University of Hawai'i, Hilo

Communication Department

  Catherine Becker, Ph.D.






Another instructional endeavor of mine has been to promote Service–Learning by implementing it in my classes and by acting as a member of the UHH Service-Learning Advisory Board. The UH-Hilo Service Learning Summit defined Service-Learning as

“an educational approach that fosters civic responsibility through active participation in an organized service that meet community needs. Students, Community members, Faculty, and Administration/Staff collaborate to create meaningful learning opportunities. Service-Learning builds critical thinking and problem solving skills though a process that requires conceptualization, planning, implementation, and reflection. When service and learning are integrated, participants gain a heightened awareness of and commitment to building a better community.”

I first became involved with Service-Learning as a response to an initiative by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) and the National Communication Association (NCA) to promote Service-Learning in the discipline. After attending a training at the NCA National Convention in 1998, I began to implement Service-Learning in my Public Relations classes. Consequently, my students have created, implemented, and evaluated public relations campaigns for the UHH Athletic Department, Office of Student Affairs, Alternative Spring Break, Hilo Hospice, Homeless Shelter, Downtown Association, TREE-Native Forest Restoration and Education, Lehua Jaycees, Tough-Man Competition, and Hawaii Network for Cultural Preservation of Waipio Valley. Student final reflection papers suggest that Service-Learning is an excellent way to apply theories and concepts from the course in settings that allow them to gain valuable experience relevant to their professional and personal aspirations. In Fall 2002 I am experimenting with Service-Learning in my Survey of Public Relations lecture course. Twenty-three students have selected this option, and have arranged placements with a variety of non-profit organizations including Bay Clinic, YMCA, Hamakua Health Center, Talk Story: Kupuna and Keiki Program, Veteran’s Center, American Lung Association and Big Island Aides Foundation. Here on campus students are involved with Service-Learning projects with UH Athletics, Student Support Services, and the Department of Communication. Student placements are providing them an opportunity to apply the material we are learning in class, such as writing news releases, event planning, intercultural communication, research and evaluation.

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