UA Little Rock Receives Gift to Encourage Service Learning in College of Social Sciences and Communication

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received a $37,500 gift to promote the importance of service learning in college education.

John and Shannon Chamberlin of Little Rock have made the gift to create the Champions for Service Learning Fund that will benefit the College of Social Sciences and Communication at UA Little Rock.

“Our interest in service learning stems originally from service-learning experiences Shannon had in college,” John Chamberlin said. “Because those experiences had such a transformative effect on her personally, she wanted the same for her students, so she assigned service learning in the writing courses she taught at UA Little Rock. Her doctoral dissertation research centered on interviews with university faculty regarding their experiences with service learning. We hope that support from this fund will address some of the needs revealed through that research.”

Shannon Chamberlin spent two summers during college working with the Dayton Urban Summer Project, living in a neighborhood settlement house in a distressed neighborhood. There were so many families living together in some of the neighboring houses that children had to sleep four to a bed in four-hour shifts. Children were turned out in the night to fend for themselves when it wasn’t their turn in the bed. Shannon’s assignment was to keep the children occupied and safe.”

“My eyes were opened to the difficult lives some folks live, and I wanted to help make that better,” she said. “I also wanted to help bring others to that same realization and commitment. When I taught classes, I assigned service learning to encourage students to find ways to help others and to reflect upon and write about their experiences.”

The fund will cover the cost of travel and conference fees for at least two faculty members a year from the College of Social Sciences and Communication to attend a service learning conference.

“Our hope for this fund is to encourage and support faculty who aim to expand service-learning opportunities for UA Little Rock students,” the Chamberlins said. “Over time, we hope new Champions and those already assigning service learning will form a supportive learning community and that service learning will spread throughout UA Little Rock campus culture. The more service-learning opportunities students have, the better for them, for UA Little Rock, and for our community.”

Additionally, the gift will provide funding for UA Little Rock Public Radio stations KUAR and KLRE to run spots to showcase service-learning projects and to share learning outcomes with faculty and students.

“Spots on KUAR radio will spotlight service-learning projects, faculty research in the field, and accomplishments of students and their community partners,” the Chamberlins said. “We hope these spots will act as encouragement by recognizing and valuing those involved and will also be regarded as models for others who might want to get engaged.”

The Chamberlins, both former instructors at UA Little Rock, serve as inaugural members of the College of Social Sciences and Communication Dean’s Community Advisory Council. Additionally, Shannon also served on the Writing Council, Ottenheimer Library Board, Community Engagement Council, and is a lifetime member of the UA Little Rock Alumni Association.

Dr. Julien Mirivel, interim dean of the College of Social Sciences and Communication, said the gift will make an important impact on faculty and students.

“In CSSC, we believe that the most important part of an education is deep learning. Faculty can make a tremendous difference in students’ lives by connecting the material of their discipline with service in the community,” Mirivel said. “Students can learn about the criminal justice system while mentoring young people and listening to their stories. In applied communication, students can learn to give an effective presentation about their community engagement with a non-profit. The gift will support the professional development of two CSSC faculty per year for the next five years so that they can deepen their teaching methods and incorporate service learning. In turn, they will improve the structure of their course with a service-learning component and create better learning for our students. This gift supports our mission to be excellent teachers who are also improving the community around us.”

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