Service Learning at NYU Creates a Positive Impact: Part 1

Academic rigor and community engagement converge in service-learning courses at NYU

Nathan Healy

 

Welcome to the first installment of a two-part series dedicated to service-learning classes at NYU. Here in part one, we focus on courses at the Silver School of Social Work. These two-credit courses help students from all majors graduate sooner and save on tuition—while strengthening their capacity as service-oriented global citizens.

A professor speaking to her class
Two students working together
Students at NYU engage in approximately 1.7 million hours of community service every year. In addition to service trips abroad and local community outreach, students across majors have the chance to serve their communities through service-learning classes. These for-credit courses are equal parts academic exploration and community-based involvement. If you’re interested in positively impacting the world while maximizing your academic opportunity, take a look at some of the service-learning courses you can experience when you study at NYU.

Service Learning With Immigrant Youth

NYU students travel to the Brooklyn International High School where they serve as mentors and academic coaches for high school students from around the world. While much of their service is dedicated to helping students learn English and understand assignments, they also provide a safe space for them to share their experiences, dreams, and concerns. Through these conversations and coursework focusing on immigration’s effects on adolescent development, NYU students gain a deeper understanding of the immigrant experience and how they can better support immigrant communities. “This class helped me assess my own privilege and better understand how it can impact my relationships with people I hope to serve,” says Nabila Basar, a rising senior. “Since I want to be a social worker, this type of experience was incredibly valuable and I know I’ll carry it with me in my future work.”

Service Learning Through Visits With Holocaust Survivors

“Students in this class see firsthand how people can rebuild their lives, and still laugh and rejoice, even after experiencing absolute terror,” says Professor Dina Rosenfeld. Bolstered by in-class discussions on the historical and psychosocial impacts of the Holocaust, students meet one-on-one with Holocaust survivors to build relationships through meaningful, thoughtful, and mutual conversations and serve as witnesses to their older friends’ lives and experiences. “My older friend Sonia and I would often talk about how hate, fear, and silence infiltrate so many aspects of our lives and about the connection between something as horrific as the Holocaust and the things happening in the world today,” says Emma Grace, a rising junior Global Liberal Studies major. “Neither of us know how to fix the world, but when she would put her hand on mine and say, ‘Maybe you and I will figure it out,’ I knew in some small way we were accomplishing something.”

Service Learning and Food Insecurity

Tens of millions of Americans struggle with hunger every day, and in this class, NYU students not only deepen their understanding of the social, political, and advocative aspects of food sovereignty and insecurity but also take action to help. For three to four hours every week, they volunteer at anti-hunger organizations across New York City, such as Hunger Free America, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, and the New York City Rescue Mission. They also take action in the classroom. “Last year students made sandwiches in class and delivered them to people on the street who seemed to need a meal,” says the course’s professor, Kara Dean-Assael. “This exercise asks students to be vulnerable and interact with someone who is struggling in their community.”

Service Learning: Alzheimer’s Disease: Sharing the Lived Experience

In partnership with NYU Langone Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program, students become “buddies” with a “mentor” with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Each week students and their mentors engage in activities they plan together. “My mentor and I both enjoy gardening, so I helped them care for their herb garden,” says rising senior Emma Mahler. “We also visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and took walks through Central Park.” In the classroom students learn from medical professionals and caregivers about the physiological and real-life effects of Alzheimer’s. “The class helped me understand that people with dementia are capable of so much,” says Emma. “What’s considered an ‘achievement’ or a ‘good day’ might change as the disease progresses, but if people have the support they need, they can still live a full, dignified life.”

A student raising her hand in a classroom

Additional Service-Learning Opportunities at NYU Silver

  • Answering the Call: Spirituality, Social Change, and Service Learning helps students develop an identity as service and spiritual leaders by asking them to mindfully examine the values and issues that are important to them. They explore those values and issues by partnering with the Islamic Center at NYU to feed the homeless or by volunteering at the New Sanctuary Coalition’s free law clinic and offering support for individuals facing legal issues related to immigration.
  • Service Learning Through Community Engagement gives students a chance to mentor and tutor middle schoolers on New York City’s Lower East Side. The course also focuses on topics such as individual development, social context, and social oppression.