004. Service Learning and International Business. Academic Exchange Quarterly, (Spring), Vol. 8, Issue 1.

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Black, Genie (2002). Incorporating Service Learning into the Business Curriculum. Journal of Business Administration Online, (Fall), Vol. 1, No. 2.

Bringle, Robert G. and Julie A. Hatcher (1996). Implementing service-learning in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, (March-April), 67:2, p. 221-240.

Corporation on National and community Service as part of their briefing materials for national community service.

Crews, Robin, "What is Service Learning" (pp. l) University of Colorado at Boulder Service Learning Handbook, First Edition, April 1995.

Ehrlich, Thomas, "Forward" (pp. xi-xii) in Barbara Jacobt and Associates, Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass. 1966.

Marklein, Mary Beth. (1999). Taking the pulse of America's freshmen. USA Today, (Jan.25), P. 6D.

Sacred Heart University AACSB Self Study

Teaching at The Ohio state University: A Handbook. Drs. Golden Jackson and Susan R. Jones. P. 67.

Peter A. Maresco, Sacred Heart University, CT

Maresco, Ph.D. is Clinical Assistant Professor of Management
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Author:Maresco, Peter A.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2005
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