Why Volunteer?

To be a KSU Owl is to Serve

The Department of Student Leadership and Service (SLS) is responsible for assisting our students on their path to becoming engaged citizens by creating, fostering, and facilitating curricular and co-curricular service experiences. Our staff partners with students, faculty, staff, and alumni as well as nearly 300 non-profit agencies to develop and create service opportunities that contribute to the holistic development of KSU students while addressing community needs.

We encourage any student, staff, or faculty member that is interested in volunteering, providing or utilizing service-learning opportunities, or becoming engaged and involved while addressing community needs, to visit the SLS office!

To learn more about the many ways YOU can make a difference in your community, be sure to:

  • visit the "Annual Events & Important Dates" section of our website
  • "like" us on FACEBOOK (or follow us on Instagram @OwlsServeKSU)
  • create a profile to sign up for volunteer/service opportunities on our VKSU volunteer management system (learn more about how to do this on the "Students" section of our website)
  • Terms and Definitions

    With numerous understandings and, in many cases, interchangeable uses of the terms "volunteerism" and "service," it is important to distinguish between these terms and their definitions. The Department of Student Leadership and Service utilizes the following definitions to inform our practice:

    Volunteerism: “The engagement of students in activities where the primary emphasis is on the service being provided and the primary intended beneficiary is clearly the service recipient” (Campus Compact, 2003).

    Civic engagement: “Individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern. Civic engagement can take many forms, from individual voluntarism to organizational involvement to electoral participation. It can include efforts to directly address an issue, work with others in a community to solve a problem or interact with the institutions of representative democracy. Civic engagement encompasses a range of specific activities such as working in a soup kitchen, serving on a neighborhood association, writing a letter to an elected official or voting” (Definition of Civic Engagement, 2009).

    Community service: “Action taken to meet the needs of others and to better the community as a whole” (Campus Compact, 1998).

    Philanthropy/fundraising: “The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations” (Philanthropy, 2000).


    "To involve students in learning experiences that serve community needs through direct service, community-based research, advocacy, and engagement opportunities. This requires reciprocal relationships between the students, institutions, and the community in a mutually beneficial partnership… At the heart of service-learning is reflection that is intentionally designed to promote student learning and development" (CAS-Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Programs, 2015; emphasis added). 

    ‘‘As a form of experiential education, service-learning is based on the pedagogical principle that learning and development do not necessarily occur as a result of the experience itself. Rather, they occur as a result of reflection intentionally designed to promote learning and development’’ (CAS, 2012; emphasis added).

    “Service-learning combines service objectives with learning objectives with the intent that the activity changes both the recipient and the provider of the service. This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content” (Learn and Serve America’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, n.d.; emphasis added).

    According to the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education for Civic Engagement and Service-learning Programs (2015), service-learning experiences may include (note, all of these experiences must include the reflection described above in order to be service-learning):

    • One-time and short-term experiences. These may be designed to achieve a variety of student learning outcomes, including introducing students to civic engagement and service-learning as a critical aspect of their college education, enabling students to learn what types of service best suit their interests, familiarizing students with the community in which the institution is located, and understanding the approaches different agencies take to address community problems. These experiences may be co-curricular or part of the academic curriculum, including first-year seminar.
    • Credit-bearing courses. Such courses may be designed to enable students to deepen their understanding of course content, apply knowledge to practice, and test theory through practical application. These courses may be designed for students at any levels. Learning experiences provide opportunities for students to consider how disciplinary or interdisciplinary knowledge may be applied in a socially responsible manner in professional settings.
      • "A credit-bearing, educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility" (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995).
    • Community-based research. Whether integrated into a course or organized as an independent-study, students engage in community-based research work with faculty and community partners to design, conduct, analyze, and report research results to serve community purposes.

    Intensive service-learning experiences. Service-learning experiences may immerse students intensively in a setting or culture, whether domestically or abroad. These experiences may engage students in dialogue and problem solving with the people most affected by the issues and help them develop a sense of solidarity with people whose lives and perspectives differ from their own. These experiences vary in length from a one-week alternative break to a semester- or year-long experience.

  • The Department of Student Leadership and Service offers guidance and support for faculty who wish to incorporate service-learning opportunities in the classroom. 

    What is a service-learning course?
    A service-learning course is defined as a "credit-bearing, educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility" (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995). 

    An academic service-learning partnership involves a community partner (usually a nonprofit organization, governmental agency, or PK- 12 public school,) and faculty member working together, with support from the SLS, to develop a service placement or project that will engage students in serving the community partner's needs while gaining an enhanced understanding of the learning objectives in an academic course. These partnerships involve an entire class, or occasionally a small group of students, serving with an organization for an entire semester.  Our program is founded upon a reciprocal relationship between students and community partners.

    Learn more about the literature guiding our definition and approach to service-learning through these resources:

    How is academic service-learning different from volunteerism or internships?

    • Service-learning is designed to benefit both the student and the community. The service activities meet community needs and enhance student understanding of course content. Service goals are aligned with learning objectives.
    • Volunteerism and community service activities are designed to benefit the community. The benefit to the student is limited to learning how service makes a difference in the lives of the service recipients.
    • Practicums, field education, internships, and co-op education are designed to benefit the student by providing experience in a particular field of study. The student typically works in the private sector rather than for a nonprofit and may even be paid for the work.

    What is the advantage of taking (or teaching) a service-learning course?
    Studies indicate that students forget half of what they learn passively, but they remember 90% when they DO the "real thing." An Astin HERI study indicates that service participation shows significant positive effects on all its outcome measurements, including: GPA, writing skills, critical thinking, values, self-efficacy, and leadership.  This educational approach enhances the total learning experience, as students are encouraged to consider their service within the context of the larger social, political, and economic issues that impact their project. As such, they are empowered to make positive contributions to their communities utilizing concepts and principles learned in class.  Students' academic experience through service learning opportunities gives them the knowledge, awareness, and impetus to become engaged with their communities. 

    Benefits for Faculty and Students

    • Promotes the development of innovative approaches to instruction. 
    • Provides opportunities to collaborate with and meet special needs of community agencies. 
    • Sharpens critical thinking skills, improves mastery of academic material, and demonstrates the relationship between theory and practice. 
    • Strengthens sense of civic responsibility. 
    • Supports exploration of career options. 

    To qualify as a service-learning course, what should a course do/include?

    • address an identified community (campus, local, regional, global) need
    • service-learning supports the attainment of one or more course objectives
    • demonstrate a clear connection between the service activity and the course content
    • involve reciprocity between course and community that has the potential to result in students' increased civic awareness and engagement
    • involve structured student reflection on the service experience and its relation to course goals
    • involve collaboration with an appropriate community partner or partners

    When designing a service-learning class, what should faculty consider?

    • How can I involve a community partner or partners in project planning, implementation, and evaluation?
    • What kinds of reflection strategies will I use?
    • How will I evaluate student learning?

    Assessment can help determine the effectiveness of a service-learning course and its impact on students and community partners. In addition to our office-led assessment initiatives, the Department of Student Leadership and Service offers assessment tools to help faculty collect usable data from service-learning courses and provide feedback on faculty service-learning experiences.

    The Community Service Attitudes Scale (CSAS) is a tool developed by service-learning practitioners and used nationally to measure student perceptions about community service. By administering this evaluation at the beginning (as early as possible) and end of a service-learning course and comparing students' pre- and post-evaluation responses, faculty can determine how a service-learning project impacted student perceptions.

    What services does SLS offer to support faculty and staff in service-learning courses?

    • We maintain an online system that allows students to respond to volunteer/service needs, log their service hours, and communicate with their community partners.
    • We develop and maintain partnerships with over 300 agencies in the metro Atlanta area and maintain a database that allows them to keep updated agency profiles.
    • We assist in linking faculty with community partners whose needs are relevant to academic goals.
    • We develop new community partnerships based on the needs and interests of faculty members.
    • We organize an annual Volunteer Fair, which assists faculty/students in identifying potential organizations that would meet the objectives of their course.
    • We provide classroom presentations to prepare students for their community work.
    • We coordinate numerous volunteer projects annually that faculty and/or students can participate in.
    • We consult with faculty who may be interested in including a service component in their course(s). 

    Is assistance available for faculty who choose to include service-learning activities in their classes?
    Yes, SLS can assist with everything from restructuring syllabi to selecting community partners. If you are a faculty member interested in utilizing our services to assist you with your service-learning course (or a student interested in taking a course that has a service-learning component), please visit the Faculty/Staff section of our website for more information and/or contact us at volunteerKSU@kennesaw.edu.