Course Syllabus

Course Description

In our courses, we gain a wide variety of knowledge about community issues/needs. However, often we lack sufficient opportunities to directly engage these issues and miss out on the unique and important experiential learning inherent in such work. This course is a 4-credit, 300-level UNST course that fulfills one of your UNST Cluster requirements through an applied learning experience based on the approaches, theories, and practices of your cluster.

As part of this course, you will participate in a relevant community internship (in the form of a traditional internship or a volunteer placement). You may continue pre-existing work you are doing with an organization (community partner) if you are already engaged in such. In addition to the direct experience of working on one of the many issues raised in the course of your studies in your UNST Cluster, you will also participate in an online class space with your instructor and peers. This complementary experience will allow you to reflect on your experience, inquire critically about social issues, and integrate what you’ve learned from your experience with what you’ve learned in your coursework.

This course is a space to reflect on and look at the community internship work you are doing so that we can better participate in that work, create community to support one another, develop plans for continued engagement at and beyond the university, and understand the connections between the work and larger UNST and Cluster goals. Students will be required to find a community internship before the course starts and should go to and explore resources in the For Students section for assistance. Students who have not found an appropriate volunteer position or internship by the end of week 2 must drop the course.

Course Learning Objectives (And Connections To UNST Goals)

  • Social Engagement to Address Community Challenges
    • Students will evaluate and analyze methods of addressing community issues focused on by their community partners. (inquiry and critical thinking, ethics and social responsibility)
    • Students will explore and develop a values-based approach to their community internships by identifying and building an awareness of their own core values, experience, and motivations, and how those connect to their community work and to values in their Cluster disciplines.(inquiry and critical thinking, ethics and social responsibility)
    • Students will become familiar with basic theories of civic engagement, community problem solving, and social change. (inquiry and critical thinking, diversity of human experience)
    • Students will map their community internship goals to the larger UNST goals and to their specific cluster goals, reflecting on the ways their FRINQ and SINQ courses have prepared them for this work, how the work connects to the cluster, and how to extend this work into future courses (including a Capstone) and future graduate school and/or employment. (inquiry and critical thinking)
  • Intersections with Community Work: Power and Privilege
    • Students will develop a basic understanding of the ways issues of power and privilege (including race, class and gender) impact the community of their focus and will apply this understanding to their reflection, action, and understanding of solutions and social justice. (ethics and social responsibility, diversity of human experience)
    • Students will examine their own lived experience and how it intersects with, connects with, and shapes the community work they are engaged in. (ethics and social responsibility, inquiry and critical thinking)
  • Communication and Professional Development
    • Students will develop and apply professional skills (focusing particularly on written communication skills) that are transferable and applicable to their cluster disciplines, their major, and their future work in the community as employees, leaders, volunteers, and active community advocates. (communication, ethics and social responsibility)
    • Students will utilize various current forms of technology to communicate about their community work and gain fluency with these mediums. (communication)
  • Continued Engagement and Investment in the Learning Pathway
    • Students will design and articulate a plan for continued engagement to address community problems.  This plan will include a look forward to planning future cluster and Capstone coursework in addition to future community action, possible graduate and/or employment related to the community problems of focus. (inquiry and critical thinking, communication, ethics and social responsibility)
  • Student-defined line of inquiry
    • Students will develop, research, and explore critical questions emanating from their community work and cluster goals.

Required Course Texts

We are using a textbook this term:

Learning Through Serving: A Student Guidebook for Service-Learning Across the Disciplines (2nd Edition),available at the PSU bookstore or online (Amazon has some really cheap copies, if you don’t mind shopping there). We’ll use the ideas and exercises in the text book as a starting place for our discussions and your journal reflections.

Other course texts are available for free online and are accessed through our D2L classroom and the PSU library. I strongly recommend you make hard copies of all printable texts, especially those longer than 1000 words, in order to save your eyes, take good notes, and allow yourself a break from screen time. Believe me, you’ll thank me for this later.

If you have a disability that requires close-captioning of video or audio please let me know ASAP!!

Course Assignments

Community Internship

A Community Internship is a form of experiential learning that can take place within a nonprofit, community-serving organization, an educational institution, or governmental agency.  It is a short-term work experience, most likely as a volunteer, that allows students to integrate the knowledge and theory learned through their academic coursework with practical, hands-on experience in a real-world setting.  Community Internships are meant to include substantive learning and engagement opportunities and provide the intern with an in-depth understanding of the organization and the communities it serves. For the purposes of this course, community internships will be those that work to address specific community issues with their efforts.

Community internships may be paid or unpaid, and in either case will be highly educational in nature and supervised or mentored by a professional.

Readings And Activities

Each week you’ll have assigned readings in your textbook, Learning Through Serving, and/or linked in D2L Course Content. You’ll also be asked to complete exercises from the textbook in preparation for our class discussion in VoiceThread. Please complete the readings and exercises prior to participating in discussions or completing your journal for that week.

Weekly Journals

Each week, the student will keep a detailed journal about his/her field experience. This journal will be both narrative (what happened?) and reflective (what do you think about what happened?).  Journals will be guided by prompts asking students to connect their field work with (a) cluster goals, (b) personal goals, and (c) course texts’ themes and objectives and (d) research questions and findings.  They will be read and responded to by the instructor, who will pose questions and comments to promote deeper reflection and guide the student’s research process. Students will draw from their journals in developing their final portfolios. Journals will be created in PebblePad.


We’ll meet in person week 1 and week 7. The rest of the term students will participate in weekly, asynchronous (at your own time) online discussions. We’ll use Voicethread, an online, multi-media collaboration tool for discussions. You’ll be asked to share research, develop questions, and lead a discussion in the second half of the term (Inquiry Project and Discussion Lead).


Students will be asked to do a mid-term written “check-in” with their supervisor at their community partner organization and to write an end of term thank you letter to the contact person at their community internship. Students will also be encouraged to schedule an exit interview with their contact person for the end of the term.


Students will create a portfolio highlighting their learning goals and experiences from the term, reflecting on and evaluating their own progress in meeting personal, program, and cluster goals. The Portfolios will be shared with other students in the class and the instructor for discussion and input. Portfolios will be created in PebblePad.

General Weekly Timeline Of Due Dates


  • Complete readings and exercises
  • Post initial comments in Voicethread Discussion
  • Check for feedback from instructor on journal


  • Post replies to comments in Voicethread Discussion
  • Complete and share your weekly journal post with instructor
  • Respond to feedback on journal posts

Instructor Feedback, Grading, And Assessment

My role as an instructor in this course is more as coach and facilitator. Your role, along with your instructor and classmates, is a co-learner and co-creator of knowledge. Much of the work you do for this class is outside my view and unique to your own personal set of skills and experiences. The “evidence” I have to grade you on is limited to what you share with me. Also, your learning and growth are quite subjective based on your own needs, skills, and experience level. Because of this, we’ll determine what your grade for the course will be, based on completion, and evaluation of effort and growth.

Following is the point system for determining your final grade:

  1. Journals — 10 points each
  2. VoiceThread and Class Discussion Participation — 10 points each
  3. Inquiry Project and Discussion Lead — 30 points
  4. Portfolio — 100 points
  5. Final Evaluation (self and instructor) 100 points

Students will earn full credit for the assignments 1 – 4 if:

  • You’ve completed the assignments on time and followed the instructions.

At the end of the term, I will consider your self-evaluation (in your portfolio) as well as my observations of your responses in discussions, journals, and portfolio, and your community partner’s evaluation to determine your score for the Final Evaluation. Generally, I’ll be looking for evidence of engagement, inquiry, and integration (see course description), and that you went beyond simply meeting the requirements. Specifically, I’ll be looking to see if you responded to my, other students’, or community partner feedback in your work; if you asked interesting and relevant questions and sought out answers to those questions from your community partner, classmates, or outside research; and if you draw new and insightful connections between your work and your learning.

These parameters will align with the “spirit” of the grading system more than with a rigid quantitative breakdown:

100 – 90  = Outstanding; consistently did your best work/made your best effort.

89 – 80 = Good; regularly did your best work/made your best effort

79 – 70 = Average; occasionally did your best work/made your best effort

69 – 60 = Below average; rarely did your best work/made your best effort

59 – 0 = Little or no effort put forth

Course Schedule


Review course description and “For Students” materials at

Locate an internship or volunteer placement that fits with both your cluster them and the course’s focus of Social Change

Fill out and submit the online Course Application Form

Week 1: Our Stories, Values, And Community Engagement

Meet in person in classroom

Read chapter 1 of Learning Through Serving — What are Service-Learning and Civic Engagement?

View The Continuum of Engagement video

Week 1 Build your Portfolio Template in Pebblepad

Week 2: Connecting Experience To UNST And Cluster Goals

Read Chapter 10, Learning Through Serving, Expanding Horizons

Visit UNST website and watch Cluster-specific videos

Complete Exercise 10.3 in textbook, Who’s to Blame?

Week 2 Journal in PebblePad

Week 2 Discussion in VoiceThread

Submit Community Partner – Student Agreement

Week 3: Community Partner Mission and Stakeholders

Read Chapter 2 Learning Through Serving — Building and Maintaining Community Partnerships

Complete Exercise 2.5, Organizational Action Research

Week 3 Journal in PebblePad

Week 3 Discussion in VoiceThread

Submit Community Partner – Student Agreement

Week 4: Reflection In Action

Read Chapter 6, Learning Through Serving — Reflection in Action

Watch reflection tutorial

Week 4 Journal in PebblePad

Week 4 Discussion in VoiceThread

Week 5: Navigating Difference, Investigating Power

Read Chapter 5, pages 77 – 85 Learning Through Serving — Creating Cultural Connections

Complete Exercise 5.2 in textbook, I and We and You and Us and Them; OR Exercise 5.3, Deconstructing Stereotypes

Week 5 Journal in PebblePad

Week 5 Discussion in VoiceThread

Week 6: Examining Privilege

Read pages 85-91, Chapter 5, Learning Through Serving

Read excerpt from Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan Johnson

Watch Peggy McIntosh TED talk about Privilege

Read “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person”

Complete the “How Privileged Are You?” buzzfeed survey

Week 4 Journal in PebblePad

Week 4 Discussion in VoiceThread

Week 7: Social Service And Social Change

Meet in person for class

Read “Social Service or Social Change” by Paul Kivel

Complete Exercise 13.3 in textbook, My Mission Statement

Week 7 Journal in PebblePad

Week 8: How Social Change Happens

Read “The Real Rosa Parks” by Paul Loeb

Read “Thinking About Going to a Rally? Read This Activist’s Advice First”

Week 8 Discussion in VoiceThread

Week 8 Journal in PebblePad

Week 9: Student-Led Inquiry And Discussions

Choose and read 2 student-chosen readings

Week 9 Discussion in VoiceThread

Work on Portfolios

Week 10: 

Choose and read 2 student-chosen readings

Week 10 Discussion in VoiceThread

Community Partner thank you letter

Complete Course and Internship Evaluations