Indianapolis Community Requirement Boosts Service Learning Involvement

Metropolitan Indianapolis is an extended classroom for hundreds of Butler students participating in the University’s new Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR) program.

ICR Butler StudentsThey’ve welcomed Iraqi refugees to the city. Filed tax returns for low-income residents. Interpreted Spanish in medical settings. Walked dogs for the Humane Society. Screened schoolchildren for speech and hearing problems. And more.

During ICR’s launch in the 2010-2011 academic year, 865 students in 44 designated courses recorded at least 17,300 hours of community involvement.

“Our students provide valuable service to the people they interact with out in the community, service that connects to their academic discipline,” said Donald Braid, who coordinates ICR activities as director of Butler’s Center for Citizenship and Community. “That is what academia calls ‘service learning.’ “

ICR experiences are selected to complement each course’s classroom learning and to expand students’ understanding of ideas covered, Braid said.

Under ICR, all Butler undergraduates enrolled on or after fall 2010 must complete one course that involves a minimum 20 hours of active engagement with community organizations and people.

Students are not just “performing civic duty,” one-way volunteerism or philanthropy, Braid said.

“The goal of the ICR is to develop mutually beneficial relationships between our students and people who share this community with them,” he said. “With the guidance of faculty, students practice personal and social responsibility in the community and reflect on their experiences in relation to course readings through class discussions, assignments, journals and blogs. This intense interaction can further their commitment to service and ongoing involvement as active citizens.”

Some ICR participants, like Janelle Jordan, voluntarily logged more than the required 20 hours of engagement per semester and continued working with community partners after their course ended. Jordan spent 45 hours as an after-school mentor for children at Kaleidoscope Youth Center as part of her spring 2010 ICR course “Ancient and Medieval Political Thought.”

At first, Jordan said, she couldn’t see the “connection” between her political science course and helping kids with homework at KYC.

“But it was amazing on how much we focused on education in the class and how much I could bring into our conversations based on my experience” at KYC, she said. Aristotle’s views on training youths to be leaders and involved in politics came alive for Jordan as she encouraged children at KYC in their dreams to attend college and become doctors, teachers and artists. (See spring 2012 roster of core curriculum classes fulfilling the ICR.)

She continued to work at Kaleidoscope over the summer, and returned to help other Butler students at KYC when school resumed in the fall.

“I loved it so much,” Jordan said.

Last year, only first-year students were required to complete the ICR, according to Braid, but sophomores, juniors and seniors who did not yet fall under the requirement for graduation have also completed the classes, for a variety of reasons.

“They might have offered service learning opportunities critical to the students’ majors or appealed to individuals’ interest,” he said.

Through ICR, Butler students often get to know individuals of different ages and different social, racial, economic or religious backgrounds from their own, Braid said.

“Through these interactions, our students become more competent in interacting and collaborating with diverse people, which is a highly desirable ability in many professional fields today.”

See a video that covers a youth dance class at KYC, led by two Butler graduates who started the activity in a course that predated ICR but offered similar service learning experiences.

Media contact: Mary Ellen Stephenson
(317) 940-6944