Northeastern University: Center of Community Services

For Current S-L Students

If you are a student currently enrolled in a service-learning course, then you might have some questions (and we have some answers!). Whether you are thinking about how to best prepare for your semester-long experience or how you might want to stay engaged after your course ends, you’ll find brief answers to some of the most common questions posed by students.

Seeking Out S-L Opportunities

What are the benefits of S-L for me?

Here are just some of the benefits of S-L that NU students reported in 2014-2015:

  • Top 5 skills gained or improved through S-L: communication, interpersonal, self-confidence, self-awareness, and leadership
  • 79% of students reported that service helped them to learn and remember important course concepts
  • 83% of students reported that S-L made a unique contribution to their learning in the course
  • 76% of students reported that their coursework strengthened their ability to serve their community partner

How do I find out if I’m in an S-L course or search for an S-L course?

You can search for S-L courses through Banner. Directions are available here.

Are there S-L courses in my college?

S-L is likely to appear in all 8 colleges throughout the academic year, although course offerings change every semester. Take a look at our current courses to explore which colleges offer S-L experiences.

Can I create my own S-L experience outside of the designated classes utilizing S-L?

Since S-L is distinct from community service because of the direct link to the academic coursework, S-L is set up to be facilitated by a faculty member and therefore S-L opportunities cannot be created on an individual basis. You are encouraged to look into our current offerings in and outside of your major to find S-L courses. We also encourage you to let us or a faculty member know if you think s/he should consider incorporating S-L into their course.

Preparing for Service

Why is there a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant (S-LTA) in my class?

S-LTAs are student leaders that support a faculty member with their course, and ultimately are there to support the course by acting as a project manager, a thought partner with the faculty member, and a guide and advisor for you and your fellow peers throughout the semester.

What if I don’t have time to fit S-L in my schedule?

Faculty members work hard to ensure that S-L is an integrated component of their course and that all the assignments balance one another. For some courses, the service and course projects are one in the same, meaning the project would take up the same amount of time as it would in any other course. If you are serving on a weekly basis as part of your course, your S-LTA and faculty member will work closely with you to ensure you can carve enough time out of your schedule each week. Ultimately S-L is part of your course just like a paper or an exam, and should be treated as any other academic requirement. Though we encourage you to embrace the experience, in some cases you may be able to transfer into a non-S-L section of your course if one is offered.

I already serve in the community. Can I use that experience for my S-L course?

It depends on the course.

  • If your faculty member has already set up community partners for the course, most likely you will serve with one of the pre-identified partners because the faculty member has specifically chosen them knowing that you will be able to fulfill the learning goals for the course- especially if you’re doing a group project.
  • If the faculty member allows students to use current service experiences to fulfill the course requirements, you will be asked to fill out an Independent Service Petition in class for faculty and S-LTA approval.

What happens if I am in two S-L courses at the same time?

This happens every semester – you are not alone! Service you engage in through one class can sometimes count towards another course (aka double count) if the service role you are in will allow you to learn about the course content for both courses. Then you can direct your reflection towards each individual class. If the service role does not relate to both courses, then you will have to serve in two separate roles because otherwise, it would defeat the purpose of this being an integrated service and learning experience. We encourage you to talk with both of your faculty members and S-LTAs so that they can support you.

How do I get to my orientation with my community partner?

Some orientations are held on campus, but most are held at the organizations themselves. You have the option of arranging your own travel plans and being responsible for arriving on time, or you can request to go with a Street Team member – an S-L student leader who will accompany you and your peers to your orientation so that you can learn the travel route and more about the community you will be serving in. Your faculty member and S-LTA can tell you how to connect with a Street Team member.

Will I get reimbursed for travel?

No, unless the professor has set that up on their own. All of our community partners are within walking distance or accessible by public transportation. Transportation can become a cost for the course just like books, lab supplies, or art supplies might be for other courses.

Throughout the Semester

What if I start my service and don’t like it?

Given the fact that this will be a short-term experience for you, it’s unlikely that it will be too awful to continue. Just as you’ve made a commitment to your community partner, they’ve made a commitment to you and have invested their time in you already. If you’re having challenges with any part of your S-L experience, please share them with your faculty member and S-LTA so that they can encourage and support you throughout the semester. Though not always ideal, sometimes we learn just as much from experiences we don’t like.

My syllabus says that I am required to fulfill 10, 15, 20, or 30 hours of service. Am I done serving once my hours are met?

No. Faculty members and community partners collaborate to agree on the length of the service commitment, which is typically the full duration of the semester. For example, if you only put aside 10 hours for a group project, but didn’t get to finish it, you’re probably not going to quit the group before it is due. The same concept applies to S-L.

Can I serve at the same organization on the same day as my friend?

Maybe, but a lot of factors go into scheduling including, but not limited to: the structure of the course (group projects or individual assignments), the needs of the community partner (some can support many students each day, but some only have office space for one student at a time), and making sure each partner has students serving with them. Your S-LTA and faculty member will work with you to find the best option for you that meets your scheduling needs and and your personal learning goals from the experience.

After the Semester

Can I put my S-L experience on my resume?

Absolutely! S-L is a great way to build your resume or professional portfolio. Please reach out to your S-LTA, faculty member, or S-L staff if you’d like to sit down individually to discuss how to incorporate your S-L experience. Career Development at NU is also a great resource for students.

How else can I showcase my S-L experience?

Each semester we encourage and invite current S-L students to present at the S-L EXPO, a science-fair-style showcase and celebration of learning, research, and partnerships. Please connect with your faculty member and S-LTA during the semester to present. We encourage you to invite your network to support you (family, friends, advisors, professors, etc.).

I really enjoyed my S-L experience. How can I stay involved?

We encourage you to talk with your S-L supervisor if you are interested in continuing your service with your community partner! Many of our community partners also offer co-op opportunities as well. If you are looking to take on a leadership role related to S-L, we encourage you to apply to become an S-LTA or S-L Street Team member.