What is Service Learning?

Students who engage in Service Learning not only work to make a sustainable impact and shed light on issues of public concern, they also show deep understanding and awareness of the primary issues. Service Learning is blending the work of social change and solutions with personal awareness of self and contexts of such actions. In this category, students are either 1) creating their own projects and organizations that intend to have a positive, sustainable impact or 2) contributing to the civic missions, volunteering within non-profit organizations or governmental agencies. Regardless of how a student engages in service, these experiences should include evidence of a deep understanding and awareness of the primary issues.

It is not enough to be competent in your career. You also need to be socially competent with the ability to think critically about you choices and how you want to engage with your (or another) community.

Students who engage in service learning or volunteering develop multidimensional thinking. That is, they learn how to approach an issue in more than one way. They also gain familiarity of problems and solutions that come from different perspectives.

This is where Service begins. Students who wish to learn how to direct their time more purposefully should consider Service Learning as an Honors Experience. Through this process, you will experience personal growth while working toward solutions that earn community respect, have sustainable resources, and will exist long after you graduate.

No. Service is for anyone who wants to have an impact and learn to think critically about how they approach their career, networks, and community. Service requires bravery to step out of comfort zones and see if we can "change ourselves, [so] the tendencies in the world would also change." (Mahatma Gandhi)

  • Before engaging in projects, students should research/ gain an understanding of communities served.
  • Students should evaluate that the proposed solution is actually what is needed (remember: the community has the right/authority to tell you “no” and NOT take your idea for ‘help.’
  • Students should display a willingness to engage in critical self-reflection about assumptions and biases.
  • Projects should adopt a sustainable approach,
  • Note that some organizations and opportunities to fundraise are not always sustainable or seek to solve the root of underlying problems.

There are a number of ways that students engage in service learning:

  • Honors courses: Honors courses offered as HON 3103 are designated as Service experiences. To search through past courses, go to Bluebook and search by subject area: Honors.
  • Many students choose to pursue the project they proposed in HON 2301: The Civic Ethos.
  • Others join ongoing projects through registered student organizations like VOICES, found in RowdyLink.
  • Others volunteer at community-based non-profits or governmental organizations.
  • Some students will sign up for service-learning-based study abroad programs.
  • Students participating on the CityMester program will also be placed within a service-based organization as part of the City Solutions class.

Applying credit for Service to satisfy Honors SPICES requires a minimum of 75+ hours of time on task while supervised/mentored, have a stated goal to be reached by the end of the project, and submission of an experience approval form. For more information on Honors College Experience requirements, visit our Experience Approval Process page.

Do not think of Service as "a good citizen helping the less fortunate." This assumption comes from a place of ignorance and privilege. Instead, approach any Service project with the eyes of a student, willing to learn and be wrong, open to correction from those you seek to work among. You do not have the solution. Listen to the community you seek to engage and find out what they believe the solution to be, a result of their lived experience, not outside assumptions.

Study. Listen. Ask questions. Respect. Service is not as easy as being a volunteer. To fully engage in service, you must have an invested interest in the outcomes and be willing to correct your assumptions.

Honors x Pantry — a partnership between the Honors College and the Roadrunner Pantry, a food pantry at UTSA which "helps students reach their full academic and personal potential by providing access to healthy and nutritious foods." The project renews every semester. Students are invited to apply the first week of Fall or Spring classes.
UTSA Honors College graphic

Opportunities within the Honors College

The Honors College offers students the opportunity to participate in a number of different programs to further expand knowledge, especially in the realms of professional development, leadership development, and public service. Special programs are fully integrated into the Honors College curriculum, making credit transfer simple and ensuring that students are working toward Honors requirements.