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Service Learning

2014 Border Health Service Learning Institute at border fenceService-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Students engaged in service-learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens. Service-learning:

  • strives to achieve a balance between service and learning objectives. Partners must negotiate the differences in their needs and expectations;
  • places an emphasis on addressing community concerns and broad determinants of health;
  • integrally involves community partners through principle-centered partnerships between communities and health professions schools;
  • emphasizes reciprocal learning, where traditional definitions of "faculty," "teacher" and "learner" are intentionally blurred. We all learn from each other;
  • emphasizes reflective practice: reflection facilitates the connection between practice and theory and fosters critical thinking;
  • places emphasis on developing citizenship skills and achieving social change.(Citation: Seifer SD. (1998). Service-learning: Community-campus partnerships for health professions education. Academic Medicine, 73(3):273-277.

Service Learning is a powerful vehicle for strengthening partnerships between health professions schools and communities. It builds a strong commitment to community service and social responsibility, and equips health professionals with community-oriented competencies necessary to practice in today’s changing world of public health. Service learning encourages civic responsibility of students and enhances their understanding of service delivery and health equity.

At the College of Public Health, beginning in 2007 with resources from the Community Campus Partnership for Health, HRSA Maternal and Child Health Training Grant, and the Arizona Area Health Education Center (AzAHEC) and Center for Rural Health's Rural Health Professions Program (RHPP), a number of faculty and academic professionals participated in workshops and conferences to learn more about the conceptual framework of service learning. We adapted this methodology to build and strengthen relationships with community partners throughout Arizona and Sonora. Several of our faculty have since adopted service learning opportunities as a component of the sociocultural and behavioral aspects of public health, where students work in teams with community partner organizations to enhance the work of the organization. Reflection questions relate directly to understanding the sociocultural and behavioral aspects of the particular activity or program. Click here to see our 2013 Annual Report.

Why Service Learning? Watch the Arizona Illustrated Story on our Service Learning Stories page.

The College now offers five service learning courses that utilizeg an intensive week-long, field-based model to immerse students, faculty and community partners directly in rural, border and urban communities which are facing huge health disparity issues. Visit our Service Learning Course Offerings page to learn more, or click on the following to visit the individual course pages:

Interprofessional Service Learning Experience 2014: On July 18-19, 2014, ten students from the colleges of Public Health, Pharmacy, Medicine and Nursing joined faculty on an intensive two day experience in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico - Building Healthy Communities: Alternatives to Migration. Click here to learn more.

Student-led Service Learning: In March 2014, a team of 9 masters students and one doctoral student spent spring break in western Guatemala and southern Mexico for a service learning practicum focusing on border health, migration, sustainable development and cultural enrichment. For more information about the 2014 course, visit their Guatemala Border Health Service Learning website. And you can see the Arizona Public Media story and the powerpoint presentation from the May 2012 course on our Service Learning Stories page.

On June 5-7, 2012, the College hosted a Service Learning Workshop for instructors, administrators and community agencies: Professional Development for Community Engaged Learning: Increasing Capacity to Eliminate Health Disparities. Click here for more about the workshop.

The University of Arizona