Recent Courses

The following course snapshots represent a sample of all of the service-learning courses offered at VCU. Not all service-learning courses are described here.

ACCT 291: TOP: Tax Volunteers
Contact: Professor Roxanne M. Spindle,
Students in professor Roxanne M. Spindle’s ACCT 291 three-credit undergraduate course learn about tax preparation through service-learning. Students receive technical training on applicable tax law and take the mandatory Internal Revenue Service (IRS) certification exam. They have the opportunity to apply this knowledge to volunteer with community partners in tax preparation. Students reflect on their service through three blog posts addressing challenges and successes in their personal and professional growth, perceived value of the service provided, and perceived degree of success in meeting the goals of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

BIOL 497: Ecological Outreach
Contact: Professor Edward Crawford,
Each student in professor Edward Crawford’s Ecological Outreach one-credit add-on course volunteers at least 20 hours during the semester in a variety of local community partners such as the Science Museum of Virginia, the Audubon Society and the James River Association. Students reflect on the connections between ecological concepts and theories presented in their biology classes with their community service work through three journal papers and a final reflection paper.

BIOL 497: Ecological Service-Learning
Contact: Dr. Edward Crawford,
Students in Dr. Edward Crawford’s BIOL 497 one-credit undergraduate course have the opportunity to assist with research and contribute to scientific findings in both filed and laboratory settings with community partners. This course gives students the opportunity to personally explore and reflect on how mankind impacts “nature” and how “nature” impacts mankind as well as learn the relevance of ecology as it applies to real world situations. Students reflect on the connections between ecological concepts and theories presented in their biology classes with their community service work through three journal papers and a final reflection paper.

BIOL/LFSC 492: Panama Avian Ecology
Contact: Professor Lesley Bulluck,
Students in professor Lesley Bulluck’s class learn about bird ecology and conservation through a unique blend of rigorous science and community engagement in both Panama and Richmond. In early January, the class travels to Panama, where students learn about birds and mangrove ecosystems by reading and discussing papers and attending lectures, assist in data collection in these systems, and engage with the Panama Audubon Society and local Juan Diaz school children. Back in Richmond, students engage with the Richmond Audubon Society and Richmond area middle school students throughout the spring semester. At the end of the semester students present research findings in a symposium that is open to the public.

CLED 602: Techniques of Counseling
Contact: Professor Donna Dockery,
Students in professors Donna Dockery's CLED 602 three-credit graduate course will develop their counseling microskills and examine their own personal counseling styles through the application of theory through a service learning experience. They will mentor pre-k – 12 students at St. Andrew’s School (K – 5) or other school settings or work with college students through VCU International Speaking Partners or English Language classes. This course provides students opportunities to practice techniques and microskills in real world contexts. Students critically reflect on their service learning, personal and professional growth, and skill development through journal entries, paired and small group discussion, and classroom experiences.

CRJS 352: Crime and Delinquency Prevention

Contact: Professor Amy Cook,
Students in professor Amy Cook’s innovative course learn about effective strategies for preventing juvenile delinquency and crime. They study proactive prevention models, programs and strategies for 21st Century Policing. Students provide academic tutoring to children and to adults working to earn the GED. They also serve as mentors for elementary school-aged children and youth from low-income families who attend after-school programs. The knowledge gained through this course builds students’ wisdom about crime and delinquency prevention theory, method, and practice in a total systems approach to problem-solving.

CRJS 491: Special Topics in Service-Learning
Contact: Professor Robyn Diehl,
Students in professor Robyn Diehl’s CRJS 491 one-credit add-on course are concurrently enrolled in her CRJS 191 Justice System Survey course. Students in these courses learn about theories and strategies for preventing juvenile delinquency by promoting better communication and respectful relationships between police officers and youth. Students volunteer throughout the semester as tutors, mentors, coaches and referees for community-based programs that enroll at-risk 9- to 13-year-old inner-city children, and reflect on the connections between their classroom and community-based learning by completing reflection journals and participating in discussion forums.

DENH 437/DENH 447: Clinical Dental Hygiene II and III / Seminar
Contact: Professor Tammy Swecker,
Students in professor Tammy Swecker’s DENH 437/DENH 447’s yearlong eleven-credit undergraduate course will have the opportunity to use and further enhance the knowledge and skills of dental hygiene practice and procedures in a clinical model that emphasizes comprehensive patient care and a foundation for transference of those skills to the work environment. This course is a designated service-learning course and therefore provides multiple opportunities for students to engage in meaningful community service and incorporates challenging reflection activities that promote deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s professional relationship to society. Students reflect on their service-learning experience addressing the academic content, personal growth/self-awareness, civic awareness/civic engagement, and intercultural awareness in a blog and 2 guided reflection essays.

FRLG 490/ INTL 493: Foreign Language Internship: New Communities
Contact: Virginia Casanova,
Students develop a deep understanding of non-English speaking immigrant populations within the Richmond area through professor Virginia Casanova’s New Communities service-learning internship. New Communities interns work with children who are enrolled in the English as a Second Language program of the Richmond City Public Schools for a total of 75 hours (eight hours/week for 10 weeks). Back in their college classroom, the students learn from a wide variety of expert lecturers who address topics related to immigration from multidisciplinary perspectives. Reflection occurs through weekly journaling written in the target language.

GRTY 601: Biology and Physiology of Aging
Contact: Professor Tracey Gendron,
Students in professor Tracey Gendron’s GRTY 601 course develop an understanding of the biological and physiological aspects of human aging by integrating classroom learning with a community-identified project in an organization that serves the aging population. Students participate in a Caregiver Support Program with A Grace Place Adult Care Center as part of the class. Students create reflection journal entries that help them to gain a deeper understanding of the life of both an older adult and a caregiver as well as reflect upon their own personal development throughout the course.

GRTY 602/ PSYC 602: Psychology of Aging
Contact: Professor Ayn Welleford,
Graduate students in professor Ayn Welleford’s “Psychology of Aging” course integrate what they are learning in the classroom about personality change and aging with information they gather conducting oral histories with individuals and family members who receive services through the Alzheimer Association of Greater Richmond. The graduate students help to meet a community need by sharing facts learned from the oral histories with the family members and by developing fact sheets that can be shared with health care providers.

GDES 418: Design Center - Service Learning
Contact: Professor John Malinoski,
Students in the Design Center course learn to make the transition from solving hypothetical to actual design problems that address the communication needs of specific clients. Under faculty supervision, the students work in a professional studio setting to develop print media design projects for university clients and non-profit community organizations.

GDES 491: Design Rebels
Contact: Noah Scalin,
Students in professor Noah Scalin’s GDES 491-003 course, Design Rebels: Socially Conscious Design in Theory and Practice, work in a group to create a single large-scale community project developed from one or more of final projects proposed by the students midway through the semester. The class starts with a survey of the ethical issues faced by people who choose to be in the graphic design field and discussion of what powers and responsibilities come with the skills they are learning. Students then propose projects that will reach the community beyond the school and address one or more of the issues that have been covered. Students then learn how to work together as a team on a large-scale design project, including working with community partners, developing a calendar, working with a budget, and promoting an event to the media and public at large. They gain practical, personal experience having to carry out their individual components of the final project. Class time is divided between discussions, guest lecturers and group work. Previous community partners have included a local homeless organization, area waste management groups, local farming advocates, and public middle and high schools.

GVPA/INTL 591 Guatemala: Rural Development for Socioeconomic and Ecological Resilience
Contact: Dr. Avrum J. (A.J.) Shriar,
This three-credit field course explores environmental issues, political-economic challenges, and sustainability concerns in the context of the developing country of Guatemala. The course involves applied work with rural communities near the city of Quetzaltenango in the Western Highlands region of the country. Students help build stoves for community households that are designed to channel smoke from cooking fires beyond the home, thereby improving indoor air quality. They also may help with agricultural tasks and with activities aimed at reforestation near the communities, such as soil preparation, transplanting and other nursery work, and tree planting. The course also includes excursions to sites near Lake Atitlan and the city of Antigua that are of relevance to the course themes, and visits with local organizations and projects aimed at sustainable development and human rights. Through group discussion and a field report, students reflect on their service experience and its links to the course's academic content and readings, and to issues of poverty, globalization, social and economic justice, sustainability, civic engagement, and intercultural awareness.

HPEX 450: Program Planning and Evaluation
Contact: Professor Joann Richardson,
Students in professor Joann Richardson’s Program Planning and Evaluation course learn the fundamentals of planning, implementing and evaluating community health education programs. Throughout the semester the students observe community health education programs first-hand by volunteering within community organizations that address issues such ascardiovascular health and disease prevention, minority health, reproductive health, and child/adolescent health. Within those organizations, students meet a community need by providing clients with information about health promotion and disease prevention.

PSYC 492/HPEX 491: Orientation to Youth Mentoring/Effective Mentoring Practice
Contact: Professor Seth Leibowitz,
Students in Professor Seth Leibowitz’s course are VCU freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in mentoring local high school students. Students learn effective mentoring skills by applying developmental and educational theories to motivate their mentees to achieve success as they prepare for college. The mentors will also work in teams to lead workshops that introduce the high school students to topics like time management. The course is offered as a three-credit semester-long course and as a yearlong course, in which students enroll in a one-credit course in the fall and a two-credit course in the spring.

INTL341/RELS 340: Global Ethics and World Religions
Contact: Professors Cindy Kissel-Ito,, and Jennifer Garvin-Sanchez,
Students in professors Cindy Kissel-Ito and Jennifer Garvin Sanchez’s sections of INTL 341/ RELS 340 think critically about ethical issues that are impacted by globalization and begin to conceptualize global citizenship and social engagement. Students engage in community-service projects that include working in urban youth gardening projects, serving as conversation partners with VCU international students and assisting with the Richmond Community Action Program. Students write reflection field journals and make group presentations about their community-based projects.

MASC 439: Public Relations Campaign
Contact: Bill Farrar,
Students in professor Yan Jin’s capstone public relations course work together all semester in a student-run public relations agency to develop a comprehensive public relations campaign for area non-profit organizations who could not afford to hire a for-profit agency. The students meet with their clients, conduct research, create logos, and develop strategies and budgets for their proposed campaign. The semester concludes with a team presentation to the client during which the campaign is unveiled and the client provides feedback to the group.

MASC 467: Nonprofit Project Development
Contact: Peyton Rowe,
Students in professor Peyton Rowe's work with area nonprofit clients to create and produce a wide variety of advertising and promotional materials. The student develop strategy, write creative briefs and recruit teams to work with them during a 24-hour creative event, CreateAthon on Campus.

MEDI 600 M1: Service-Learning in Global Health
Contact: Steven Crossman, M.D.,
This first-year medical student elective is operated by the VCU School of Medicine in collaboration with the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort. The class is designed to give beginning medical students firsthand experience in service-learning in the international setting through work in an underserved community in Honduras, Central America. Students receive didactic training in Richmond during April and May, and travel to Central America for approximately two weeks in June. In Central America, students work in teams and have direct involvement with local community leaders who work with the medical teams to prioritize needs and shape the work done by each group. In addition to providing direct medical care to hundreds of patients, students are expected to be involved in various projects that address the broader determinants of health (e.g., water supply, education and nutrition).

SOCY 336/GSWS 336: Violence against Women
Contact: Professor Gay Cutchin,
Students in professor Gay Cutchin’s Violence against Women course examine violence against women from a global and local perspective, focusing on violence perpetrated against adult women in the U.S. from both ecological and feminist theoretical perspectives. Each student volunteers a minimum of 20 hours during the semester with a campus or community organization that serve sexual or domestic violence victims and each student completes a community service project journal.

SPTL 635: Leadership Models in Sports SL
Contact: Professor Carrie LeCrom,
Graduate students in professor Carrie LeCrom’s class develop an understanding of historical, psychological and behavioral models of leadership within sports sociology. Students spend a minimum of 20 hours volunteering within local community sports organizations such as the Special Olympics and Lobs and Lessons, and reflect on the leadership traits that are needed within sports professions.

TEDU 101: Introduction to Teaching, Service-Learning
Contact: Professor Lisa Cipolletti,
Through this class, first- and second-year undergraduates are introduced to the profession of teaching by assisting within local elementary classrooms for approximately two hours each week. During weekly lectures on campus, students explore current educational reforms and their influences on elementary schools and students. In the community, service-learning activities enable students to gain firsthand experiences in urban elementary classrooms. By participating in school-based activities specifically chosen for the student by the public school educator, principal or course instructor, students obtain real-world experience with concepts and principles being taught in the course; thus, connecting classroom learning and community-based (e.g., school-based) learning. Students have multiple opportunities to reflect on their learning through classroom discussions and bi-weekly reflection papers.

TEDU 500: Service-Learning in Early Childhood Special Education
Contact: Professors Kendell Lee,, and Sharon Berg,
Students in professors Kendell Lee and Sharon Berg’s Service-Learning in Early Childhood Education course volunteer throughout the semester in a variety of community organizations that serve young children with disabilities. Students learn best practices in early childhood education and are introduced to the professional disciplines that support the development of young children with disabilities. The students work collaboratively with community members to develop projects that benefit the organizations in which they volunteer.

UNIV 111: Focused Inquiry I and UNIV 112: Focused Inquiry II
Contact: James Fueglein,
First-year students in the service-learning sections of UNIV 111 and UNIV 112 combine these required core classes with 20 hours of community-based service that relates to the readings and lectures being discussed in class. Community partners have included local free health clinics, historic preservation sites and local nonprofits. Students reflect on the connections between their community service and their classroom-based learning through written papers, blogs, oral presentations and class discussions.