As part of its commitment to promote social responsibility and accountability as core values of its graduates, the Queen’s UGME program works to facilitate, encourage, support and acknowledge students’ service-learning.

While there are multiple definitions of service-learning, the UGME program has defined service learning as a learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection.

The UG Curriculum Committee first made this commitment formally in 2014 and continues to uphold it.

Service-learning is a unique type of volunteer service in its approach, specifically with the structured preparation and reflection requirements. Ideally, preparation involves consultations with community-member stakeholders. Additionally, the UG encourages students to focus on longer-term community engagement such as a term- or year-long commitment to build community relationships.

The UG, under the auspices of the Teaching, Learning, and Integration Committee (TLIC) has developed several avenues to service-learning: group service-learning projects, individual projects and individual activities.

Each SL endeavor must include preparation (including consultations with stakeholders where appropriate), service, and reflection on the service and learning that occurred. The TLIC assigned a minimum range of hours required for service (set at 15-20 hours). The hours threshold was established to ensure sufficiently meaningful engagement while recognizing students’ key responsibilities remain their academic studies.

Upon application and review, the TLIC designates student group activities as service-learning options. Sometimes these are activities designed specifically with recognized service-learning in mind. In other cases, existing student interest groups have designed service-learning options that participants can use to extend a volunteer activity into full service-learning. Some examples of our current approved group service learning projects are SWAM (which provides swimming lessons to children with disabilities), Jr. Medics (first aid workshops for elementary and middle-school students), and Altitude (mentoring for university students interested in a career in healthcare).

Students may also bring forward proposals for individual service-learning projects, typically in cooperation with a community-based agency. These are considered on a case-by-case basis applying the same criteria as for established group projects.

Individuals also have the option to pursue what the TLIC has designated as volunteer-based service learning. This option recognizes that not all community agencies’ needs fit our predominantly-project-based service-learning model.

Such organizations have a streamlined volunteer service system and any project that could be proposed by our medical students could be redundant to the agency’s mandate. The TLIC recognizes that medical students can meet the intended service and learning outcomes from working within these existing, established structures. For agencies that are pre-approved by the UGME, students may complete recognized service learning by following a non-project path.

For this non-project (activity) path, the TLIC has students complete different required preparation (typically research on the cooperating agency and/or the community need that is being met). Examples of approved settings for this type of SL include working at Martha’s Table and Pathways to Education’s tutoring programs. Students can bring forward suggested agency programs for approval for this path.

For any of these SL avenues, students are expected to initiate contact with the organizations themselves, although from time-to-time, the TLIC may work directly with an agency to set up pilot service-learning projects (such as the previous Loving Spoonful project). When these opportunities are available, students are informed through the AS and Class Presidents’ emails.

For more information on recognized service-learning options, feel free to email me at theresa.suart@queensu.ca