SALT program celebrates five years of service and learning at Lipscomb

By |

    Print this page Email this page

This semester marks the fifth anniversary of the highly successful SALT Program (Serving and Learning Together) at Lipscomb University. Coordinators celebrated with a luncheon for the hundreds of community and university partners who have made the service-learning program an integral part of Lipscomb’s learning experience.

Patti Clayton, senior scholar with the Center for Service and Learning at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and a consultant who helped establish Lipscomb’s program in 2007-2008, spoke at the luncheon to help the community partners “imagine” the great things the program can do in the future.

“Over the past five years, the SALT Program has engaged 200 community partners and 70 service-learning faculty teaching 300 service-learning courses. Additionally, we've had on average 1,500 students engaged in service-learning each year for the past five years,” SALT Program director Christin Shatzer told the crowd gathered on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Through the SALT program, Lipscomb students volunteer for designated days to engage in service, specific service projects linked to SALT courses and to conduct service-oriented capstone projects in their fields of study to be designated a SALT Scholar upon graduation.

The program has earned accolades for its commitment to service throughout its five years: named to the 2008 Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service, earned the Carnegie Foundation’s 2010 Community Engagement Classification and received a shout-out from U.S. News and World Report as one of the 25 “Programs to Look For” in 2009.

SALT has resulted in nearly 50,000 hours of service to the community, valued at almost $1 million, since its inception. Clayton, who is a service-learning consultant with over 75 schools, colleges and universities, and higher education organizations in the US, Canada and Ireland, said she wasn’t surprised at the success of SALT. When she was first contacted to help establish the program, Lipscomb was on the cutting edge of universities working to incorporate service into the curriculum, she said.

The SALT Program was born out of a process required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS accreditation renewal requires each university to implement a quality enhancement program dreamed up by the faculty. The Lipscomb faculty came up with service-learning, and Provost Craig Bledsoe admitted at the luncheon that there were some skeptics about whether or not this was the right way to go.

“Boy was I wrong!” Bledsoe laughed. “This has been one of the best things the university has ever done. It has put Lipscomb on the map in places we would never have been otherwise.”

Some of the many organizations Lipscomb has worked with through SALT include: the American Cancer Society, the Red Cross, Best Buddies, Youth Life learning Centers, Habitat for Humanity, Faith Family Medical Clinic, March of Dimes, Oasis Center, Pencil Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank and ThriftSmart, among many others. In addition, about 300-400 students annually participate in international and domestic mission trips, which also provide opportunities for service-learning.

Sixty-three SALT Scholars have graduated to date. These students conducted semester-long, capacity-building, service-learning projects in areas such as youth development programming, fundraising and addressing wellness and health disparities.

To see more examples of SALT Scholar projects click here. (

“At first students came to just ‘get service hours,’” said Amy Walter, volunteer manager for Nashville CARES, an organization providing education and awareness in HIV/AIDS prevention and client services. “But that has really evolved, and now they are part of practical projects that we are using in our real-world operations.”

Walter mentioned the SIFE group, a College of Business student service organization, as one example of a student group creating a multi-media awareness campaign for the nonprofit. “It will actually save lives,” she said.

Among the many ideas that participants at the luncheon threw out as the next frontier of service-learning were a global service exchange program, a SALT program for K-12 students and graduate students, twice as many service-learning courses offered on campus, a capstone service project incubator where those looking to serve could come for ideas and a day when SALT was sought-out as a problem-solving consultant for local nonprofits.

“I work with a lot of campuses across the nation,” Clayton told the crowd at the luncheon celebration.  “But this is the place, and you are the people, I am most excited about working with for the next five years.”



SALT FIfth Anniversary Luncheon

Patti Clayton, national expert
in service-learning.
Program director Christin Shatzer
greets the crowd.
Many of SALT's 200 community partners came out for the event. Clayton led participants through a process to imagine a bright future for SALT.
Many of the students' SALT projects and activities were on display. Mani Hull, executive director of Tennessee Campus Compact, praised Lipscomb's committment to service.