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Community, Service, Activity, Event, Students, Western, Washington, University, Extent, Nature, Impact, Surrounding, Community, Local, breadth


Executive Summary: At the request of President Morse and the Student Employment Center's Community Service/Volunteer Program, Western's 1994 alumni survey documented the extent and nature of community service activity by Western students, both as part of their course work and as non-course-based volunteer activities. We refer to these activities as "service learning." We also measured students' impressions concerning the value of their service experiences and estimated the impact of students' community service activities on the Bellingham and Whatcom County communities. Findings are based on responses by 1513 of the 2219 graduates in the Class of '93. Asked whether they had ever participated in "any community service activities.. .either as part of a course, part of a group, or individually.. .that assisted the public or a non-profit organization...." almost half (48.9%) responded in the affirmative. Just over one-fourth (25.8%) report one or more internship experiences included under the service learning heading. Slightly more (27.0%) report one or more service learning experiences that were course projects or assignments. On the non-academic side, 23.6% participated at least once via their roles as students, with a student group or organization, but not for credit. About one-third (32.6%) report volunteering at least once in "any other" (non-campus) community service during their time at Western. Some students are extremely active volunteers. The great majority (88.1%) of students who report any service learning report at least two episodes. Fully 14.2% of the sample (29.0% of those who engaged in any service learning) report five or more separate episodes. On the other hand, we estimate that in any one year, only one in eight Western students participates in any form of service learning, academic or non-academic in origin. The most common service learning activities are in the social, health, and mental health services, where 54.7% of those with any service learning experience volunteered at least once. Those services included work for programs that serve the sexually abused or battered, the aged, children, those in crisis, those with disabilities, the homeless and hungry, as well as work in ethnicity-related programs, family planning , health-related, and mental-health related services. Another 23.8% worked at least once in children's educational settings such as volunteering at schools or at camps, tutoring, and coaching. One in seven (14.4%) volunteered on campus. Another 13.4% volunteered at least once to work for environmental goals. Others volunteered for religious organizations, community events, literacy, the arts, the legal system, and political causes. A list of the specific organizations for which the Class of '93 volunteered is included in the full report. Extrapolating from survey responses, we estimate conservatively that during a typical school year, Western students engage in about 4,600 episodes of volunteer service learning activity. Just under half is based in courses, either as internships or as projects within a course. The report analyzes which students volunteer most often. Findings include the following conclusions: most variation in rates of course-based service learning is explained by the different opportunities provided by different major fields; students who volunteer often are perhaps slightly more serious about their education and are more oriented to learning than to credentialling; that women engage in more service learning; that those whose goals emphasize service to the society volunteer more often, and that those whose goals emphasize income levels volunteer less often. Asked how valuable their service learning activities were, graduates respond extremely positively. Four dimensions of possible value were specified. For two, "providing new awareness" and "improving you as a person," nearly three-fifths (58.4% and 58.3%) answered "very" valuable, one of the most positive set of responses to any question our surveys ask about Western. Asked about the possible value of "providing career-related skills," 44.0% said "very," while 15.5% said "not at all." For course-based service learning activities only, the percent who say "very" rises to 47.2%. This finding is worthy of special note because students consistently give low ratings to departments' advising concerning careers. Finally, 41.7% say their service learning activities were "very" valuable at "improving your educational experience at Western, overall." The more service learning activities each graduate reports having participated in, the more value s/he ascribes to the experience. In addition, the great majority of service learning participants say Western should "definitely" (64.7%) or "probably" (29.1%) "...increase opportunities to combine community service activities with course work." Among students who did not participate in any service learning activities while at Western, a smaller majority support expanded opportunities, with 38.8% saying "definitely" and 46.4% saying "probably."




Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Service learning--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Student volunteers in social service--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Community and college--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing) ; 1994-05






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