Service Learning traces its inception to the Lincoln administration. In 1864, the Morrill & Homestead Initiatives created land grants to establish colleges throughout the nation that focused on creating citizens who will be “educated for the betterment of society”. The mission statement of most colleges and universities include the concept of student development through the transfer of knowledge and active service to advance civilization. Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University, addressed this issue at the inauguration of the university on November 11, 1885, when he stated:
The objectives of the university are to qualify students for personal success and direct usefulness in life: and to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.
In 1903, the University of Cincinnati created the Cooperative Education Movement where students combine service, learning and career.
Later in the century, progressive thinkers John Dewey and William James were the first to combine experiential learning and service to the community into the educational system.
In the mid-20th century came the establishment of voluntary associations that focused on service in the community such as the YMCA and YWCA, as well as, government agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration. In the 1960’s, President Kennedy gave a call to service that lead to the development of the Peace Corps and Vista. Campus Compact was founded in 1985 to help establish and support Service Learning on campuses across the nation.
Today there are over 900 colleges and universities with Campus Compact offices offering faculty and students a vast array of resources. Campus Compact assists colleges and universities in developing Service Learning programs that develop student citizenship skills and values, and to encourage partnerships between campus and community, support faculty, and to encourage research.
Today, in the United States, there are over two million students giving of their time and expertise to Service Learning projects. They are taking part in one of the most powerful activities for change in the world. Millions of students are joining together to create a better future for the United States and the world.
We hope that you enjoyed this brief history of service learning!