Although the pandemic ceased in-person events and activities at St. John’s, it did not stop the University’s longstanding tradition of Academic Service Learning (AS-L).
Through the official end of the semester, the University is still offering the opportunity for students to participate in AS-L on a virtual level, according to Lynn Stravino, the director of Academic Service-Learning at St. John’s. All Discover New York (DNY) classes still have a mandatory six-hour AS-L requirement, but an optional virtual research project is now also being offered.
“To accommodate the number of DNY students and the mandatory six-hour AS-L component, an AS-L Virtual Research project was developed for those students,” Stravino said in an email to the Torch.
“Students were encouraged to look at the community service sites we typically work with each semester and choose one to research and prepare a paper that will help them to understand who the organization is, what they do and who they serve in the community,” Stravino said. “Students also learn what the St. John’s mission is, how it is connected to that service and why this [mandatory service] is included in their DNY course.”
Regardless of the mandatory AS-L hours for DNY classes this semester, the University is experiencing a much smaller group of participants this semester compared to Fall 2019. Based on the up-to-date and approximated information provided by Stravino, AS-L participation Fall 2020 compared to Fall 2019 is as follows:
67 faculty (Fall 2019: 200 faculty)
225 students (Fall 2019: 2,000 students)
18 community service sites with virtual AS-L projects (Fall 2019: 70 community service sites in NYC area)
The University is planning to offer AS-L hours in a fully virtual format in the Spring 2021 semester, according to Stravino.
“The Office of Academic Service-Learning is gearing up now for the spring semester by reaching out to some of our community service sites that we work with on a regular basis to see if they may be interested and able to reconfigure the service opportunity to a virtual one,” Stravino said. “Additionally, we are continually reaching out to new sites to see if they may be interested in virtual AS-L projects, and if so how we can work with them.”
The Office of AS-L will also continue to operate in a fully online format until there is a time when it is safe to return to face-to-face service, Stravino said.
“At a time when the world seemed to stop, take a pause, and stay distanced it was more evident than ever that the community needs were still and perhaps even more prevalent,” Stravino said. “The Office of Academic Service-Learning with our community partners were able to reconfigure some of these projects to virtual projects; not all but some.”
“With great thanks to our faculty who were willing to include these virtual AS-L projects in their courses,” Stravino continued,“much was and is able to be accomplished. We managed to have our students stay safe while still serving.”