We had a celebration of our service learning trip to Cambodia on campus yesterday. There was a seminar at which our students shared their experiences. Sitting there and listening to them, I was quite struck by their passion, the breadth and depth of the work, and how much they have learned from the experience. The encounter with the Cambodian people, the Khmer language, the abject poverty, the lack of effective government, the chaotic education system, the weakness of the local currency, ... It is a learning experience the impact of which even they themselves may not fully realize yet.
There was an exhibition of their stories, and lots and lots of photographs, some of which are really quite touching. Several members of our senior management, including the president and the two vice presidents in charge of academics and research, came to the exhibition. They seem genuinely impressed with the work of the students. Hopefully there will be more understanding of what this is all about - and more support.
Then in the evening, a glimpse of the future - in the form of a recruitment drive and orientation for the coming year. Quite a number of first year students came. It is gratifying to see that many of the wide-eyed first year students who were sitting there last year are now speaking about their experiences doing service learning projects in the past year. That’s what we hope will happen - one generation of students becoming leaders and teaching the next generation. That’s how the movement can sustain itself.
All in all, a happy celebration. I am looking forward to seeing students being able to earn academic credits doing service learning in the near future - perhaps as soon as the summer of 2011.