Service learning engages students with their local community, distinguishing it from other forms of experiential education. Through service learning, students can come into contact with the community needs and gain a better understanding of them. Unlike day-long activities designed for team-building or short-term volunteering experiences, service learning requires an understanding of the problems that a group in need faces, such as hunger and eviction. Although Service Learning is a relatively new addition to Experiential Learning at Trinity, it can be found in volunteer organizations on campus, such as the Volunteer Action Community (TUVAC). As a result, students can apply their service work experiences to the classroom, lending new perspectives to preexisting ideas.
“There were things that I was hearing in class about homelessness and food insecurity… I had a better understanding because I was volunteering and seeing this first-hand, so I was able to come back into the classroom and say ... “I see this here, in San Antonio, the city that we live in.”
Tahlar Rowe, Class of 2018 on her experience volunteering through HOPE Hall, a residence hall dedicated to helping individuals experiencing homelessness
The Trinity University Volunteer Action Community, formerly known as the Trinity University Voluntary Action Center, is a University-sponsored organization that arranges volunteers in the San Antonio community. Since 1997, TUVAC has integrated classroom and service learning to give students a broader perspective on issues around them. Recently, TUVAC has expanded to non-local area with its “Tiger Breaks” programs, taking students to other communities in Texas and Louisiana to better understand issues such as immigration and homelessness, respectively. These opportunities foster student development and civic engagement through direct exposure to various demographics.
1996: TUVAC Volunteering
TUVAC members volunteered by tearing down a house for the Inner City Development Program.
The Plunge is a 5-day program designed for first-year students to engage with the San Antonio community and their peers. Students join together in small groups to repair houses and “Plunge” themselves into the community. While directed at first-year students, many return to the program for the friends they have met and the impact they had working with the San Antonio Food Bank, Haven for Hope, Mission Road Developmental Center, Habitat for Humanity, to name a few. Students have said that participating in this program has connected them with their own sense of humanity and service.
1966 Community Service Program
In 1966, Trinity founded the Community Service Program to consolidate volunteer organizations into one dedicated club, encouraging all students to participate in service learning. The program aimed to bring awareness to issues the students did not themselves face. Programs for students and faculty included The House of Neighborly Service, which allowed Trinity Students to teach classes in a wide range of subjects and to mentor at-risk middle schoolers. Volunteers could also dedicate time at the Brooke Army Medical Center to entertain long-term hospital guests.
TUVAC AIDS Program
In the 1990s, students visited AIDS patients in hospitals through the TUVAC AIDS Program. Students engaged with patients to develop skills in service and empathy for the people around them. Students also gained a perspective that they would never have encountered unless they engaged with patients over time.