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Measuring Impact: Service-Learning Leads to Deeper Understanding

As hundreds of service-learning students kick-off another academic year this fall, the Service-Learning Office is evaluating Service-Learning Impact Measure (SLIM) evaluations from last academic year’s courses to help determine the impact service-learning has on students.

Two of the students who won a drawing for completing SLIM evaluations reported that their course experiences led them to a deeper understanding of the subject matter they studied and also helped them see a broader perspective than they normally would have in a traditional class setting.  

Aimee Chon was entering her third year in the VCU School of Pharmacy when she served with the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort as part of a summer service-learning course. For two weeks, she helped staff temporary clinics and pharmacies in hard-to-reach locations in Pinares, Honduras.

“We hiked up into the mountains, carrying all the medications and supplies, and set up makeshift pharmacies at elementary schools,” Chon said. “I thought a lot about how we take things for granted here - our patients hiked sometimes for four or more hours just to get a pain reliever or fever reducer for their children.”

Chon said the experience will aid her in her career as a pharmacist by helping her to see things from a different perspective.

“Since our patients there didn’t speak much English, I learned to communicate with them via body language,” she said. “It made me understand how important active listening and empathy are to working with patients.”

Asia Inn-Souphomphak was a sophomore taking the service-learning course “Campaign Politics and Communications” with Professor Allie Reckendorf.

Because the presidential primaries were being held during the spring semester, Inn-Souphomphak and her classmates planned and carried out on-campus voter registration and absentee ballot registration campaigns, held debate watch parties and worked at an election day fair. They also researched candidate positions and prepared materials to help inform voters about the differences between the primary candidates.

“At first, I had to force myself to really engage, but as we did more, I really began to learn how the election and campaign process work and to understand how many people don’t vote and why,” she said. “It gave me a 360-view of the election and campaign process. The whole idea of elections and voting makes a lot more sense now, and it’s not something I would have gotten in the same way on my own. The service and the class helped me think much more deeply about elections and voter turnout than I would have. “

Approximately 328 students completed the SLIM evaluation, enabling them to be entered to win a gift bag from the Service-Learning Office, containing a $10 Starbucks gift card, a VCU Service-Learning t-shirt, candy and a thank-you note from the Service-Learning Office staff.

For more information, contact Katie Elliott, associate director of service-learning, at elliottkl@vcu.edu.

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