Sustainability at Bellevue College demonstrated its commitment to student development at the “Sustainability and Service Learning” Faculty Institute on November 1st. Members of the faculty from diverse departments attended including Sustainable Business, Anthropology, Sustainability, and others. The interest of faculty and staff in service learning signals a desire on campus to invigorate student learning with real-world experience.
The event was sponsored by Washington Campus Compact (WACC), an organization whose mission is to connect students with communities.
What’s service learning? The pedagogy of service learning is simple: students learn subjects by practicing and witnessing them in the community. Our neighborhoods are living labs for technical and social professions. Businesses and non-profits need qualified students of internet technology, anthropology, sociology, biology, etc. Moreover, students need to be “job-ready” when they graduate.
So what does sustainability and service learning have in common? Instructor Lia Wetzstein from UW Tacoma offered her approach. “Change comes from people seeing problems and then working to solve them.” As students witness issues of environmental degradation, economic disparity, and social injustice, their courses become resources for remedying those problems. Likewise, there are non-profits, public agencies, and private firms that address those very issues every day. They teach students strategies and exercise their skills along the way. If students acquire and master skills needed for sustainability today, then the environment, economy, and our communities are in better hands tomorrow.
Service learning on the Bellevue College campus is nothing new to faculty, who throughout the years has infused classes with service learning components. These faculty members see concrete learning objectives realized through working outside the classroom as well as within it.
The challenge before Bellevue College is to institutionalize those efforts, making them an expectation of a Bellevue College education.