Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

SLCE Future Directions Project: Sustaining a Dialogue, Challenging the Movement

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

SLCE Future Directions Project: Sustaining a Dialogue, Challenging the Movement

Article excerpt

In 2015--twenty years after the article "Does Service-Learning Have a Future?" in which Zlotkowski (1995) called attention to the importance of institutionalizing service-learning as an academic endeavor, complete with strong disciplinary connections, professional development and resources for faculty, and high pedagogical standards --the SLCE Future Directions Project (SLCE-FDP) opened a broad conversation on the future of service-learning and community engagement (SLCE). Believing that earlier question to be largely settled at this point, the project poses new questions: "What are our visions now for the future of SLCE, why, and what will it take to get there?" and "How can we leverage the movement to advance those ends--intentionally, inclusively, and with integrity?" (Stanlick & Clayton, 2015, p. 78).

From the beginning of the project, we have sought to honor and incorporate voices, experiences, and perspectives often marginalized in traditional academic writing. We have tried to bring together diverse perspectives and experiences, including in our project design an attempt to avoid academic jargon and an over-reliance on traditionally accepted (academic) knowledge centers. But we also readily acknowledge that we have a long way to go on this front: There are many voices yet to be heard. We seek to envision the future together as an inclusive, ever-expanding learning community that adopts a frame of bold vision, tangible action, and appreciative inquiry.

Functioning as an international learning community, the SLCE-FDP operates in three primary venues: an interactive website (www.slce-fdp.org); an ever expanding set of in-person conversations on campuses, in communities, and at conferences; and special sections of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (MJCSL). Across all of these venues we invite colleagues to envision a bold future for the SLCE movement, and we are happy to report that the responses we have received over the past year have given us much food for thought on a broad range of ideas and viewpoints.

Our earliest contributors themselves brought a wide range of perspectives to the table: their own diverse personal and professional identities (undergraduate students, community leaders, social entrepreneur, and new as well as established faculty and staff members, to name just a few) and thought pieces that spanned many issues and settings. They grappled with the challenges and tensions of both local and global engagement, the identities held by all partners in SLCE (who variously self-define as practitioners, scholars, and practitioner-scholars), the dynamics of working within and outside of the academy, and issues of privilege and power. Priorities for the future of the SLCE movement articulated in that first set of thought pieces include, by way of example, the importance of asset-based course design in the first year (Bauer, Kniffin, & Priest, 2015); students, community partners, and faculty seeing themselves as colleagues in SLCE who relate with one another and contribute to the work in non-hierarchical ways (Hicks, Seymour, & Puppo, 2015); looking at institutional transformation through the lens of deep, pervasive, and integrated second order change (Saltmarsh, Janke, & Clayton, 2015); and designing global service-learning with strong critical reflection and a focus on the challenges of re-entry into home communities (Pisco, 2015). The 2015 contributors have also used their thought pieces to advance their work in various ways: to gather contributors to a thematically similar edited volume, in professional development activities on their campuses, as a foundation for other writing, as a starting point for other collaborations with the same co-authors, and to share their thinking with colleagues, to name a few examples.

Since the publication of the first set of thought pieces in November of 2015, we have utilized several strategies to expand participation in the project. …

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