Community service is an integral part of American life; it is often equated with volunteerism of all sorts. However, engaging in service to communities raises complex issues that go beyond the acts of teaching a child to read, feeding the homeless, or tutoring English to a newly arrived immigrant. Issues of social justice -- including race, class, language, socioeconomic standing, cultural sensitivity, and privilege -- pervade most activities we associate with community service.
Community Service Studies is an interdisciplinary academic program that offers students a context for critically reflecting upon and engaging in service and volunteerism. It was developed in the late 1990s as part of a university-wide effort to extend opportunities for learning through practice into multiple curricula at DePaul. The Community Service Studies academic minor combines courses from several disciplines that provide a framework for viewing community service from different perspectives. The curriculum relies heavily upon Community-based Service Learning (CbSL) courses which fulfill DePaul's Liberal Studies program's Junior Year Experiential Learning (JYEL) requirement with twenty five hours of service in the community within a ten-week quarter. This form of experiential learning is designed for students interested in developing a deeper understanding and practice of community service either as a prelude to a career after graduation or to enhance their personal sense of social justice as they enter the world of work. In this way, students are provided with the opportunity to integrate progressively deeper and more challenging forms of service and social engagement with more challenging intellectual reflection.
"Our goal is to connect students to the mission of the university by offering a series of integrated courses and service experiences that address issues of social justice in and around marginalized communities," says program director Lexa Murphy. "Students take core classes that provide a theoretical, ethical, and practical foundation for their elective courses that can be drawn from a variety of disciplines and concentrations. Given this flexibility, the program can appeal to a variety of student interests ranging from theoretical and philosophical concerns of democracy and social responsibility to more applied aspects of community development, social activism and work in not-for-profit organizations."