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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. 

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

The College now offers six service learning courses that utilize 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 - Binational Service Learning Experience 2015: On August 14-16, 2015, 16 students from the colleges of Public Health, Pharmacy, Medicine and Nursing, and 12 students from academic institutions in Sonora, Mexico (la Universidad del Valle de Mexico, El Colegio de Sonora, La Universidad de Kino, El Centro de Investigacion en Alimentacion y Desarrollo) joined faculty from both countries on an intensive two day experience in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico - Building Healthy Communities: Alternatives to Migration.

The College is working to incorporate service learning into more curricula and faculty skillsets. To this end, in June 2012 we 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 resources from the June 2012 workshop.

The University of Arizona