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Service Learning as an Honors Experience

"Service" includes: 1) projects intended to make a positive impact or shed new light on problems and issues of public concern, and/or 2) contribute to the civic missions of non-profits or governmental agencies. Note: this category is more than volunteering. "Service" experiences must include evidence of a deep understanding and awareness of the primary issues.

What is Service Learning?

Students engaged in Service Learning not only work to make a sustainable, positive 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.

Why is "volunteering" different from Service?

Defined, volunteering is placing your physical self or using your skills in a space for a time for the purpose of helping someone without pay. The essence of a volunteer is their temporary status. The infrastructure they work within does not work to end a social problem, but to act as a stopgap to alleviate suffering until a solution can be found. Service works to find a solution, to eliminate the need for temporary measures because a solution has been found.

Why should I engage in Service Learning?

While it is very common for students, particularly those who wish to build their resume or meet graduate school requirements, to assume that the hours spent within a non-profit organization is a public "good." While it is a necessary activity, it is not actively working to end the need for that organization to exist in the first place. If one truly wishes to make "the word a better place," they must work to end the reasons why volunteering is necessary.

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.

Is Service Learning only for those interested in working for the non-profit industry?

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)

How do I get credit for Service Learning?

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 be presented for a passing score of 80% or higher at the Experiential Learning Fair (ELF) in the spring semester. For more information on Honors College Experience requirements, visit our Experience Approval Process page.

How do I find a Service Project?

Many students choose to pursue the project they proposed in HON 2301: The Civic Ethos. Others join ongoing projects with the Honors College like Honors x Pantry. Still others who've volunteered at community non-profits, approach and work with those organizations to make a more sustainable impact in their organization goals. Students work individually, with their Registered Student Organizations, or many other means to earn the experience of Service Learning.

What should I know before engaging in Service?

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.

How can I be successful in my Service Learning Project?

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.

Ongoing Honors Service Projects

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.

Example ELF Posters and Presentations in Service