Service-Learning at Loyola
Connecting Loyola University Maryland and its community for a more just and equitable world
Service-learning. Community engagement. Social responsibility.
For Loyola University Maryland, community-based learning and service-learning are at the very heart of our mission and Jesuit liberal arts education.
That’s because service-learning empowers students and faculty to serve, learn, and lead in this diverse, changing world while helping build capacity for positive change in our local community.
Loyola’s Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ) is integral in supporting service-learning. Pat Cassidy, M.A. ’19, associate director of programs for CCSJ, sees an important connection between community-based learning and the education students receive at Loyola.
Service-learning is a critical aspect in bringing to life the Jesuit mission as it takes students’ learning outside of the classroom and into the world as our community partners become co-educators, teaching students about social responsibility, justice, diversity, and community. Through faculty integration with course aims, ongoing reflection, and program- or project-based engagement with partners, students come to understand how their learning can both benefit from and contribute to the strengthening of our community.
Students grow as engaged partners
Students who want to participate in service-learning have a plethora of options. Through course offerings in the writing department alone, students have volunteered with GEDCO/CARES, which serves families in crisis; conducted usability testing for the non-profit, faith-based El Salvador CRISPAZ’s website, and tutored area high school students in writing.
Students have also brought community stories to life in a Multimedia Storytelling class, restored Baltimore buildings in an Introduction to Painting class, collected oral histories from the Esperanza Center in an Oral Histories and Philanthropy in the Americas course, and so much more.
Bailey Skeeter, ’23, a psychology major and African and African American Studies minor from Bowie, Maryland, first discovered the concept of community-based learning at Loyola. She has since taken two service-learning courses taught by Stephen Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, and held peer leadership roles through CCSJ’s Bmore Engaged program.
I took a service-learning class not even aware of what the course would entail, and it ended up being one of the most engaging classes for me. The service-learning objective has allowed for me to grow as an overall individual caring for much more than just what impacts me as a college student.
Park—who offers classes that encourage students to volunteer as ESOL tutors and to help new Maryland Legal Aid clients find pro bono representation quicker—has observed additional benefits beyond personal growth for his students who take service-learning courses.
While students are able to benefit a particular community during the semester, the real value of service-learning is that it allows Loyola students to connect classroom ideas with real-world experiences because it's this kind of learning that sets them on a path of lifelong action and community engagement.
Service-learning has the potential to shape career paths for students, as it did for Bethany Richardson, ’23, a sociology major and biology minor from White Plains, Maryland. Richardson volunteered at a public charter school through a Messina class, which in turn inspired her to intern as a York Road Initiative schools facilitator.
“Service-learning was a great experience for me to learn more about the urban education system here in Baltimore and how school is more than an educational building for the students and their families. Both experiences have allowed for me to discern my future career path as a public health physician within urban populations,” Richardson shares.
Faculty find new approaches to research and teaching
Faculty find that their scholarship, research, and teaching can benefit from service-learning as they explore and embrace ways to collaborate with the larger community.
For example, Terre Ryan, Ph.D., associate professor of writing, has received numerous research grants to study American wartime food security programs in the United States. In turn, she incorporates her research on the environment into her classes while providing students with opportunities to learn about and tackle food justice issues.
“My research has given me a deeper appreciation for what people went through in the past and the food insecurities people deal with now. Global food insecurity is a growing issue, and I think it’s important to be innovative in the ways we learn about and help others have access to affordable and easily accessible food,” Ryan explains.
Another is Leah Katherine Saal, Ph.D., assistant professor of literacy education at Loyola’s School of Education, who received the Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic’s Early Career Engaged Scholarship Award for her research on the intersectionality of literacy and social justice. An output of Saal’s research includes her work with Lisa Schoenbrodt, Ed.D., to develop a training program for first responders to learn how to better communicate with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
We have a famous Arabic quote that says ‘You will lose love once you stop giving.’
Inas Hassan, Ph.D., affiliate professor of Arabic, is committed to service-learning because, quite simply, “We have a famous Arabic quote that says ‘You will lose love once you stop giving.’” Her Arabic 104 class has provided service-learning opportunities over the years, including developing youth programming at the Upton Boxing Center and performing translation services for the Esperanza Center and Baltimore Teachers Union.
The community has a number of different, meaningful ways to collaborate with the University
The impact service-learning has in the community has the potential to be profound and long-lasting for Loyola’s partners.
Aaron Kaufman, community project manager for the Central Baltimore Partnership who helped support the project to restore buildings in Baltimore’s Harwood neighborhood, loves how community-led projects like this one connect and empower the community. “What I loved about this project is how people came together. It’s about making it happen and giving residents a voice who haven’t had one in the past.”
Miller Roberts, who was president of the Harwood Community Association at the time of the project and applied for the grant that provided funding, points out that while this initiative was completely driven and led by the community, “being able to count on Loyola is key, because the students love to get involved in the community.”
Loyola has supported its neighbors in Baltimore through a number of community-based programs, including:
Loyola’s dedication to service-learning has been recognized widely and nationally
- Ranked No. 14 for Service-Learning, Loyola is recognized in the top 1% of the 1,466 universities included in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Colleges guide for the category of service-learning
- Honored with a Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic P20 Partnership Award for the York Road Initiative for demonstrating a community-based approach to learning, with equity and social justice at the forefront
- Ranked No. 16 in Washington Monthly’s 2020 Master’s University Rankings, with community and national service as a top criterion
- Selected as a Top School for Service by the Catholic Volunteer Network—one of only seven schools in the Mid-Atlantic (and 28 in the country!)
- Awarded the national Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, Loyola is one of only 119 schools in the United States to receive this classification—and the only university in Baltimore City and the only private institution in Maryland
- Included on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the U.S. government's highest recognition for community service, for nine years and counting