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Service-Learning: Engage, Learn, and Act – Virtual Event Recap

On June 16, 2021, The Beijing Center held an online event as part of its East Meets West Talks series. The event introduced three speakers who addressed the pressing importance of service-learning as community involvement and student engagement in higher education. The discussion centered around the ways in which service-learning is being implemented in different communities and institutions. Read more below or watch the full event recording here.

Interim Director of the Center for Service and Action at Loyola Marymount University, Patrick Furlong, began the discourse by recollecting the virtual immersion at the university and how students are connecting their passions and interests with social issues through community participation. Patrick described the service-learning approach through a global citizen lens, where students are encouraged to learn in and out of the classroom in order to use their knowledge and contribute to the betterment of the world. By teaching the benefits of having an open and curious mind, Loyola Marymount University has established immersion programs to meet their students’ need for authentic encounters, which have become progressively necessary during the ongoing pandemic. As part of these immersion programs, students and educators participate in virtual activities that satisfy cultural curiosity, offer a safe space for reflection, and increased awareness of formative social issues.

The discussion continued with another service-learning perspective practiced at Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines. Agnes Joy J. Sagaral, the Service-Learning Coordinator at the Arrupe Office of Social Formation, outlined the service-learning institutionalization process as social formation programs, part of the curriculum for students. Agnes stressed the equal importance given to the learning goal and the service goal throughout each service initiative at Ateneo. In implementing these programs, service-learning is framed by the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm, where it is guided by spiritual exercises. Each immersion program follows a framework, where students are provided context for the program, followed by experience, reflection action, and evaluation, to conclude the initiative. An essential moment of each program is when upon completion of the service, students and educators give recognition to the assisting partners and highlight the results of their efforts in serving Asia-Pacific communities.

As a long-time participant at Five Loaves and Two Fish, The Beijing Center had the opportunity to host Fr. Johnny Rakotoarisoa, as he concluded the discussion by describing the organization’s service efforts. As Program Coordinator, Fr. Johnny discussed how the Beijing-based organization provides education and developmental support for children of migrant families. Children are taught and cared for by dedicated volunteers, who maintain facilities and accumulate resources to meet the children’s needs while they are in their care. Many of the organization’s service-learning components mentioned by Fr. Johnny have been a part of TBC students’ service-learning experience for years. Students have seen first-hand how children need a stable learning space as their families adjust to new lifestyles to make a better living.

After the speakers shared their experience and knowledge of service-learning, they engaged the audience by answering questions that inquire into how service-learning will progress and evolve – virtually and in person. This discussion added another dimension to the ongoing exploration of service-learning, recognizing the new challenges and opportunities of immersion programs and the unfulfilled potential to do more for our communities. How, through risk, trial and error, and the use of valuable resources, service-learning initiatives can strengthen the cultural life and economic development of respective communities while shaping students into proactive and compassionate citizens.

East Meets West Talks

The Beijing Center’s event series, covering a variety of intercultural topics that promote an exchange of ideas between East and West. These events bring together sharp minds and fresh thinkers who offer insights on current global affairs and challenges, cross-cultural engagement, and ideas that help us make sense of the world we live in.