Sunday, May 6, 2018

Service Learning

Service Learning

Faculty members often quip that T. S. Eliot was clearly revealing his academic inclinations when he wrote that “April is the cruelest month[1].” As a present-day professor, he would likely add that it is the longest month, stretching from 1 April through commencement sometime in mid-May. Each April brings a free-fall sensibility to our campuses as yearlong projects come together, valedictory presentations are made, awards are earned and received, concerts and plays are presented, and athletic playoffs join the mix. On top of that, many seniors are furiously engaged in interviews and negotiations connected to their first “grown-up” jobs.

I often joke that we squeeze half a year into six weeks. It is an incredibly stressful time and a heartwarming confirmation of much of what we do right, as we see students connecting the dots of their academic careers into a meaningful holism.

At Susquehanna a remarkable thing happens in the very middle of the academic maelstrom that is April: we celebrate SU Serve. Each April, Susquehanna alumni undertake tens of thousands of hours of service work in support of hundreds of community organizations across the nation and around the world, and hundreds of our current students press the pause button during the busiest time in their academic careers to spend a day in service to others.

This year, I visited a handful of the many sites where our students were serving our neighbors in a variety of meaningful ways. Education students were at the Priestly-Forsyth Library in Northumberland distributing free books as part of PA Reads and leading children and their families through a variety of activities connected to the book; students from Gamma Sigma Rho and Phi Mu Alpha were mulching the campus garden and making signs for the new raised beds; other students were weeding garden plots at the East Snyder Community Garden; and another group was doing work at the REC (Regional Engagement Center). Dozens of other organizations throughout the region were also being served by our students.

When I first arrived at Susquehanna, I thought April seemed to be a curious choice for this event, but I have come to recognize the importance of the timing. Our creed is “Achieve, Lead, Serve.” Students undertake their first SU service project during orientation, and that work continues throughout their four years on campus. Last year, our students logged over 50,000 service hours. SU Serves in April reminds us that service to others never stops being our calling. When we are busiest is when others need us most.

Of the many Susquehanna traditions, the sustained legacy of service is the most important. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required[2],” and we have been much indeed. One of April’s greatest rewards is the opportunity to see hundreds of young men and women embrace their blessings and give to others.

[1] The Wasteland
[2] Luke 12:48


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