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Service Learning in Women's Studies

Service Learning has become an increasingly important aspect of
many universities' curricula; its relevance to a
societally-focused field like Women's Studies is especially
strong.  What follows are some suggestions for implementing a
service learning component in Women's Studies.  This discussion
took place on WMST-L in April 2005.  For additional WMST-L files
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 12:24:01 -0400
From: Sheila.Hughes AT NOTES.UDAYTON.EDU
Subject: Service Learning in Women's Studies

We are preparing to offer Service Learning in Women's Studies for our new
major, and I'm looking for recommendations.  Students may take the course
for 1, 2, or 3 credit hours, and it may be offered as independent or group
study.  Here is the course description from our bulletin:

Individualized placements in community organizations that enable students
to apply and enrich their formal studies by engaging in service work that
addresses women's needs and/or advances social justice in relation to
gender. May be done as an independent or group study under the direction
of a WST faculty member. May also be done in conjunction with another
course. May be repeated up to a maximum of 3 semester hours.
Prerequisite(s): WST 150; permission of program director.

I welcome information on how other programs that do not have a faculty
person or administrator officially designated to service learning within
their program have managed faculty supervision and classroom contact hours
in relation to the service component (e.g. how many hours of "classroom"
contact in relation to how many hours of service ... and what kind of
credit do faculty get for supervising something that's less than a regular
full course).

I am also searching for books and articles for use in the course.  In
addition to research/readings relevant to their specific placements, I'd
like to assign some common reading on issues relevant to gender and
voluntarism, service, and social change, etc..

I am working my way through the NWSA report on Service Learning, which
includes some sample syllabi for such courses, but these are all now about
25 years out of date.  I have also consulted the Women's Studies Database,
but, alas, there are no syllabi posted to the "Women's Studies Practicum"

Please reply privately to me and I will plan to post a summary to the


Sheila Hassell Hughes
Associate Professor of English
Director of Women's Studies
University of Dayton
sheila.hughes  AT  notes.udayton.edu
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 11:25:11 -0700
From: "Nelson, Jennifer" <Jennifer_Nelson AT REDLANDS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
Hi all:
I would like to see summary or even direct replies to this question.  I am
also developing a course along these lines. My course is full credit and
will include one day a week of class contact -- a 2 hour and 40 minute block
of time.  Students will be required to complete a total of 20 to 30 hours of
an internship which I will help them plan the semester before the class
meets.  We are trying to build a collection of possible internships to offer
students, although I foresee this happening over time as student themselves
come up with things they want to do.
I have a couple of syllabi that include these collections:
Myra Marx Ferree and Patricia Yancey Martin, eds. Feminist Organizations:
Harvest of the New Women's Movement. Temple University Press, 1995.
Temma Kaplan, Crazy for Democracy: Women in Grassroots Movements (1997)
Nancy A. Naples, ed. Community Activism and Feminist Politics: Organizing
Across Race, Class and Gender (1998)

I am also interested in suggestions for readings.

Jennifer Nelson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Women's Studies
University of Redlands
1200 E. Colton Ave.
PO Box 3080
Redlands, CA 92373-0999
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 16:19:20 -0400
From: Diana Scully <dhscully AT VCU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
At VCU, we have a service learning course on Violence Against Women that
requires the regular 3 hour of class per week and 20 hours of community
service.  We have arrangements with a number of rape/domestic violence
agencies in the city to take the students from this course--it has been so
successful that we now offer the course every semester.
Diana Scully

Diana Scully, Ph.D.
Director of Women's Studies/ Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University
1000 Franklin St., Room 101
Box 843060
Richmond, VA 23284
dhscully  AT  vcu.edu
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 18:39:21 EDT
From: Glorandbil AT AOL.COM
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
I just taught a women and violence service learning class at California
State University, San Bernardino.  I met with the class two hours a  week.  They
had 2 books to read, and they handed in 2 journals based on  their experiences,
the assignments, and the classes.  I tried to keep the  academic portion
light.  The service learning component was to get training  in either domestic
violence or rape crisis.  These programs are 30 hours  long, and enrollees earn a
state certificate.

The students loved the course.  A few mentioned that it was the best  course
they had taken, and some indicated personal changes.  A greater  commitment to
activism was also mentioned.

Gloria Cowan
glorandbil  AT  aol.com
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 16:21:02 -0500
From: Genevieve G. McBride <ggmcbride AT gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
I taught service learning courses, it turns out, before we had the
term -- and I since have done others in conjunction with a campus
coordinator.  Don't worry about not having one; it didn't really make
that much difference -- i.e., her help was in general terms, the sort
of readings you're seeing here, and not specific to courses,
especially in women's studies.

But none of my service learning courses have been in women's studies.
We do have such a course in our program, and I have sent your query to
the instructor and will forward any reply.

That said -- having not only taught these courses but also having
watched others (as a department chair) . . . I cannot emphasize enough
the importance of regular meetings with students throughout.
Situations come up which they may not be prepared to handle.  I also
have witnessed this as a parent, and I was appalled by the lack of
support and supervision for my daughter.

Most likely, in women's studies you will not deal with liability
issues.  But you might want to explore those.  In the early service
learning courses I taught, I learned from a colleague at another
campus who had to learn it the hard way that students in workplaces
can be sexually harassed, for example -- and that you, your department
or program, your campus can have liability.  This can be solved to
some extent, although not completedly, with a signoff form for
students to absolve all of the above. If your campus has a risk
manager, they can help with this. But be advised that won't
necessarily cover you in court.

Far more important, of course, is how the student could be hurt, as
well as how you would feel, if you put a student into a situation that
became problematic in any way, not just in the way of a harasser.
Thus the importance of regular meetings and reports, rather than the
all-too-typical sending them out at the start of the semester and not
seeing them again until they turn in final reports.

A good thread; thanks --

Genni McBride
Genevieve G. McBride, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
gmcbride  AT  uwm.edu

"Let all the dreamers wake the nation. . . ."
                                           Carly Simon
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 09:34:12 -0400
From: wmsdir <wmsdir AT ETAL.URI.EDU>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
For people interested in teaching service learning I recommend an article by
Donna Bickford and Nedra Reynolds, "Activism and Service-learning: Reframing
Volunteerism as Acts of Dissent," in Pedagogy 2.2 (2002) 229-252.

The article clarifies important differences between activism and service
learning and raises questions that we in WMS should be asking and encouraging
our students to ask: Should we volunteer to clean up a public park? Or should
we ask manufacturers to use less packaging?

Should we volunteer at a homeless shelter? Or should we ask our legislators to
raise the minimum wage and develop a real public health insurance system?

Much to think about here!

Karen Stein

Karen F. Stein
Director, Women's Studies Program
315 Eleanor Roosevelt Hall
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881

wmsdir  AT  etal.uri.edu
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 07:15:56 -0700
From: Betsy Eudey <BEudey AT CSUSTAN.EDU>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
Apologies if this is a repeat, but I don't recall anyone mentioning Barbara
J. Balliet and Kerriss Heffernan's (eds) book The Practice of Change:
Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Women's Studies. (Washington,
DC: American Association for Higher Education, 2000) It provides some great
articles (including several by women on this list), even for folks who have
included service-learning and/or practicum experiences in classes for years.

One thing I've been working on lately is evaluating the way in which
service-learning policies on my campus and nationally are effecting the type
of service work we can do.  I am especially concerned/interested with the
"risk management" policies that go a long way to protect campuses, students,
faculty and service sites (which I must admit I hadn't fully taken into
account in the past) and clarify roles and relationships, but also involve
layers of bureaucracy, oversight, approval, etc. that take a lot of time
(thus eliminating the inclusion of immediate or student-initiated projects),
require approval by several institutional members (which includes
assessments of the 'risks' of certain types of work and locations that
aren't always done appropriately) and build upon a model where service sites
are formal organizations of particular types with insurance, legal support,
etc.  These policies have changed the nature of the service learning
components in my classes, in some ways for the better but there have been
tradeoffs as well.

As you consider your service project(s), you may want to check with your
service learning office and other appropriate folks on campus to determine
how risk management and other policies may require certain formalizations of
relationships and opportunities to see how these may help facilitate or
limit the kinds of service your students can engage in.


Betsy Eudey
CSU Stanislaus
BEudey  AT  csustan.edu
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 09:56:37 -0500
From: Phyllis Holman Weisbard <pweisbard AT LIBRARY.WISC.EDU>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies -- resource
Tales from the trenches : politics and practice in feminist service
organizations, by Diane Kravetz.
Publisher: Lanham, Md. : University Press of America,  c2004
        Kravetz analyzes the 1970s origins and feminist organizing that went
into establishing and maintaining five service organizations in Madison,
WI, four of which are still operating. She gives students going out into
the service world a perspective on what it took and takes for feminist
organizations to operate. The organizations are  Advocates for Battered
Women, Rape Crisis Center, Women's Transit Authority, ARC House
(residential facility for female offenders) and Women Reaching Women
(substance abuse).

Phyllis Holman Weisbard, Women's Studies Librarian
University of Wisconsin System
430 Memorial Library, 728 State Street
Madison, WI 53706
pweisbard  AT  library.wisc.edu
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 08:54:44 -0400
From: Rose Corrigan <rose AT ROSECORRIGAN.COM>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
I taught several service learning courses at Rutgers University in the late
1990s. The Rutgers community service program, known as Citizenship and
Service Education (CASE) has been around for a while & has a pretty
sophisticated logistical approach to service learning. If you are interested
in templates for agreements with community partners (including the
all-important legal language), you can check out their website at:
Click on "Downloads" to browse their forms, including the agreement with the
placement site.

There's not much discussion of pedagogy, and there are definitely decisions
Rutgers made that I didn't always agree with (e.g., students could not
participate in quasi-illegal activities such as needle exchange), but if you
are looking for guidance on setting up a course or program this is a nice
place to start. There are links to lots of courses that integrate CS that
might offer useful models.

Also, there is an archived discussion (from a year or two ago) on the WMST-L
page about courses on feminism & social change that includes a number of
syllabi & readings that might be of interest to you.

Rose Corrigan

Rose Corrigan
Assistant Professor
Department of Government
John Jay College/CUNY
e: rcorrigan  AT  jjay.cuny.edu
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 11:38:38 -0400
From: Karen Bojar <kbojar AT CCP.EDU>
Subject: Re: Service Learning in Women's Studies
Teaching Feminist Activism: Strategies from the Field edited by Nancy
A. Naples and Karen Bojar contains analyses of a wide range of models
and a very comprehensive bibliography.

Karen Bojar
Professor of English
Coordinator of Women's Studies Program
Community College of Philadelphia
1700 Spring Garden Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
kbojar  AT  ccp.edu

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