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Unique learning community engages undergrads in public scholarship

October 15, 2009

The Office of Service-Learning in The Institute for Learning and Teaching, or TILT, has launched a number of exciting initiatives to engage Colorado State students and staff in university/community partnerships.

 Community involvement linked with unique academic interests

One such project is the student-focused Public Service Scholars Program, or PSSP. The two semester long, academically-integrated, non-residential learning community is the quintessential service learning experience.
It is set apart from the rest in that it allows students to link their passion for community involvement with their unique academic interests. In the process, it helps students develop important problem-solving and critical thinking skills while learning and helping meet the needs of the community.

In its inaugural year, PSSP has brought together 15 sophomore and junior-level students representing 11 unique majors, including art history, business, sociology, natural resources and biomedical sciences.

Weekly seminar

Students gather weekly in a credit-bearing seminar to explore the meaning of public scholarship and the role they, as undergraduate students, can play in promoting community development and positive social change, locally and globally.

There is no other opportunity like it on campus and that is why many of the current students enrolled enjoy it so much.

Inspiring experience

“PSSP has connected me to a group of students who see the change one person or one community can make. It's been an inspiring experience that has shown me the value of being involved in and connected to my community,” current PSSP participant Lauren Shulman said.

One program expectation is that students engage in real-world issues and social problems, working with community organizations to become part of the solution. The students serve in the community and develop a relationship with community members and, at the same time, develop a deeper understanding of the root causes and broader social issues that contribute to community problems.

Links passion for social change with academic major

The unique part of this program is that students link their passion for social change and community action with academic study in their major. Specifically, PSSP helps students to imagine and develop capstone, thesis, design, or other advanced academic projects that contribute to social change and make a difference in the community.

“I've been able to connect my in-class experiences to my community experiences, and that's something most classes don't do,” Shulman said.

PSSP is not limited to those students with extensive service experience and encourages all levels of involvement to create a diverse group of students.

Opportunity to expand horizons

"This program is a great opportunity for students with very little community service involvement, like myself, but want to try to expand their horizons and see and learn about different perspectives and the many issues in the world," current PSSP participant Austin Lowe said.

Through an integration of academic, experiential, and public service components, Public Service Scholars have the opportunity to develop and realize their potential for public scholarship and social action at the local, national, and global levels.

Currently accepting applicaitons for Spring 2010

The Office of Service-Learning is currently accepting applications for its second cohort of Public Service Scholars beginning in the Spring 2010 semester. Students must currently be at the sophomore or junior level, and be in good standing with the university.

“We look to find those special students who have a deep passion for community work and social change,” says Clayton Hurd, director of PSSP. “In terms of the best fit for the program, we tend to weigh students ‘fire in the belly’ more heavily than their cumulative GPA.”

For more information about the Public Service Scholars Program, contact Clayton Hurd, director of Service-Learning in TILT at or (970) 491-2032.

Contact: Clayton Hurd
Phone: (970) 491-2032