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ELI Service-Learning course information

The Experiential Learning Initiative

As part of the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI), Messiah College requires all students (starting with those who matriculate in the fall of 2015) to complete at least one ELI-approved experiential learning activity prior to graduation. The ELI provides students with a structured framework to engage their chosen experience in a way that leads to enhanced self-awareness, career preparation and community engagement opportunities. The ELI aims to teach and prepare students to articulate their “Messiah story” in a way that is meaningful to prospective employers and their communities.

ELI Service-Learning Courses 

Service-Learning (SL) refers to a type of curriculum that intentionally integrates learning with community service in a credit-bearing academic course.  Students participate in an authentic service activity, which meets needs identified by the community (designed within the framework of a mutually beneficial relationship) and then they critically reflect on that activity.  Thus, students gain a deep understanding of course content, a commitment to socially responsible citizenship, and develop skills and understanding needed to contribute to civic well-being.

ELI approved Service-Learning designated courses require 10 hours of content, 20 hours of authentic service and 10 hours of reflection.

  • Content refers to the strategies and resources that are employed to prepare students for their service-learning and community engagement.  Content should aim to help students apply knowledge as they put theory into practice within a particular service-learning context.
  • Service-Learning is a type of community engagement that seeks collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global, etc.) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.  Service may be direct, indirect, research-based or advocacy.
  • Reflection engages students in activities that help them make meaning of their service by themselves, with their peers and with community partners before, during and after their experiences.  Particular attention should be given to helping students transfer their learning from the classroom context to the community context and back again as they put theory into practice.  

Any faculty/department desiring to offer a service-learning course designated as fulfilling a student’s Experiential Learning (ELI) requirement must complete the ELI Course Proposal Form.  Course proposals are due by September 1 for spring and January 10 for fall.  All students who enroll and successfully fulfill the requirements of an ELI-SL designated course will fulfill the ELI requirement.

What are the signature elements of an ELI experience? 

The extent to which experiential learning is valuable to one’s personal and professional development is dependent upon a systematic process that facilitates students’ ability to synthesize, reflect on, connect to, and articulate the value to a target audience. The ELI aims to teach and prepare students to articulate their “Messiah story” in a way that is meaningful to prospective employers and their communities.

The following are signature elements of all ELI-approved experience experiences:

All students participating in an ELI-approved experience will design learning objectives at the beginning of the experience that focus on their professional development and community engagement.  Students will articulate goals based on the following prompts:

  • Professional Development:  Regardless of whether or not your experience relates explicitly to your career goals, what specific skills do you hope to develop/enhance that would be transferable to your professional goals?
  • Community Engagement: What do you hope to learn about community or do as a member of a community from your experience?  "Community" can be understood differently depending on the context of your experience.  It cold be a local or international community, society at large, the community within Messiah College or another academic context, a professional community within a workplace, organization or field/industry, or a community within a team of individuals. 

At the conclusion of the experience, students will document the outcomes of their learning goals and will reflect on their ELI experience, using pre-designated reflection questions. 

To ensure that the ELI leads to the stated outcomes of career development and community engagement, students will be required to translate the learning from their reflection into a “deliverable” that is contextualized for an external audience relevant to the students’ future goals (employer, graduate school, etc.).  Options for deliverables include: a resume; ePortfolio; website; LinkedIn profile; personal video; or poster presentation. The degree of flexibility within these options for the required deliverable is determined by each advisory team and ELI advisor.

The final signature component of an ELI experience is the advising relationship.  Advisors are significantly instrumental in helping students understand the value and benefit of an ELI experience as it relates to their professional and communal development.  Advisors are expected to have three touch points with their student(s), ideally at the beginning, middle, and end of the experience.  It is ideal that these touch points happen in a one-to-one fashion, although in the case of having multiple advisees, especially in a class context, group meetings may work best.