Taking Students Beyond The Classroom

December 1, 2016 at 12:44 pm

USC Upstate Service Learning Upstate Forever 2016Professional communication is about more than being able to speak clearly. Just ask students in Dr. Carolyn R. Webber’s SPCH 398-028 professional communications class.

“This particular class helped me because we did a lot of studying in preparation for the presentations and for our audience,” said Sierra Truesdale, a senior communications major. “It also taught us how to teach and help others.”

And that is the underlying objective for developing this class as a service-learning course, according to Webber, assistant professor in Fine Arts and Communication Studies.

“Service learning takes students beyond the classroom to learn the practical, as well as the theoretical application of course concepts,” emphasized Webber. “I want to help students see the value of their education, as well as the need to contribute to their local community.”

The students volunteered two hours at the Center each week helping in a variety of ways, while also exploring options for how to apply the skills they were learning in class and preparing for the formal presentations they had to make at the end of the semester.

“Being able to take a basic presentation that we would have done in the four walls of our (university) classroom and take it into the community and talk about things they may not have had access to otherwise, that was most rewarding,” stressed Alexandria Waddell, a senior interdisciplinary studies major. “This class taught me how to put to use the business skills we’ve learned, as far as presenting and communicating.”

Gaining perspective on the value of providing service to local communities and how to best apply course skills through that service is critical to furthering an overall sense of community and part of the lesson in enhancing a student’s learning experience.

“I think this service-learning course has really enhanced my thoughts on how to give back to my community,” said Alex Love, a senior mass media major. “One thing college is all about is getting you ready for the real world and nothing has done it more for me than this class.”

It’s more than lectures and reading, he adds. Hands-on experiences and learning in the field are what make a difference.

“What was so beneficial was the relatability of our students with the USC Upstate students,” said Patrena Mims, director of The Bethlehem Center in Spartanburg, S.C. “The USC Upstate students were great; highly excited about coming to the Center to share with our children about opportunities that are available to them and the importance of staying in school.”

And for Mims, at the end of the day “if we can plant the seeds with these children and work with them as they grow, then hopefully the result will be a more positive, enriched life.”