Lipscomb University takes lead in service learning in state and nation, says U.S. News

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Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry announces SALT's latest honor at a recent gathering of faculty and staff. Fellow U.S. News recognized programs are listed behind him.

U.S. News and World Report "2009 America’s Best Colleges" recently cited Lipscomb University’s service-learning program, The SALT Program, as one of 25 “Programs to Look For” in the nation. The 25 listed universities, including national powerhouses such as Duke, Stanford, Tulane and Brown universities, were nominated by university presidents, academic officers and deans across the nation as stellar examples of service-learning initiatives.

The U.S. News guidebook began listing “Programs to Look For” seven years ago to highlight universities with outstanding programs that are commonly linked to student success, such as service learning.

“The SALT program was only fully implemented this fall, so the fact that the top academic leaders in the nation have recognized the quality of our program and nominated it to be part of such a respected group of universities is very exciting. The architects of this program believe it will not only make a difference in the character of our students, but it will truly enhance the depth of education they receive at Lipscomb. It is gratifying to see that others recognize the value of those goals,” said Christin Shatzer, Lipscomb’s director of service-learning and The SALT Center.

On the heels of the U.S. News announcement, Lipscomb University was chosen to serve as the site for the first statewide workshop of Tennessee Campus Compact (TNCC) on Nov. 13. The TNCC chapter, of which Lipscomb is a member, was officially established in March of this year with 30 state institutions joining the compact to promote community service, civic engagement, and service-learning in higher education.

Christin Shatzer, director of The SALT Center, was recently honored with a Spirit Award to recognize her hard work in building The SALT program in the last two years.

The Nov. 13th Lipscomb event will be the first statewide training workshop for the leadership of the TNCC member universities and colleges. Lipscomb officials will present information on the development of its SALT Program (Serving and Learning Together), which is the first in the state to require students to participate in two service-learning experiences as a graduation requirement.

“I am very excited that the first statewide workshop designed to provide professional development for compact members is being hosted by Lipscomb, which has served as a state leader in incorporating service into the curriculum in innovative ways,” said TNCC Executive Director Mani Hull.

The meeting will also feature an address by Jim Heffernan, executive director of the New York Campus Compact based at Cornell University, and the inaugural combined meeting of the TNCC Executive Board and Advisory Committee.

The goals of the TNCC include training faculty on integrating service into curriculum, research and evaluation on the value of public service programs, development of best practices for service-learning programs, and providing funding for specific campus engagement initiatives and recognitions.

Lipscomb already has experience with these goals as The SALT Program requires every student to complete specific service-learning goals tied directly to an academic course or approved learning outcomes. A perfect example of the blend of academics and service that SALT encourages is a management communications course where 53 students are taking the presentation skills they are learning in class and using them to conduct a set of life skills workshops for at-risk teens at Youth Life Learning Centers in Nashville. The workshops include a trip to campus for the teens to enjoy a college and business attire fashion show and dining etiquette session.

While Leanne Smith, instructor of the course, was teaching her students resume-writing, office communication and team management last semester, it occurred to her that there were lots of people outside her classroom who could use this information: battered women or parolees reentering the workforce, at-risk youth, the working homeless.

Smith took that observation, took advantage of the SALT Program, and revamped the class curriculum to require a semester-long service-learning project to plan and carry-out the workshops for at-risk youth.


Students sign up for volunteer work at the service fair held recently on campus and co-sponsored by SALT.

“I think my students have the potential to learn more by teaching someone else than they would have ever learned on their own,” said Smith. “Teaching these skills to this audience will make them really appreciate it.”

Other classes have provided Website development for non-profit organizations or free water testing in local rivers. In addition, hundreds of students each year participate in global mission trips and the annual spring Service Day, when class are canceled to allow students to spread out throughout Nashville to volunteer at non-profit organizations.

Lipscomb’s service-learning efforts have already been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts and service to disadvantaged youth earlier this year. The Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.

The SALT Program is also listed in Beyond the Books’ A Guide to Service-Learning Colleges and Universities, a compilation of the nation’s top service-learning programs by Student Horizons, Inc., an organization to help students find colleges that complement their unique personalities and aspirations.