Academic Engagement & Community Action

What Is Service Learning?

Emerson students clean up a river bank as part of Emerson's Service Learning program.

Academic service learning, like internships, volunteerism, and community service, falls under the umbrella of experientially-based learning, and has its foundations in the works of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and David Kolb. But service learning is unique in a number of ways. Whereas students can intern or volunteer at both corporate or nonprofit settings, service learning, a form of civic engagement, is always done at a nonprofit organization or school. Interning and volunteering typically benefit the organization and the volunteer, respectively, but through service learning, both server and served are mutual beneficiaries: the student applies information in a real-world context and thus advances her/his/their understanding of issues, and the nonprofit has specific needs met by the student. And only service learning entails a component of reflection that promotes a student’s understanding of and connection to civic responsibility.

Carnegie Foundation for Elective Community Engagement Classification Seal

Emerson Receives Community Engagement Classification

Emerson College recognized nationally for its high level of commitment to civic and community engagement.

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The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Seal

Emerson named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

Emerson College once again recognized for reflecting the values of exemplary community service and achieving meaningful outcomes in its community.

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