Frequently Asked Questions for Students

Expand all   |   Collapse all  

What is service learning?

Service learning is an academic program that enables students to perform meaningful community service related to their courses. Combining community service with classroom theory enriches students' learning, personal growth and sense of civic responsibility. At the same time, this work builds community and enhances the efforts of the collaborating agencies.

Will I get a grade for doing community service?

Credit is not given for the service alone. You must demonstrate that learning has occurred to have it count toward your grade. Therefore, before you even start working at your chosen agency, try to figure out what aspects of the agency, its clients or the work itself might connect to the particular service learning course you are taking. Then, while you are working at the site, keep these things in mind so you can relate your service experience to specific course content. We in the Service Learning Program make every effort to offer you placements that will in some way link up with the course you are taking. You must make the effort to find out what those connections are as you work at the agency. Many professors will state the learning objectives of the course in the syllabus, which may help guide your learning. If you are still unsure about how to connect your service experience to the course, discuss it with your professor or with a member of the service learning staff.

What kind of service would I do?

The Service Learning Program has community partnerships with more than 100 local organizations in Milwaukee. Students choose where they complete their service. Service learning courses are matched with organizations to complement your coursework. Students have a variety of responsibilities with the organizations. Some examples include tutoring, planning after-school activities and/or work with older adults.

How much time will the service take?

Students complete 20 hours in a semester; about two hours a week. Some faculty members may ask students to complete more time. Your specific day and time of service depends on the organization you choose. When choosing an organization, consider your class schedule and availability. Students must complete their hours throughout the semester. If students completes the required number of service learning hours before the semester ends, they are still expected to continue their service. 

What if I am absent or need to change the day and time of my service?

Communication is very important and key to a successful service learning experience. If you need to miss a day or an emergency arises, make sure you contact your supervisor at the organization right away. You are excused from service during scheduled school breaks, but be sure to remind your site contact that you will be absent.

How is this different from volunteer work?

The actual work you do at the organization may not be different from what you would have done as a volunteer; however, your approach to the work should be different from that of a volunteer. As a service learner, you reflect more on the organization, the people, your experiences and your reactions to find deeper meanings that relate to your course content. We call this service learning because you're at the organization not just to do service but to learn something about the course you're taking by working in the community.

How do I sign up?

The Service Learning Program moved to online registration. Students should log in to their MUEngage account, find their service learning course, and preview the events (i.e., service learning placements) partnered with their course. The MUEngage Instructional Guide for Students gives step-by-step instructions on how to register for service learning. After students register for service learning, their student coordinator will follow up with a detailed email with instructions on the next steps. 

What is a student coordinator?

Your Student Coordinator (SC) works for the Service Learning Program and arranges your service at your specific site. Contact your SC if you have concerns with transportation, getting in touch with your site contact, making a connection between your service and your class, safety, and any other problems or questions that may arise throughout the semester.

What happens after I register?

After you register and receive an email from your student coordinator with instructions on next steps, it is your responsibility to follow those instructions so you can start your service. Students may need to complete extra trainings or a background check and schedule their orientation. Students should check their email frequently and complete any necessary paperwork and training. Students' service will start after their orientation with the organization. 

Can I find my own placement instead of using one of the "official ones"?

Yes, but you should be aware of a few things if you are going to choose an independent placement:

  • Regardless of whether you use one of our placements or one of your own, you will still be part of the Service Learning Program. This is because you have chosen the service option in an officially designated service learning course. You'll need to follow all of the steps for service learning listed on the checklist.
  • Stop by our office, 1102 W. Wisconsin Ave., 303, to pick up an Independent Placement Form. Fill it out and have your professor sign it.
  • Your professor will have to agree that your selection adequately fits with the content in his/her course.
  • Once the form is signed, return it to the Service Learning Program Office. You will also receive a timesheet at this time.
  • If the placement does not work or there are problems with the site, please notify your student coordinator, who will do his/her best to help out.

How will I get to my service site?

Given that there are 1,000 to 1,500 participants each semester, our program does not have the capacity to provide transportation for service learners. However, we believe that riding the bus is one of the best ways to engage with the greater Milwaukee community and presents a wonderful learning opportunity for appreciating the neighborhood that Marquette calls home. A number of service learning placements are within walking distance of the campus; others are farther off campus. The UPass has made it possible for you to get to the vast majority of sites on a city bus. There are a few placements that cannot reasonably be reached on the bus. For these you will need to get access to a car, or go with another service learner who has a car. Be sure to check the placement description for transportation information.

Will I be safe if I go off campus to do service learning?

Although we have never heard of a crime committed against a service learning student while performing service in the central city, the possibility is certainly there. The service learning staff is very concerned about your safety, so we recommend the following steps to decrease the likelihood of problems:

  • Go to and from your site with at least one other person. The service learning student coordinator who is managing your chosen placement will help you with this if you let her/him know you're interested.
  • Get a whistle from Public Safety.
  • Take a self-defense course offered by Public Safety.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and make smart decisions.
  • Visit our safety page for additional tips.

What if I start my service and don't like it?

Given the fact that this will be a short-term experience for you, it's unlikely that it will be too awful to continue. Before you decide to quit, consider whether it will give you information that would be useful for your course (or maybe for life). Talk over your issues with your student coordinator, and possibly with your professor. If you simply cannot continue, your student coordinator will help you bow out gracefully and – if there's time in the semester – will assist you in finding a more suitable placement.

What if I enjoy my site and its mission but feel like I am not being fully utilized or given an appropriate role within the agency?

Service learning is a wonderful way for students to take initiative and contribute to the mission of countless different organizations within the city of Milwaukee. If you feel you are being underutilized or are having trouble drawing a connection between your service and your course curriculum, we encourage you to have a conversation with your site contact about other options that may exist. If you are in need of more assistance, do not hesitate to ask your student coordinator for help.


If you have addition questions, please ask: