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Service-Learning Profile: Carrie Stephens

stephens1Course: Servant Leadership in Agriculture and Natural Resources (ALEC 450 and ALEC 551)

Instructor: Carrie Stephens

Authored by Dr. Lisa Fall, Associate Professor of Advertising and Public Relations and Noah Mayhew, Senior in Public Relations

For students who enjoy the traditional classroom model of taking lecture notes and sitting class – Agriculture Leadership Development is not the class for them! Conversely, students enrolled in this course will spend a semester working in teams to provide hands-on community service to areas organizations.

Following the service learning model, this course provides an opportunity for students to connect theory with real-world applications.  They will partner with a local organization to assist that organization wherever help is needed.  This type of experience helps the student grow in the area of leadership as well, explained Dr. Carrie Stephens..

“Sometimes, students have a hard time connecting the literature to real-world applications; I think service learning gives students this opportunity,” she added.  “In addition, service learning has provided the students an opportunity to truly advance their leadership skills.  By the end of the semester, the students love their service learning activities and understand what being a leader emcompasses.”

One of the overarching goals of the course is to provide students with a better appreciation for how agricultural knowledge can impact local, regional, national, and global communities.  But they won’t just read about via case studies; they will have lived it through application of actual leadership activities at various sites, ranging from Mobile Meals, Second Harvest and Beardsley Farms to Ijams Nature Center, the Salvation Army and Knoxville Rescue Ministries.

And, an important aspect of a true service learning experience is reflection. Reflection is defined as intentional consideration of an experience in light of particular learning objectives, according to service learning specialist Jeffery Howard. Reflection can be accomplished in a variety of ways. In the Agricultural Leadership Development course, a unique way students reflect upon what they have learned is through the collection of 15 different “artifacts” that they include in their end-of-term portfolio. These artifacts serve as the students’ own special and personalized testimony of what they have learned throughout their semester-long experience.

“I have seen more growth in students by having them engaged in service learning.  I personally believe that a college education should include service learning so students will leave the University appreciating the practice behind the literature,” Dr. Stephens commented.  There is one quote that Dr. Stephens abides by and that is “allow the way to your great work to be guided by your service to others.”


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