Labyrinth and Chapel of St. BasilWithin the University of St. Thomas’ mission statement is a commitment to service. The Service-Learning Program at the University of St. Thomas exemplifies this pursuit by reaching out to the needs of the community through experiential learning.

What is Service-Learning?

“Service-Learning combines community service with academic study and structured reflection to offer students a multidimensional learning experience.”

– Dr. Jean-Philippe Faletta, Director of the Service-Learning Program.

UST has a partnership with over 120 nonprofit organizations in and around the Houston community. Working hand-in-hand with our community partners, service-learning faculty, staff and students are able to creatively respond to the challenges caused by poverty, globalization, limited economic resources and changing demographics of Houston.

Service-Learning provides students with experiences in which they can apply their theoretical and classroom learning to the real world of educational practice.

Benefits of Service-Learning

  • For faculty members: Service-Learning is a creative means for connecting the concepts of disciplinary study to the realities of human need.
  • For community-based organizations: Service-Learning is a method to contribute in the process of higher education and as a mechanism to enlist the abilities of student volunteers.
  • For students: Service-Learning is an opportunity to incorporate the life of the mind with the habits of the heart and soul.

Examples of Service-Learning in Action at UST

PSYC 2332: Child Psychology — Students volunteer at local children’s agencies (Monarch School, Children’s Assessment Center, Escape Family Resource Center, Verbal Behavior Clinic) applying the techniques and methods taught in the classroom. Students are then required to write a reflection paper based on their experience as well as including an empirical article relevant to the experience.

BIEDL 4365: Teaching Children's Literature in Spanish — (Wharton Elementary’s Dual Language Program) Students in this course will participate in organizing a literature night for parents where they will teach parents to work with literature at home by modeling literacy activities and providing activities and materials to facilitate parents’ involvement at home. 

General Biology II, Medical Microbiology and Cell Biology Courses — Examples include volunteering at an underserved clinic in Houston; starting community gardens; helping develop learning and teaching materials for science classes and for local middle and high schools that have partnered with Communities in Schools (CIS). Materials such as brochures have been created to educate patients about how to recognize a particular disease (symptoms) and the means to prevent and treat it. Students were required to keep a reflective journal in the form of a blog throughout the semester and present their final materials to the class. The student-created displays and brochures were printed and provided to each clinic for distribution to their patients.

ACCT 3335: Tax Practice — Students in this course are provided a practical introduction to individual income tax preparation offered in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA).

The School of Education — Examples of service-learning projects include: building gardens for local elementary schools and creating dynamic projects for local schools in literature, math, reading and science. Such programs include:

  • Children’s Literature Night
  • Super Science Saturday
  • Lemonade Day
  • A November Night with Numbers

Steps to Service-Learning Program Participation

Follow these simple steps:

  1. See your academic advisor.
  2. Register for a class.
  3. When class meets, learn about options for service placement.
  4. Agree to criteria set by the professor (e.g., a reflective paper).
  5. Complete contract to perform service hours in community.
  6. Be supervised and evaluated by the nonprofit agency.
  7. Fulfill hours and other criteria to receive grade and course credit. 


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Jo Meier Marquis, Ph.D.