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Maximizing Impact through Student Civic Leadership. Dr. Lynn Donahue Service-Learning Initiative – Program Coordinator St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY. The Need for Student Civic Leadership Development in Service-Learning.

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maximizing impact through student civic leadership

Maximizing Impact through Student Civic Leadership

Dr. Lynn Donahue

Service-Learning Initiative – Program Coordinator

St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY

the need for student civic leadership development in service learning
The Need for Student Civic Leadership Development in Service-Learning

To close the gap that can exist between the community partner goals of a service-learning project and successful achievement of those goals (meeting community partner needs).

To cultivate students’ professional and leadership skill development so they can better accomplish course learning goals through service-learning and be better prepared for the work force.

To maximize the overall impact of community-based service-learning for all participants.

the 3 c s for student civic leadership
The 3 C’s for Student Civic Leadership


Common Purpose


  • Adapting principles of the Social Change Model of Leadership Development by the Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA (1993) (and adapted by Astin & Astin, 1996, Wagner 2007, and Komives, 2009.)
collaboration is
Collaboration is . . .

Working with others towards a common goal.

Creating successful outcomes through a clear-cut “division of labor”.

Empowering self and others through trust and understanding of differences and similarities.

community partner concerns collaboration
Students don’t always take initiative to communicate a solid understanding of their SL assignment and roles, work independently, and ask questions when they need help.
  • Students sometimescome across as intimidated by differences in age, economic status, race, and life circumstances when meeting with clients and staff.
Community Partner Concerns (Collaboration)
how to cultivate collaboration suggestions for our students
How to cultivate Collaboration (suggestions for our students)
  • Don’t wait to be “supervised” by your partner and take a leadership role in your project. Know your assignment and make a positive first impression when first meeting your partner and solicit and provide feedback to your partner throughout the semester.
  • Communicate assertively and professionally. Ask for what you need and ask questions when unclear. Use professional non-verbal and verbal communication.
  • Commit to working collaboratively with community partners. Commit to understanding potential misconceptions and individual differences to build trust with those you’re working with and for.
ways to cultivate collaboration
Ways to cultivate Collaboration

Assignment #1

Assignment #2

Creating Team Roles

Cultural Comparisons and Communication Competence

collaboration sample assignment
Collaboration Sample Assignment

Creating Team Roles (In-Class Work)

Team Name:

Your understanding of the Service-Learning Assignment:

Sample Project Management Roles:

  • Information Coordinator
  • Communication Leader
  • Active Learning Coordinator
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Resource Manual Coordinator

Sample Topic Roles:

  • Healthy Eating
  • Nutrition and Pregnancy
  • Health Effects of Smoking
  • Exercise and Wellness

Professional Standards: Dress professionally, be on time, cultivate respectful relationships, communicate honestly, challenge yourself, be safe, communicate honestly.

collaboration sample assignment1
Collaboration Sample Assignment

Cultural Comparisons and Communication Competence (Take Home Assignment )

(Communication Patterns and Assumptions of Differing Cultural Groups in the United States, Elliott, C.E., 1999)

  • Cultural Communication:
    • Using specific references to Elliott (and others if relevant), describe YOUR cultural communication patterns.
    • What specific communication styles do you mostly use? Depending on what situation?
  • Comparisons: Then, draw some cultural comparisons to the individuals you interact with during your Client Support Work.
    • What are some patterns that are the same as yours?
    • What are some patterns that are different than yours, and what differences do you need to be sensitive to?
    • How can the similarities either in communication and other (interests, etc.) help build bridges between individuals that may be different than you and help you treat people fairly?
  • Communication Competence:
    • What non-verbal and verbal communication behavior is effective in conveying professionalism, confidence, and enthusiasm?
    • Provide an example of when you used non-verbal and verbal communication effectively and appropriately with your partner or clients you’re working with?
common purpose is
Common Purpose is . . .

Creating shared aims and a vision.

Developing a common purpose and goals for meeting community needs.

Using this understanding to facilitate collaboration and trust.

community partner concerns common purpose
Students don’t always ask their partners for feedback on drafts of a final product or their client support work, or keep partners updated throughout the semester.
  • Students don’t always build in enough lead time to contact their partners, arrange meetings, and obtain feedback.
Community Partner Concerns (Common Purpose)
how to cultivate common purpose suggestions for our students
How to cultivate Common Purpose (suggestions for our students)
  • Apply elements of the problem-solving approach where appropriate to your project including creating a vision, establishing shared goals and objectives, creating a plan for implementation, and assessing efforts. Create a time-line for your plan with deadlines.
  • Seek feedback throughout the semester on your project ideas and/or your work with the agency clients. Integrate your partners’ suggestions into the work you do.
  • Create a plan to ensure your partner receives your final product at the end of the semester and/or conclude your work with agency clients.
ways to cultivate common purpose
Ways to cultivate Common Purpose

Assignment #1

Assignment #2

Planning and Preparation

Progress Report

common purpose sample assignment
Common Purpose Sample Assignment

Project Planning and Preparation (In-class Work)

  • Vision: What is your project’s vision (e.g. What does the organization want to accomplish as a result of this project?)
  • Action plan:
    • What are your overarching goals of your workshop? What are your objectives (what you want to accomplish as a result of this project?)
    • What are the steps you need to accomplish your objectives?
    • Identify who will be responsible for each step
    • When will each step be due?
  • Information: What information/content should be included to help you reach your vision?  
    • Activate/Brainstorm content ideas based on the research you’ve done to date. Don’t evaluate, just brainstorm. 
    • Create 3-5 categories of ideas based on common themes.
    • Evaluate your ideas: cross out ideas that are not relevant, practical, doable, etc. Add ideas to your categories to broaden them.
    • Decide on the 3 biggest topics that are the most important “take-aways” given what you know about the clients?
    • Create an outline with these 3 topic areas and the sub-categories of information that will best educate others about these topic areas.
    • How can you make this information interactive, relevant, meaningful, and real to life using active learning activities?
    • What tangible “deliverable” will be most effective at conveying this information?
  • Obstacles: Identify obstacles, risks, and or limitations that will impact your project.
common purpose sample assignment1
Common Purpose Sample Assignment

Progress Report (Assignment)

(Adapted from Munger, R. & Gutowski, A., Preparing Future Leaders: Project-Management Strategies for Service-Learning)

  • Project Summary: Describe the team’s approach to addressing the community partner’s needs.
    • Work Completed: List the accomplishments to date.
  • In-Progress Work: List the work being done.
    • Project Feedback: Describe the feedback you’ve received from your community partner and instructor and how you’ll be integrating this feedback into your final project.
  • Work to be completed: Describe the status of the project and list future tasks. Describe how you’ll finalize the project.
    • Problems: Identify concerns the team is facing and potential solutions.
  • Learning: Reflect on lessons learned at this point (academic, personal, professional).
  • Questions: State the questions and/or concerns you have for your partner or the course instructor at this stage in the project.
community is
Community is . . .
  • Operating from a strength-based perspective to honor the resources your partners bring and their future vision.

Feeling responsibly connected to individuals and a shared purpose so that the work you do will benefit everyone involved.

community partner concerns community
Students sometimes approach their SL work from their own perspective and knowledge, which may not include understanding of their audience or the relevant social issues.
  • Students don’t always listen to what the partners needs (and strengths) are and integrate this understanding into their project.
Community Partner Concerns (Community)
how to cultivate community suggestions for our students
How to cultivate Community (suggestions for our students)
  • Learn about your “audience” and use this knowledge to match your project ideas to partner’s stated needs. Determine your community partners’ needs as well as assets and strengths.
  • Commit to understanding the complexities of many social issues and integrate this understanding into your project. Learn about contextual issues and root causes of the issues.
  • Listen to community voices and be receptive to ideas that may be different from yours.
ways to cultivate community
Ways to cultivate Community

Assignment #1

Assignment #2

Service Site and Social Justice Issues Investigation

Final Project Assessment

community sample assignment
Community Sample Assignment

Service Site and Social Justice Issues Investigation (Assignment)

  • Organization: Describeyour community partner site in terms of its history, mission, goals, staff, and clients.
  • Culture:Describe our community partner site in terms of the social interactions, styles of communication, sounds, working styles of individuals, and aesthetics of facility you observe.
  • Need: Describe the social justice issues and challenges your partner faces. Describe how these issues could be interrelated.
  • Root Causes: What are the social, physical, economic, and psychological factors that may be contributing to the needs?
  • Opportunities Describe the opportunities, assets, and strengths of your partner.
community sample assignment1
Community Sample Assignment

Final Project Assessment


  • Team Process: Evaluate the process your team took to accomplish the service-learning project. What worked well and what do you wish could have been done differently?
  • Individual Process: What worked well regarding your client support work and your individual role with your service project? What do you wish you could have done differently?
  • Present Impact: Was the project a success in achieving its intended objectives? Was it successful in meeting your community partner’s needs? If not as much as you would have liked, why not?
  • Knowledge and Skill Development: What have you learned as a result of this experience (i.e. course content knowledge, values, social issues, leadership skills, changed perspectives)?
  • Future Impact: If you could continue this project into the future, what would your vision and goals be?

Read the case study

In what ways are the students already building community? What are the obvious challenges and “red flags”?

What “how to” points should we communicate to these students? (What points from the list provided seem the most helpful – and what others could be added?)

What class assignments or in-class reflections could be used? (How could the sample assignments be applied to this scenario – and what other assignments could you suggest?)

What other strategies could be used to create positive and mutually beneficial outcomes?

For further information or questions, please contact:
  • Community-Based Service-Learning
  • Website and Showcase Site:

Dr. Lynn Donahue

Service-Learning Initiative – Program Coordinator

585-385-7342; [email protected]