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Fort Hays State Launches a Service Learning Initiative

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

This week’s Campus Spotlight is on Fort Hays State University (FHSU). Fort Hays recently won financial support from the Welch Charitable Fund to encourage faculty members to use service learning in their teaching. Service Learning, when combined with community organizing tactics and effective reflection activities, can be an important civic pedagogical tool that will help students develop their citizenship skills. The press release below describes the details of the new FHSU initiative.

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FHSU PRESS RELEASE

Faculty members at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) now have extra
incentive to employ service learning, a pedagogical strategy in which students learn through a unique educational experience that incorporates reflective learning and service to the internal FHSU community and the broader civic community of which the university is a part.
The Provost’s Service Learning Faculty Fellows Program (PSLFFP), instituted by FHSU Provost Dr. Larry Gould and the university’s Service Learning Committee, will award up to four $1,500 fellowships each year with the goals of increasing the number of available service learning courses and contributing to the integrity and value of service learning as part of tenure, promotion, sabbatical and merit processes and decision making.

“The new program will be an excellent way to help meet the teaching and scholarship expectations of the university’s relatively new and broadened definition of scholarship passed by the Faculty Senate,” said Gould.

“Equally important, it will enhance the opportunity for faculty to earn recognition for their efforts to create innovative experiences that foster learning by doing and to include those innovations in their case for merit, tenure and promotion.”

The PSLFFP is supported in cooperation with resources provided by George Welch and the Welch Charitable Fund. Welch is a successful entrepreneur in real-estate development, transportation, manufacturing, finance and banking.

Dr. Stacey Smith, chair of the FHSU Service Learning Committee, has worked with Welch. “George Welch has spent many years as an outstanding businessman with a passion for education and community work,” she said.

“His personal and business ventures have given him the opportunity to mentor many young individuals, including myself. I look forward to sharing with George the growth of service learning initiatives on the FHSU campus that will be made a reality as a result of his generosity,” said Smith.

The application process for the first set of service learning fellows is now under way. The application deadline is 4pm on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.  The first group of Faculty Fellows will be notified on May 13. Applications are available through the chair of the Service Learning Committee or the Office of the Provost.

The applications must include a description of the applicant’s service learning project, a statement of why the applicant is motivated to participate in service learning and what he or she expects to gain from their involvement in the Service Learning Fellows program.

Selections will be made by a panel that includes members of the university’s Service Learning Committee and, eventually, five current and former service learning fellows as the program reaches full implementation. Appointments begin on July 1 of each fiscal year and end 18 months later, on Dec. 31. The $1,500 stipend will be disbursed every six months, in increments of $300, $450 and $750. The Welch Charitable Fund has committed resources to support the program for five years.

Training for fellows is divided into two phases, professional development and academic leadership.  In the professional development phase, fellows will participate in an orientation and development workshop, develop a service learning course, and perform annual service as a member of the Service Learning Committee.

During the academic leadership phase, fellows are required to give presentations on the purpose and practice of service learning to internal and external audiences and teach at least one course that includes a service learning component. To keep the service learning title beyond the end of the fellowship period, faculty will be asked to meet a number of expectations and responsibilities contained in the program’s charter document.

Individuals with questions or a need for further information should contact the Service Learning Chair, Stacey Smith at 628-4696 or email her.

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