Service Learning

Service Learning Resources

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At the University of South Carolina Upstate, Service-Learning is defined as teaching and learning that blends service with credit-bearing courses, derives from a need in the community, defined by a community partner, founded on disciplinary content, and incorporating deep reflection.

 Service Learning, Scholarships, Teaching

On this page you will find a wide variety of helpful information, but we are also happy to meet with you personally. If you are new to Service Learning and would like to know more, are currently modifying a syllabus to incorporate Service Learning, need help identifying community partners, would like to share your success story, or would just like to talk, please email to schedule a chat!  Looking for a particular item or topic? See our A-Z Resources list

  • Service Learning Participation At-A-Glance

    Overview    2017-182018-19
    Students Enrolled  1,239 1,396
    Faculty Teaching  55 57
    Total Courses Offered  111 136
    Unique Courses Offered 86 62
    Colleges Involved 10 10

    Est. $ Impact

      $459,000*     $719,338*  


  • Service Learning - Simple Definition: 

    A method of teaching and learning that integrates student participation in organized service activities ­­into credit-bearing courses, including: community identified need, discipline-based instruction, and reflection. 

    Community-based Learning: 

    Communmity-based learning follows the same need without necessarily focusing on an area of need. 

    venn diagram showing shared content and reflection; service learning with community-identified need, and community-based learning with authentic public connection

    We are working on a formal designation recognizing community-based learning  

    Service Learning - Formal Definition:

    Service learning at USC Upstate is defined as a method of teaching and learning that integrates student participation in organized service activities into credit-bearing courses. By collaboratively addressing identified community needs with a community partner, the service experience enhances student learning by providing an opportunity to observe, test and apply discipline-based theories, concepts and skills. The academic context enriches the service experience by raising questions about real world issues and by providing a forum to reflect upon them. Further, service learning is a mechanism to achieve a broader appreciation of the discipline, to sharpen problem solving skills and to develop an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (Approved by Faculty Senate, 02/20/2015) 

  • Service Learning (SL)

    The original designation – based on our peers and aspirants in the university-based Service domain. Certified courses will have "Service Learning" in the course title on the Course Schedule and on students' transcripts.

    • ≥15 hours of service/student with an identified community partner (preparation + contact time + follow-up)
    • ≥ 30% of course grade based on service (performance, reflection, etc.)
    • ≤ 7% of the service (1 of 15 hours) = administrative (filing, mailing, etc.)
    • Survey-based program assessment (Do it yourself & encourage students & community partners to participate)
    • Guided reflection connecting service experience and course content
    • Identified need evolved with community partner
    • Adhere to 4 of the Service Learning SLOs
    • Complete Hours Served report

    Service Engagement (SE)

    Added to recognize and celebrate the broad spectrum of Service opportunities at Upstate. Certified courses will be tracked through attibutues to enable awards and congratulations, but course titles in the Course Schedule and on students' transcripts will be unaffected.

    • At least 4 hours of active service to the community per semester for each student 
    • Adherence to the community collaboration element of the Faculty Senate's Definition of Service Learning
    • Survey-based program assessment (Do it yourself & encourage students & community partners to participate)
    • Adherence to 2 of the Service Learning SLOs
    • Basic reflection tying service to course concepts
    • Complete Hours Served report

    Course Designation Overview

  • Click the button below to see Frequently Asked Questions

    Service FAQ

    If you have questions of your own or would like to suggest an FAQ, please email

Celebrating Service- Awards

Service Learning is a high‐impact college experience and part of our university's Up initiative. To recognize outstanding efforts by our members of our USC Upstate community, each year the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement, in cooperation with the Office of the Provost, offers several awards each year to students, faculty, and staff who demonstrate superior commitment to Service Learning and Community Engagement.

More information and application

Past Programs

Service Learning Celebration Program 2019

Service Learning Celebration Program 2018  PDF Document Download

Celebrating Service- Stories

Upstate faculty, staff, and students are doing great things in our community, partnering with a wide variety of organizations, and learning important lessons about their content areas, career readiness, and life in Upstate South Carolina.

We're building a library of stories. Check it out by clicking the button below!  

Serivice Stories

Community Engagement Definitions

There are many overlapping terms relating to our efforts to make positive contributions to our community. Service pervades many of them, and so we offer these definitions both to encourage a wide variety of community engagement efforts and to clearly define "Service Learning" as distinct from these other great endeavors. (Also see the outwardly focused Community Engagement @ Upstate page) 

Service Learning seeks deeply reciprocal relationships between faculty and community partners. Our goal here is for students to deeply explore community needs and issues through the lens of a university course. Students engage in 15-30 hours of service are expected where service contributes integrally to student learning objectives. Students' may engage in direct or indirect service, research for a cause, or through advocacy for others.

Current & historical examples include:  

  • Environmental Communication (SPCH U347):
    Student research on eco-friendliness of local restaurants.
  • Introduction to Non-Literary Translation (SPAN 311):
    Professional level translation of materials for local non-profit organizations.
  • Literacy III: Addressing Reading & Writing Problems (EDRE U444): 
    Creating personalized on-level, age-appropriate reading materials.
  • Marketing Communications (MTKG 352):
    Custom marketing plans with presentation for community organizations.
  • Methods in ESOL (ENSL 353):
    Teaching/tutoring non-native speakers of English.
  • Microbiology (BIOL 330):
    Germ awareness presentation in elementary classroom.

Service Engagement seeks to expose students to community needs through an academic lens. Under this model, students take a class that connects to need in our community and serve in the community 4-14 hours. Here, you work with a course instructor to set expectations for training, time spent, etc. Our goal is to lead students to make connections between their coursework and our community. Service Engagement often involves direct or indirect service, or research for a cause.

Current & historical examples include: 

  • Archival Research and Digital Humanities (ENGL 345)
    Creation of a public library digital exhibition to share and celebrate the "Video Village" oral histories of Spartanburg's Highland neighborhood produced by White Elephant Enterprises.
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology (PSYC 311)
    Serving with and on behalf of community organizations as we study individual and group behaviors within the world of work. 
  • Introduction to German Translation (GERM 398)
    Translation of archival artefacts (POW letters, Hitler Youth letters, propaganda materials, etc) for inclusion in the South Carolina Digital Library. 
  • Principles of Micro and Macroeconomics (ECON 221, 222)
    Collection and examination of Cost of Living Index data from various sources in collaboration with the Economic Futures Group at the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Community-based Learning, like Service Learning, seeks deeply reciprocal relationships between faculty and community partners. The goal is for students to deeply explore disciplinary concepts in a community context and to meaningfully engage students in the community. No service need be involved. This currently happens at Upstate without formal designations. 

Volunteering focuses on meeting needs in the community with minimal commitment on either side. List your volunteer opportunity on our internal system; you set expectations for training, time spent, etc. Many times this happens through clubs, Greek life, and athletics, but we are also happy to publicize your willingness to host volunteers on an individual basis. Volunteering most typically involves direct service.

Clinicals, Practicums & Internships share many features with Service Learning, but differ in terms of purpose, structure, and intensity. This type of course typically encourages intensive and individual focus on job-training and networking, often with little or no interaction with classmates and most of their reflection and feedback coming at the end of the experience. In some cases, Service Engagement and Service Learning courses can prepare students for practicums and internships by providing them with less intensive community experiences which may help them refine or redirect their goals.

Community Engagement is often used as an umbrella term for the items above. Alternately, it may describe faculty, staff, and students' efforts to make more sustained contributions to our community in the name of the University, but outside of the structure of a course or program.

Course Support Funds

Each academic year, the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement has a limited amount of funds to support Service related expenses in designated courses. Trips and projects without an associated course are ineligible.

Awards will be contingent on the quality of application, availability of funds, and diverse dispersion of funds across instructional units; therefore, some applications may not be funded, or may be partially funded.

Support Funds Overview & Application

Developing a Course

The construction of a Service course is complex with details of Community and curricular needs, various approaches to reflection, etc. 

To guide interested teachers through exploring these concepts, we offer a course development aid.

Developing a Course

And you are ready to apply for Certifcation of a Service course, do a final check using this page: 

Certifying a Course


In seeking to respond to the enforced social-isolation of COVID-19 in Spring of 2020, we found room for creativity and expansion, reaching out to populations both on and off campus with opportunities to connect and collaborate. 

Taking SL/CE (pronounced "slice") to virtual environments can provide deliberate, real world experience, and networking opprotunities, transforming a potentially isolating format into on rich in both context and connection. 

Visit our e-SL/CE page for more information


Or click below jump directly to an annotated list of e-service offerings. 

Virtual Service Opportunities

Forms & Templates

Links to FORMS are offered here as a shortcut for those who are already familiar with the background of each. Each of these has an associated "Overview" page. If you have not explored these yet, please do so before completing a form. 

As TEMPLATES have no associated "Overview" pages, a short description is provided here for each. Each of the templates employ yellow highlighting to clearly identify informatation that will need to be adjusted by instructors. 

  • Service Learning Contract
    This classroom tool has no offical power beyond your course, so you are welcome to modify this in any way that suites your needs. Key suggested components include SLOs (to be updated based on your individual selections & end-of-course assessment) and committment statements for students, community partners, and instructors. The second page is designed to capture details of when service will be completed together with a back up plan. 

  • Service Trip Waiver 
    This legal document should be used for field trips when you are transporting multiple students to a single service site in a University vehicle. Even students who choose to drive themselves to a 'field trip' site must complete this form. This form has been approved by University lawyers. Please insert the relevant information everywhere the form has yellow highlights.
    This form is NOT required for students driving individually to do recurring service on a regular basis. 
SL/CE is HIP (High Impact Practice)

In 2008, George Kuh identified eleven institutional instructional programs that benefit a wide variety of students. Service learning and community based-learning are on his list, but the purpose of this page is to look at what makes SL/CE HIP.

Extending the discourse on HIPs, Kuh, O'Donnell, and Reed (2013) detail key characteristics that engender HIP results: 

  • Guided reflection
  • Experiences with diversity
  • Investment of time and effort
  • Work on real-world applications
  • Substantive interactions with faculty and peers
  • Frequent, timely and constructive feedback
  • Public dissemination of completed work

These elements shine in skillfully implement SL/CE courses and in any course.

Many courses at Upstate are HIP. Check out our HIP infographic: 

HIP to High Impact Practices

Student Learning Outcomes

In order to promote best high-impact practices and create rigorous, career-relevant, accessible, and transformative service opportunities, USC Upstate has adopted the eight requisite career competencies identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). All Service designated courses will share a common assessment based on instructor-selected SLOs. 

Here are links to more SLO information: 
Student Service Travel Scholarships- Faculty Overview

Doing service in unfamiliar communities has the potential to exponentialize the transformational experience in Service Learning. We are, therefore, delighted to support students traveling on formal Service trips (both international and domestic) which are associated with your officially designated Service Learning and Service Engagement courses. Students may find details and an application form on the Service Travel Scholarship page. 

Here is a matrix defining amounts awarded to successful applicants: 


 Service Learning 

 Service Engagement 

 Service Abroad  



  Service Away



If your trip is associated with a course that is already designated as Service, please email with the course number, the date, and the desitination of your trip, and we will add it to our list. 

If you have not yet officially sought a Service designation, please complete the appropriate Course Designation form.  

"Service-Away" supports the following domestic travel: 
  • at least 10 hours of Service (even for "Service Engagement" courses)  
  • at least 100 miles away from campus 
  • at least 2 overnight stays

At this point, the OSLCE offers no funds directly supporting faculty travel expenses. 


Key Resources 

Visit the Campus Compact website for examples of syllabi by discipline.

Other Service Learning Resources

Suggested Readings

  • Albert, G. (1994). Service learning reader: Reflections and perspectives on service. Raleigh, NC: National Society for Experiential Education.
  • Boss, J. (1994). The effect of community service work on the moral development of college 
    ethics students. Journal o Moral Education, 23(2), 183-198
  • Bowen, G. A. (2007). Reflection methods and activities for service learning: A student manual an workbook. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
  • Bradley, J. (1995). "A model for evaluating student learning in academically based service." In Troppe, M., Connecting cognition and action: Evaluation of student performance in service learning courses, Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
  • Bringle, R. G., Phillips, M. A., & Hudson, M. (2004). The measure of service learning: Research scales to assess student experiences. Wash., DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Cress, C. M., Collier, P. J., & Reitenauer, V. L. (eds.) (2005). Learning through serving: A student guidebook for service-learning across the disciplines. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Eyler, J., & Giles, Jr., D. E. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Eyler, J., Giles, Jr., D. E., & Schmiede, A. (1996). A practitioner's guide to reflection in service-learning: Student voices and reflections. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.
  • Giles, D. & Eyler, J. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
  • Heffernan, K. (2001). Fundamentals of service-learning course construction. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
  • Jacoby, B. & Associates (1996). Service learning in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Jacoby, B. (ed.) (1996). Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
  • Jacoby, B. (ed.) (2003). Building partnerships for service-learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
  • Jacoby, B. (ed.) (2009). Civic engagement in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
  • Kelshaw, T., Lazarus, F., & Minier, J. (2009). Partnerships for service-learning:Impacts on communities and students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development.
    Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Miller, J. (1994). Linking traditional and service-learning courses: Outcome evaluations utilizing
    two pedagogically distinct models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 1(1), 29-36.
  • Morton, K. (1996). Issues related to integrating service-learning into the curriculum. In B. 
    Jacoby (Ed.), Service-learning in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Rhoads, R.A., & Howard, J.P. (Eds). (1998). Academic service-learning: A pedagogy of action and reflection. New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 73. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Stoecker, R., & Tryon, E. A. (2009). The unheard voices: Community organizations and service learning. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  • Strait, J. R., & Lima, M. (eds.) (2009). The future of service-learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Torres, J. (2000). Benchmarks for campus/community partnerships. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
  • Waterman, A.S. (Ed.) (1997). Service-learning: Applications from the research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Ehrlbaum and Associates.
  • Zlotkowski, E. (Ed.) (1998). Successful service-learning programs: New models of excellence in higher education. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co.

The Suggested readings are adapted from the University of Maryland’s Faculty Service Learning Resources and References