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Service-Learning FAQ for Cohort 2014-2017

What is Service-Learning?

At SUSS, Service-Learning is conceived as an integral part of the University’s learning ecology and a pedagogy to empower you to further develop and act on your sense of social responsibility, grounded in real-world ideas and practices to contribute meaningfully to society. Service-Learning is a graduating requirement of SUSS full-time degree programmes.

Service-Learning is an educational experience under which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully-organised service experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in collaboration with university and community. It creates a connection between the university and the community that facilitates unique cross-sector collaboration and shared resources that help to enhance society’s well-being. Through Service-Learning, you invite community partners to become your co-educators to guide you in your journey of growth to become leaders in society.

What do we do in Service-Learning?

To enable meaningful contribution to society, you are expected to research, discuss and propose a Service-Learning collaboration in consultation with local community partners. Through the common core course CCO105 Social Research, you will have the opportunity to research and understand more deeply about a social issue of your interest. Leveraging on your strengths, skills and/or professional major, you will propose a sustainable Service-Learning endeavour that meets the needs identified by your local community partner over a period of at least two years or more. In return, the community partner collaborates with SUSS Office of Service-Learning (OSL) to mentor you in both project and personal development.

What types of Service-Learning are available?

At SUSS, we value Student Voice as a key element of Service-Learning. Therefore, SUSS emphasises student autonomy, empowering students to propose self-directed and self-driven Service-Learning initiatives. You may propose a diverse range of Service-Learning projects, be it individual or group, direct or indirect service, project-based or on-going projects.  No one Service-Learning project type is considered better than the other – the important thing is to prioritise the needs of the community in determining an appropriate project, and to balance the needs of the community with a commitment level that is also realistic, achievable and sustainable for you.

The following are suggested social sectors that you may consider proposing a Service-Learning initiative.

  • Ageing
  • Animal Welfare
  • Arts/Culture/Heritage
  • Biodiversity/Conservation/Environment/Food Security/Nature/Sustainability
  • Community-building (e.g. active citizenship, active contribution to SUSS community, etc.)
  • Diversity & Inclusion (e.g. human rights, special needs, disabilities, women’s rights, migrant workers, new communities, interfaith understanding, ex-offenders, etc.)
  • Health/Well-being (e.g. mental health, drugs & substance abuse, personal financial management etc.)
  • Poverty (e.g. single-parent families, silent workers, etc.)
  • Vulnerable Children/Youth

While you embark on your Service-Learning project locally, you should adopt a sustainable and global outlook to the potential impact and benefits that your project may bring both locally and globally. Your efforts and commitment in serving the local community are situated in the larger context of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world.


Past Volunteering Experience

If I had worked in or currently perform volunteer work with a social service organisation, do I still need to fulfil the Service-Learning graduation requirement?

Yes, to fulfil your Service-Learning graduation requirement, you will collaborate with a community partner on a sustainable endeavour that meets the needs identified by your community partner over a period of two years or more during the course of your full-time degree programme.  While SUSS values students’ prior community engagement, volunteer work undertaken prior to students’ completion of SUSS’s Foundations of Service-Learning workshop cannot be considered towards fulfilment of the Service-Learning graduation requirement.

If I had worked in or currently perform volunteer work with a social service organisation, can I continue that project to fulfil the Service-Learning project requirement?

Yes, if you have previously volunteered or are currently volunteering with a community agency, you may consider proposing a Service-Learning collaboration with the same agency in fulfilment of your Service-Learning graduation requirement.  As with all other Service-Learning proposals, acceptance of your proposed Service-Learning collaboration is dependent on approval from both your proposed community partner and SUSS OSL.


Service-Learning Requirements

Is there a minimum number of hours that we have to fulfil?

At SUSS, we value Community Voice as a key element of Service-Learning. Therefore, there is no minimum number of hours that you have to fulfil. The rationale for this is to empower you to negotiate a Service-Learning commitment with your community partner that prioritises the needs of the community over institution-mandated requirements for Service-Learning.  When co-designing the commitment level of your Service-Learning initiative in collaboration with your community partner, you will need to realistically balance the needs of the community with an engagement frequency that is also achievable and sustainable for you.

For documentation purposes, student leaders are required to record the number of hours served by their team members.  These service hours are to be verified by your community partner mentor.  However, the number of service hours are not taken into consideration in the assessment of your Service-Learning graduation requirement.

How long is the Service-Learning commitment?

To fulfil the Service-Learning graduating requirement, you are expected to sustain your Service-Learning commitment over a period of two years (i.e. 18 months after project approval from OS-L) or more during the course of the full-time degree programme.

While the recommended minimum engagement frequency is once a month, this should be an agreement between you and your community partner based on the principle of serving the needs of the community and balancing what you can achieve on a sustainable basis. For example, you may adjust your group’s involvement during the exam period, provided your community partner is agreeable.

Beyond graduation requirement, however, many students continue their Service-Learning commitment beyond the two years duration, preparing themselves for active and fulfilling lives through a lifelong commitment to contributing meaningfully to society.


Service-Learning Project Preparation

What is the required minimum/maximum number of team members?

The minimum number for each initiative is one person. There is no maximum number. The number of team members should be negotiated in consultation with your community partner.

Based on the needs of the community, you should recruit the appropriate number of team members to be able to perform meaningful service. We should not burden the community partner to accept more members than they are willing and able to. For group projects, taking into account meaningful contribution by each team member and the team dynamics, it is recommended that each project should have no more than 20 members.

Must we form a project team based on the Foundations of Service-Learning Workshop group?

No, the choice is yours. You may choose to work with like-minded peers or collaborate with others beyond SUSS.

Can a Service-Learning project be done individually or in a team? Is collaboration with non-SUSS parties allowed?

Yes, the choice is yours.  You may choose to embark on Service-Learning either as:

  1. an individual;
  2. a team comprising only SUSS members; or
  3. a team comprising non-SUSS members.

The choice to engage the community as an individual or as a team (and if as a team, who the members should comprise) should best reflect the needs of the community you are choosing to engage with.  In other words, choose to collaborate as a team, if a team is necessary to carry out the service required by the community, and choose to collaborate with members who will best bring the skillsets and attitudes that are beneficial to the community you are working with.

I have been volunteering for a period of time already and I would like to include it as my Service-Learning proposal. However, it is not an initiative by me but I would like to continue. Do I need to submit the Service-Learning Proposal form?

Yes, this is aligned with the principle of sustainability that we encourage.  Please submit the SUSS S-L Proposal form so that we can liaise with your community partner for project and personal development. In addition, you should consider how you can deepen your involvement in the social issue that you are passionate about.

Is there a deadline to join a Service-Learning group/initiative?

You are encouraged to submit the completed SUSS S-L Proposal form in Semester 1 of the first year of study. The exact deadline for the proposal submission will be communicated to each cohort by the SUSS OSL.  If you have a valid reason, you may submit a request for an extension, subject to approval from SUSS OSL.

What happens if I cannot find a group/initiative to join or a group/initiative that I am interested in?

We encourage you to dig deep and think about the social issues or causes that matter personally to you.  If you have not found any peers who are initiating something you are interested in, why not consider initiating one yourself? You can approach your S-L Cohort Mentors for consultations.

Alternatively, you may want to approach your Service-Learning from the perspective of addressing the most pressing social needs in our society today.  This article presents some relevant research findings.

Can I join a group/initiative that has already made progress? For example, some groups have already started their Service-Learning Initiatives during the second semester of their first year of study, would one still be allowed to join them?

Yes, this is subject to the agreement of the Service-Learning group and their community partner.  For official acknowledgement of the addition of new member(s), the group leader must submit an updated SUSS S-L Proposal form, including the name(s) of the new member(s).  The SUSS OSL will follow-up with the community partner for their official acknowledgement of the participation of the new member(s).

Can I join more than one Service-Learning Initiative?

Yes, you may participate in more than one Service-Learning project should you be able to meet all the commitments required by your community partners. However, only one project will be taken into consideration in fulfilment of your Service-Learning graduation requirement.  You should indicate as early as possible to SUSS OSL your choice of the main project which you will submit in fulfilment of the graduation requirement.

Is there a list of existing Service-Learning groups/initiatives for us to choose from?

Yes, you can find more information about existing and potential projects and community partners here.

What should I look out for if I want to start an initiative with a new community partner?

Before embarking on a Service-Learning initiative with a new community partner, here are some questions you may consider:

  • Alignment
    • Does my proposed new initiative match the needs identified by the community? Is it meaningful to the community?
    • Does the proposed service engagement align with the key elements of Service-Learning? Is the service meaningful to the participants?  Is learning inherent in the service?
    • Does the service leverage on the skills and knowledge of the team? Does my team have the requisite skills? If not, can training be arranged, or am I able to recruit others with the necessary skills?
  • Support & Relationships
    • Does the community agency have the capacity to work with my group? Will our presence be a burden or help to the staff?
    • Is the project manageable? Are there any safety or national standards to adhere to in the execution of this project?
    • Do I have access to the resources (physical, social, administrative, time, funds, etc.) required for this initiative?
  • Sustainability
    • Can our proposed collaboration be sustained over two years or more?
    • Does the service empower the community to continue the work to serve themselves and others?

Will a timesheet be provided for documentation of the service hours?

Yes, a Project Log template with timesheet will be provided by SUSS OSL once the S-L Proposal form has been received and approved.

Where can we find funding for our Service-Learning projects?

SUSS OSL has curated a range of scholarships and grants from government agencies, corporations and foundations to minimise any financial barriers while serving the community. You can access this link to find out more information about funding application.

What should I do if I want to change my Service-Learning group?

You should inform your student leader and communicate with your community partner to request for permission to withdraw from the group.  If the community partner chooses to write an acknowledgement of your past commitments to the organisation, you may approach another community partner to negotiate another Service-Learning engagement for the remaining duration of your Service-Learning requirement.  You may then submit your commitment period to both initiatives in fulfilment of the full duration of your Service-Learning graduation requirement.

However, if your first community partner chooses not to acknowledge your prior engagement due to non-completion of the original agreement, you will need to commit afresh to a two-year Service-Learning engagement (inclusive of pre-service training) with the new community partner.

Affected student(s) and student leaders must update the SUSS OSL as soon as such a change is being made.

Who should I approach if I need to book a Seminar Room for my Service-Learning activities?

For room reservation, you should email your SUSS Project Mentor at least 4 working days in advance with the following details:

  1. Name of event
  2. Nature of event (only S-L related activities will be approved)
  3. Date & Time of event
  4. of attendees (any public guests?)
  5. Arrangement of room (please provide a floor plan if you have specific room arrangement)
  6. Any logistics required

What are the Service-Learning assessment requirements?

The full assessment requirements for Service-Learning are listed in the Foundations of Service-Learning Guide, downloadable from Canvas.

Who can I approach for further clarification?

You may contact the Office of Service-Learning at osl@c3Vzc0BlZHUuc2c= or approach your SUSS Project Mentor for further clarification.

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