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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Political Science

Dr. Hanson's students conduct research at the State Republican Assembly

Learning Opportunities

Service Learning

Political science students at DU are making a difference in Denver communities!

As a political science major, you can help find solutions to problems in communities along the Front Range by participating in a class with a service learning component.

These classes involve volunteering with a community organization while completing academic coursework. Typically, students have the opportunity to reflect on what they are learning from their volunteer experience through in-class discussions and papers.

Our students usually find their service learning projects to be an extremely rewarding experience, and some choose to continue volunteering after the course has ended.

Service learning courses inspire students to be community activists, putting their education to practical use and supporting DU's vision to be a private university dedicated to the public good.

Service Learning Spotlight

Kristen Hitchcox on the impact of education policy

Kirsten Hitchcox"For my service learning component, I volunteered in a classroom at South High School. It was a freshmen English class. The kids were incredible. Many of them had already been through so much in their lives, and a few were still in gangs. They had humor and intelligence and passion, though not always for school.

"In terms of the connection to political science, I saw the ramifications of spending cuts on education. Something as small as cutting the budget for making copies can affect what happens in the classroom in a big way. Instead of getting handouts with the vocab words on them, or worksheets, the kids copied from the board. While writing things down yourself does help memorization, many of the kids just didn't write anything down at all. They listened to their iPods or played on their phones under the desk. One teacher is not enough to supervise each student on an individual level.

"These kids taught me a lot about the different ways people are brought up and the adult responsibilities that they had to undertake. Service learning is a good idea for many reasons, because it helps you to get outside of yourself and help someone to learn a skill or understand something.

"One of the boys in there was precocious and intelligent, if a little unmotivated in school. I asked him what he was going to do after high school, and he replied that he was going to join the Army. I asked if he had considered college, and he said that he was too scared to go to college. I frowned and reminded him that if he joined the Army, he would probably get shot at, and that was much less likely in college. And he said that he would rather die than fail, and that if he went to college, he would fail.

"That devastated me. Our policies have failed thus far if children feel that way. I know that everyone who volunteered had some intense experiences, and service learning is a good idea because it can change the way you view the world, broadening horizons and giving you new perspectives.

"Our children are the future and it is a mistake to let them feel hopeless about their education. Not everyone needs to go to college, but everyone should feel like they can. I used to believe that large-scale change could only be brought about by politicians and policies, but it has to start somewhere. Service learning is a good way to inspire people to act for change and a good way to see how policies are working on an intimate, personal level."

How can I find a service learning class?

Usually, service learning courses are marked in the Registrar's Course Scheduling system. You can choose the attribute "service learning" to view classes with this component.

Recent political science courses with a service learning component include:

  • FSEM—Schools on Trial: The Politics of Education Reform
    • Students volunteered two hours each week at Columbine Elementary School in northeast Denver, where teachers have large class sizes and most students are on the free- or reduced-lunch program.
  • FSEM—Off-Grid Living: Policies, Politics, Practices
    • Students had opportunities to volunteer with a homeless shelter in Denver, with a community garden, or to participate in a habitat restoration project.
  • FSEM—Food Fights; Food Solutions
    • Students volunteered at Woodbine Ecology Center, near Sedalia, Colo., and in DU's permaculture garden, learning about sustainable growing methods.
  • PLSC 1000: Introduction to American Politics
    • Students helped with voter registration and turnout for the 2006 mid-term elections.

How else can I get involved?

For more ways to get involved with Front Range communities, check out the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL). It offers a variety of options, ranging from one-day volunteering to fellowships for students who make a significant commitment to public service.

You can also search the DU Something: Volunteer Database, which lists active volunteer opportunities in the Denver area with groups such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the African Community Center, Museo de las Americas and Denver Kids, to name a few.

To get involved on campus, stop by the Office of Student Activities (located in the Driscoll Center North Student Life suite), and explore opportunities to be a part of the Gender Violence Education and Support group, welcome new students to campus by being an International Student Orientation Leader, pair with an international student as a Pioneer 2 Pioneer partner, or be a Health and Counseling Center peer educator.