Service learning program dissatisfies students

Rosie Li, Staff Writer

The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

Tulane’s new policy, which allows students to complete the second-tier of service learning their sophomore year is positive, but more needs to be done to improve the service learning experience. The university must do a better job of relating service learning to the classroom.

While the objectives and outcomes of the service learning program are perfect in theory, it has led to unpleasant experiences for both students and community partners. Faculty and students need to face these problems and resort to action to make our service learning more effective and welcomed by the New Orleans community.

Professors largely decide which community partner they choose. Some excel in picking community partners, while others pick organizations that do not provide rewarding experiences.

Usually service learning projects are not relevant to the course and offer insufficient training. Students are often just thrown into an orientation, where staff briefly explain students’ roles. There is little or no follow-up or mentoring to give students feedback or to help them grow. Routine mid-term surveys are seldom effective.

The lack of support negatively affects the motivation of students and their performance. The organization receives feedback from unmotivated students and starts to respond with distrust. Creating a cycle of trust and fostering cooperation between organizations and students becomes difficult.

Service learning is mandatory, and many students respond with apathy toward their community partners.

Those who design the service learning program should consider that Tulane contains a wide spectrum of students, including those who come to Tulane for service learning and others who couldn’t care less.

A one-size-fits-all program forces disinterested students to spend a substantial amount of time being unproductive. On the other hand, students who are highly motivated and passionate are not trusted by the organizations.

Tulane should design a program that allows more flexibility so that different people can learn and thrive in their own ways. More correlation between classes and their service learning components is needed so that students work somewhere that interests them, and is relevant to their studies. 

Rosie Li is a sophomore in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached for comment at [email protected]