AQIP Category Two

Accomplishing Other Distinctive Objectives

2C1 Explicit additional institutional objectives

University of Saint Mary 's (USM) commitment to service to one's neighbor is a distinctive objective, derived from and informed by the Mission of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth [SCL] (see Organizational Overview O-1).

2C2 Ensure objectives align with mission, vision, and philosophy

Service to one's neighbor is a value and a context for the University's mission statement. It speaks to a respect for “diverse backgrounds” including service to persons near and far. Service helps a student realize his or her “God-given potential.” Service anchors “value-centered lives and careers,” that require a holistic educational experience. Service inspires both individual dispositions toward helping others and habituates responsible work ethics and citizenship. Finally, service contributes “to the well being of our global society” through its focus upon the common good. Indeed, service is constitutive of the University's core values of community, respect, justice, and excellence. Service means working with and for others in community “at the fullest points of their needs . . . as one of the great acts of Charity.” (SCL constitution link) . It also assumes a respect and reverence for the rights and needs of others. Service is connected to just action in serving others. Finally, the University believes that an excellent Catholic education must possess a service orientation.

2C3 Other objectives support or complement processes and systems

This service objective is explicit and implicit in the University's processes and systems, and relates to every AQIP category. The following examples are illustrative, not exhaustive.

Helping Students Learn—AQIP Category 1. Service is integrally connected to Helping Students Learn. The University offers service learning courses with specific outcomes as well as a Senior Applied Learning Experience that focuses on human rights, social justice, and poverty. In USM's curricula, there are four required Idea Seminars with a focus on global interdependence and a Cultural Studies general education requirement. Every year, the Starr Global Studies Institute promotes speakers and events, such as a high school human rights conference, that call attention to issues of peace and social justice.

Understanding Students' and Stakeholders' Needs—AQIP Category 3. In terms of understanding students and other stakeholder needs, USM features a service orientation for student organizations and athletics. This service objective is realized in different ways. Examples include: participation in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Champions of Character program, the assistance students provide to the local community and non-profit organizations, special partnerships such as EPA Waterlink Grant, New Orleans Catholic Charities, Campus ministry service trips, alternative break service trips, and internships in service organizations.

Valuing People—AQIP Category 4. USM gives evidence of valuing people through service-oriented activities for faculty, staff, and administrators. They regularly participate in campus-wide clean up and planting on Earth Day and participate in the “Into the Streets” freshman orientation initiative. This event builds student, faculty, staff, and administrative relationships of collaboration and service. Service requirements for faculty and staff pertaining to promotion and tenure require evidence in faculty portfolios. In support of ongoing service, the University has a Mission Council that regularly recognizes and honors faculty and staff contributions of “service to the USM community.”

Leading and Communicating—AQIP Category 5. Service is a key element of leadership and a value that is consistently communicated throughout the USM community. Institutional catalogues and publications identify and promote explicit and shared values regarding ethics, equity, social responsibility, community service, and involvement. As noted above, the Mission Council is a major instrument of leadership and communication regarding service and education. Faculty and staff participate in semester-long orientations that include the mission and service component as well as the student INTRO orientation to service. USM also publishes a service learning newsletter, INSPIRE, that highlights service oriented activities throughout the University community.

Supporting Institutional Operations—AQIP Category 6. Service is deeply embedded in supporting institutional operations. The Administrative Council supports service activity by encouragement, recognition and example. Campus ministry cooperation and coordination with service learning and alternative semester break trips greatly facilitates University operations. The Service Learning Office (SLO) coordinates an array of institutional operations from freshmen orientation to advanced service opportunities and service learning coordination with external partners. The Registrar and Information Services provide consultative support for the future goal of service learning transcripts. Custodial services and the Physical Plant Manager provide ongoing support for environmental activities such as campus-wide recycling, clean-up, and campus events.

Measuring Effectiveness— AQIP Category 7. The University measures effectiveness of service through state and national comparisons through Campus Compact. Evidence of meeting this objective is seen in the national recognition USM received for service learning in 2006. Moreover, course syllabi outcomes in service learning align with nationally recognized best practices and University Learning Outcomes. Service learning course evaluations measure effectiveness and general service learning evaluations taken by the faculty. Rank and tenure applications also provide evidence of faculty service.

Planning Continuous Improvement—AQIP Category 8. The distinctive objective of service informs structures for continuous improvement.. The Student Learning Advisory Council makes regular recommendations to the Academic Affairs Committee regarding the service learning requirement. The service/service learning advisory committee meets regularly to discuss and plan ongoing curricular and service opportunities. Service is embedded in the Mission of the University of Saint Mary , and that informs any ongoing improvement activity and business plan.

Building Collaborative Relationships—AQIP Category 9. Service guides and defines many collaborative relationships undertaken by the University. Numerous partnerships exist between USM and local and state organizations and service learning courses. The University is a member of the local Human Relations Council, Kansas Campus Compact, and AmeriCorps/VISTA. For more detail, see Category 9.

2P1 Determining other distinctive objectives

The faculty re-affirmed their commitment to service during the Comprehensive Curricular Initiative (CCI) process because of its direct alignment with applied liberal arts and critical reflection, central features of the University learning outcomes. Faculty, staff, and administrators uphold the mission of the University and service to others is central to living out the mission. Through the strategic planning process, service was a guiding mandate. The Administrative Council formalized the commitments of faculty and staff by adopting service to others as a USM distinctive objective.

2P2 Communication of expectations regarding objectives

Embedded in mission, values, and sponsorship, a commitment to service defines much about the culture of USM. Specific examples for communicating expectations are as follows:

Contracts specifically state that faculty members agree “to support and further the objective and mission of the University, and to assist and cooperate with the University in the administration of its policies.” Regarding service expectations, the Faculty Handbook states, “Faculty members should make their unique expertise available to others in their community and profession.”

The USM Service Learning Office reinforces and communicates expectations for service learning through a Faculty Guide to Academic Service Learning, and a Service Learning Vision Statement of the Service/Service Learning Committee which comprises faculty and staff. The Guide to Academic Service Learning features content such as:

  • What is Academic Service Learning?
  • Why do Service Learning?
  • Principles of Good Practice
  • Responsibilities
  • Service Learning Models
  • Course Development
  • Formal Reflection
  • Challenges
  • Assessment
  • Procedures
  • Sources
  • Questions for Reflection
  • Resources

Members of the Service Learning staff speak at Faculty Senate meetings, encouraging faculty to develop service learning courses. Faculty who have taught these courses, along with student participants, community participants, and invited service learning speakers, discuss their experiences with service learning. A Service Learning Fair sponsored by the SLO enhances communication of expectations by demonstrating the power of results. SLO staff are available to faculty for assistance in planning courses and assume most of the responsibility for coordinating with partners. SLO staff make appointments with the departments to foster interest in service learning courses, and work with the Academic Affairs Committee in follow-through.

The USM Service Learning Guide, the Service Learning Center Newsletter, and Service Learning website communicate ongoing activity and information about service learning to the University community.

2P3 Determine faculty and staff needs

Faculty and staff needs regarding the objectives of service are in part measured by a faculty questionnaire distributed by the Service Learning Office. A faculty member serves as a liaison with the faculty. The University's VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America ) visits with faculty, as well. Recently, USM joined a consortium of Kansas City area colleges and universities dedicated to the advancement of service learning. It promises to be a valuable source of information, resources, and training.

2P4 Objectives assessed and reviewed

Objectives related to service are assessed and reviewed at USM in different ways.

•  Faculty members provide evidence of community, professional, and University service through annual reports, evaluations, applications for rank and tenure, program development applications, and awards.

•  Staff provide evidence of service to the University community in annual reports and evaluations.

•  Students complete assignments and attitudinal surveys which reflect the impact on learning and dispositions.

2P5 Measures of accomplishing service

USM collects a variety of information on how service is accomplished. Faculty with service learning courses assess the impact of the service experience through student critical reflections which are presented in writing or orally. Service learning staff survey partnership agencies and ask them to evaluate the contributions to their agencies and the effectiveness of communication and coordination. Through the personnel evaluation system, annual reports, and rank and tenure process, staff and faculty report their service activities. The SLO also annually records the number of participating students, courses, hours, and community partners.

2R1 Results

The SLO officially opened in October 2004. Three years of data demonstrate involvement in areas of community partners, numbers of student, faculty, and staff participants, numbers of service hours accumulated, and the number of partnerships. See Table 2-1 and 2-2.

Table 2-1 Service Learning Courses *


Student Participants

Community Partners

Service Hours













* Data derived exclusively from service learning courses. It excludes practica, internships, and other service related partnerships or opportunities.

Table 2-2 Community Service Activities*


Student Participants

Community Partners

Service Hours













* Data include campus ministry alternative break trips and community service by athletics, etc.

Participation results indicate high levels of involvement in the first three years of the Service Learning emphasis. Variation in data occurred because the Campus Compact implementation plan shifted its emphasis to focused partnerships with poverty organizations, thus decreasing community partner members. The reduction from two to one VISTA volunteer can account for the slight decrease in participation in 2007-08.l

A Masters in Education research project undertaken by Service Learning VISTA Carroll Courchene measured the efficacy of service learning (SL) in civic attitudes at USM. Civic attitudes of USM students taking SL courses were compared with those students who had not taken SL courses. Courchene found that SL students had significantly higher positive civic attitudes than those students who did not participate. Of the students who had participated in SL courses, those who had taken three or more classes scored higher than those who had taken one or two. Those who had taken three or more SL classes and had participated in an alternative break service experience scored the highest.

As shown in Figure 2-1 and summarized by Courchene:

The study's main findings suggest that undergraduates who participate in service learning as compared to those who do not tend to have more positive civic attitudes in the areas of commitment to service, community involvement, personal efficacy, and concepts of citizenship and politics. In addition, service-learners are more likely to report plans for future civic and political action. This main effect was present above and beyond the effects of other factors such as gender, class year, and age--suggesting that participation in service learning activities at the undergraduate level may indeed have the potential to positively impact levels of civic engagement both before and after graduation.

Figure 2-1 Overall Means for Civic Attitudes of USM Service Learners and Non-Service Learners

2R2 Results comparison

Comparison with national organizations resulted in USM receiving a Presidential Honor Roll Recognition as part of Campus Compact's 20 th Anniversary celebration in Chicago in fall 2006. The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll was awarded to only 141 colleges out of 510 applicants. While comparative data for participation is not compiled, the honor recognizes the leadership, quality, and involvement of USM in service learning activities as compared with its peers.

2R3 Results strengthen institution and enhance relationships

The three year results of the work of the SLO in supporting service learning courses and Campus Ministry service projects reflect USM mission, curricula, pedagogy, and community relations in the following ways:

  • In terms of mission, service gives tangible evidence of commitment to mission by developing an enhanced sense of social responsibility to address injustices and inequities. Moreover, students are learning to recognize the dignity of each person's capacity to learn, relate, and better our diverse world.
  • In the curriculum, there are direct links between academic objectives of service performed that enhance the learning objectives of the class. Students are then required to connect theory with practice, meeting a University Learning Outcome.
  • Pedagogically, there is evidence of advocacy for active learning with field-based problem and problem-solving experiences. There is clear evidence of course design and teaching styles that again link theory to practice.
  • There is demonstrated growth and success in community relations. USM has developed relationships with fifty agencies and schools to be either active or interested community partners. Indeed, USM has received a proclamation of “ University of Saint Mary Service Learning Week ” by the mayor of Leavenworth.

2I1 Improve systems and processes

As a result of partnership as a Host Site with the Kansas Campus Compact and AmeriCorps/VISTA Project, USM is required to submit reports to these partner agencies twice a year over each three-year service learning project. Project reports include:

  • Goals, Activities, and Results of Each Objective
  • Outputs (Results with Performance Measures)
  • Targets, Description of Data Collection
Samples of these reports include:
KSCC Quarterly Reflection April 2008
KSCC Quarterly Report July 2008
Agency Evaluations 05-06

The reporting process provides USM with a system for evaluating accomplishments and identifying areas for improvement. This external accountability has helped USM establish benchmarks for success. SLO staff analyze annual results and provide status reports and recommendations for improvement at Faculty Senate, University Assembly, and Administrative Council.

2I2 Targets for improvement

In analyzing the results of the initial three years of the SL emphasis, USM staff have identified the need for a systematic approach for collecting information and focusing the objectives of service activities. While diversity in approaches remains important so that the mission of service can be manifest throughout the University and in various partnerships, the staff recognizes that a focal point for service can better mobilize the USM community. A focus on poverty can also maximize efforts so that a significant difference in the life of the community can be realized. Also, USM administration believe that the University's distinctiveness can become better known as a result. Consequently, the Administrative Council in conjunction with the SL faculty liaison and staff have established the following three year goals and objectives for the USM Service Learning Office and AmeriCorps/VISTA work plan.

Goal 1. Provide leadership and coordinate community service and/or service learning initiatives that address poverty by engaging college students and community partners in efforts to address critical rural/community development needs. The following are specific strategies toward these ends.

  • At least 3 faculty/SL courses to address this goal
  • Coordination of training, orientations, and reflection activities
  • On-going evaluation of each project
  • Six presentations each year to increase awareness of service learning as a pedagogy/philosophy
  • Guidelines maintained on how to address poverty through service learning

Goal 2. Promote and maintain community partnerships between USM and community organizations that address local poverty issues. This effort aims to raise public awareness of community needs and foster responsibility to address those needs. Specific steps include:

  • Establish and maintain a clearinghouse of at least twenty volunteer needs
  • Maintain communication with and conduct site visits to each member and partner
  • Establish a formal system at host sites to document and maintain records of referrals and service
  • Attend and participate in advisory board meetings

Goal 3. Coordinate community service opportunities that foster civic responsibility and active citizenship among students and volunteers. Examples include:

  • Assist in planning MLK Day projects and at least one other nationally recognized service day
  • Assist in planning and implementing at least three additional local community service projects

Goal 4. Recognize local efforts to address the needs of low-income communities. Specific steps include:

  • Build awareness of service learning and community service efforts
  • Obtain and document at least three recognitions of projects in the local media
  • Document and present results of SL projects to community and administrators at USM, and seek support for future efforts