Our undergraduate major offers a unique opportunity for service learning in one of its courses. Service learning (SL) is a teaching method that incorporates community involvement into coursework. It builds on the principle that a university has a fundamental responsibility to prepare students as contributing members of society as well as their chosen profession. SL is not simply volunteering or employment; it is a reciprocal relationship between the student and the organization. SL provides students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned through hands-on experiences in a non-profit organization, and it provides the organization an opportunity to access engaged individuals from the university community. The University of Minnesota partners with 300 nonprofits in the Twin Cities that provide opportunities for SL.
Our major allows students to explore the field in classes, labs, readings, and clinical observations. The focus is always the child or adult with atypical speech, language, or hearing. The SL experience goes beyond the lens of communication sciences and disorders. It allows students to look at human communication in a more ecologically valid setting. How do children and adults function in their settings every day? How do their culture, family, and relationships with others frame their communication? In other words, SL gives students the opportunity to see how people communicate long before they become patients with disorders.
Additionally, SL has another very important function. Because professionals in communication sciences and disorders become authorities in their areas of expertise, their role can become hierarchical with both patient and family, who are recipients of that expertise. This is quickly becoming an outdated model of intervention. SLPs and audiologists need to form partnerships with patients and families, recognizing the expertise that they bring to the relationship. SL is fundamentally grounded in community partnership. Students learn as much as they might contribute. This experience can assist in transforming your thinking whether you go on to a career in speech-language-hearing sciences or a different field.
Our undergraduate and graduate students have supported the Minnesota community in many ways. They have:
- Organized a team for the Walk for Thought to support the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.
- Organized a team for the Relay for Life to support the American Cancer Society.
- Volunteered at the Metro Deaf School pancake breakfast.
- Hosted screenings of The Crash Reel documentary and panel presentations by individuals with brain injuries.
- Fundraised to donate money to MN Hands and Voices.
- Raised money and participated annually in the Minneapolis Walk4Hearing organized by the Hearing Loss Association of America to increase public awareness about hearing loss.
- Collected over $300 worth of donations for the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, which works to end child abuse and neglect and create strong, healthy families.
- Annually packed specially formulated meals for an evening to send to children in Haiti through Feed My Starving Children.
- Performed listening checks on hearing aids donated to the organization, Sight and Hearing Association of Minnesota.
- Participated in hearing screenings at state-level competitions for Special Olympics Minnesota.