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University of Colorado Denver

Experiential Learning Center

Experiential Learning Center

Service-Learning Partnerships


The Experiential Learning Center is seeking sustainable partnerships with community organizations in the metro-Denver area that share our educational agenda of assisting UC Denver students in developing an understanding of social issues and their role as engaged citizens through first-hand experience. Our most successful community relationships also have education as part of the mission of their organization.

Community organizations would be willing to commit to a partnership by hosting service-learning projects, volunteers, internships and/or events for UC Denver students. Considerations are based on the consistency and sustainability of the service opportunity, the expressed need of the non-profit organization and the extent to which the university can accommodate that need, as well as the degree to which the Experiential Learning Center is already engaged in the particular type of service.

What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is a teaching method that combines academic instruction, meaningful service, and critical reflective thinking to enhance student learning and social responsibility. Students connect concepts in the classroom to service experiences in the community. In a very real sense, the community becomes a text for the class. Through reflection, students gain a further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal and civic responsibility. Service-learning is a mutually beneficial relationship where students gain new skills while providing a beneficial service to community partners and the communities they serve.

A successful service-learning class includes these elements:

  • The service is clearly connected to the academic goals and content
  • The service meets a genuine community need as the organization defines that need
  • The reciprocal relationship between the university and the community organization makes you a significant and valued partner in the education of the students
  • Students’ reflection on their experiences is an important part of the course.

What types of service experiences are appropriate for service-learning courses?

Typically a service-learning course includes either a project-based or direct service-based experience:

  • Project-based: Students put to use skills learned in a course by working collectively or on smaller teams to meet the capacity-building needs of an agency which may or may not involve actually interacting with the clients of that agency. In project-based service-learning students demonstrate skill mastery. For example, a team of students may develop a marketing plan, a client database, or conduct an energy audit as their service experience.
  • Direct service: Students complete a pre-determined number of hours interacting directly with clients of that agency (e.g. tutoring in an after-school program, serving lunch at a community kitchen). These texts of real world experience are then brought back to the class to be discussed along with other course texts and topics.

What Are the Benefits of Participating in Service-Learning?

Community Partners

  • Provides substantial human resources to meet needs of local communities.
  • Creates potential for additional partnerships and collaboration with the campus.
  • Prepares students for community involvement after college.
  • Provides opportunity observe students in action to identify future employees or volunteers.
  • Creates opportunities for community agencies to participate in student learning.


  • Creates deeper connections with the community they live in by being a contributing member to what goes on around them
  • Provides real-life application of what students are learning in the classroom
  • Promotes community and civic responsibility
  • Facilitates the development of a lifelong commitment to service
  • Broadens perspectives of diversity issues and enhances critical thinking skills


  • Increases student awareness of a variety of community activities and issues.
  • Promotes lively class discussions and increased student participation.
  • Provides greater retention of course material.
  • Allows for more innovative approaches to classroom instruction.
  • Enhances opportunities for research and publication.

The University of Colorado Denver

  • Supports the university mission for student learning by providing:
    • Critical and engaging opportunities for students
    • Workplace experience for career preparedness
    • Increased development and preparation of students
  • Faculty and students engage with the local community building positive community relationships and credibility.
  • Opportunities for enhanced teaching, research, and outreach activities.
  • Contributes to student retention
  • Opportunity to extend faculty expertise, university knowledge and resources.

What are the Community Agency’s Responsibilities in a Service-Learning Partnership?

  • Identify the needs of your agency that a S-L class could realistically fulfill
  • Identify the maximum number of students your agency can support
  • Orient students to social issue, agency mission, and specific service work, either at service site or in classroom
  • Supervise students when at service site
  • Notify instructor as soon as possible if problems arise
  • Evaluate success of project at semester’s end
  • Provide time and opportunities for reflection with students

For more information about becoming a service-learning community partner, contact the Experiential Learning Center 303-556-6656.

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