Community Service Learning and the Humanities

By:
Dr. David Hurry
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Humanities students applying their skills and knowledge in the Not-for-Profit Sector has a big effect on their degree success, employability, personal growth, on interdisciplinarity, and helps fulfil Widening Participation commitments. The communities which the university serves and of which they are a part also benefit.

I have helped Humanities students do work in the community as part of their degrees for the last 12 years. I have supervised around 1200 projects. University students doing real work for real people in the real world as part of their degrees is not uncommon. Anything from full time placements to small projects occur in many degrees across the various broad disciplines of Science, Social Science, Law, Medicine, Engineering, Education and so on, which have at their core actions of import in the world.However, the sub- disciplines of the Humanities ( Film Studies, Media Studies, Communications Studies, English Studies, Historical Studies and so on) do not have that same core, they can be just that; "Studies". There are of course excellent examples across this country and the world of Humanities students engaging with the communities around them, as part of their degrees. But Humanities staff and students have to create those links, they are not an intrinsic part of the disciplines( and such work can seem peripheral in RAE focussed times). This workshop will reflect on 12 years' experience of arranging projects in the Not-for-Profit sector, for Humanities students at Sheffield Hallam University. Such projects have typically been small groups of students from various disciplines within the Humanities.

For example: 3 students organised a football tournament with a mix of refugees, asylum seekers, and students from both Sheffield's Universities. They divided and shared the work: media coverage, sponsorship, event organisation, publicity ( they got David Blunkett to open it- with a header,). Other Projects are "one-offs" where students can use their own particular knowledge , expertise and commitment.

For example one English Studies student ran a support group for ex-prostitutes, was provided with Council support, and produced some Guidelines for the kind of Council support needed for this group. All the students have to reflect on the experience and the learning and professional development that took place, and articulate what they learned from each other. Community Service Learning is a grounded opportunity for students from different disciplines to work together in a multidisciplinary team. How might such work be argued for? There are direct links to employability and to meeting Widening Participation commitments.

Part of the success of the projects over the last 10 years has been the close working relationship with the Student Union's Student Community Action: part of the paper will present this as a very productive model of cooperation between them and academic departments which should be transferable elsewhere


Keywords: Multidisciplinarity, Employability, Widening Participation, Social Enterprise
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Language, Linguistics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. David Hurry

Principal Lecturer, Education and Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield, UK


Ref: H06P0409