UT Service-Learning reports to the vice provost for academic affairs. This administrative home positions the university to support and recognize service-learning on an institutional level, and demonstrates the strong commitment UT is making to integrate community engagement into every aspect of its operation. UT Service-Learning works closely with the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, the Center for Leadership and Service, the Center for Impact Careers, the Office of Research, the Academic Outreach and Engagement Council, and many others to address faculty and community needs in a purposeful, reciprocal, and continuous way.
The mission of UT Service-Learning is to engage faculty and community partners in meaningful, reciprocal, and outcomes-based service-learning experiences that enhance students’ academic learning, prepare them for democratic citizenship, and leverage their scholarship toward the pursuit of multi-faceted solutions to society’s most pressing problems.
UT Service-Learning’s mission builds upon the larger mission of the university, which is “to move forward the frontiers of human knowledge and enrich and elevate the citizens of the state of Tennessee, the nation, and the world.” Service-learning contributes to moving forward the frontiers of human knowledge by advancing constructivist learning theory, which frames learning as an exploratory endeavor in which students apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the ongoing process of constructing, testing, and re-constructing knowledge. Service-learning re-frames traditional learning environments into those that address scholarship from the community context in which they naturally operate, while positioning students and faculty as equal partners with the community in the creation of new knowledge and solutions. In doing so, it positions the private benefits of education alongside the public good, thus elevating the citizens of the state, the nation, and the world.