Graduation requirement lifted

By Julian Routh | News Editor

Students graduating between 2015 and 2018 will not be required to have a completed service learning course on their transcripts, University officials said this week.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Timothy Austin said he removed the requirement for three years so the school can reexamine and renovate the service-learning system.

“We are going to push the reset button,” Austin said. “We’re going to go back to the beginning and ask, what do really good service-learning courses look like?”

The change will affect anyone planning to graduate between Jan. 1, 2015 and Jan.1, 2018.

A service learning course, or community-engaged learning, combines a regular academic curriculum with practical experience in the community. Duquesne offers more than 40 of these classes, and works with more than 120 community partners.

During the three-year moratorium, students will still be allowed to take service learning courses. Starting in spring 2015, professors who previously taught one of these courses will not be required to offer a community-based component.

In March, Austin and the University’s Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research called in two national experts for an external program review. The experts, who spoke to more than 100 students and faculty members, recommended that Duquesne look at ways to enhance the program.

“[The experts] said, ‘you have a really good foundation here, but basically, you’re overextended. You’re trying to do too much. You don’t have enough of an infrastructure in place,’” Austin recalled.

Lina Dostilio, director of the University’s Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research, will work with an advisory board to find ways to expand and improve the system. She will report her recommendations to Austin.

The removal of the graduation requirement is “definitely not an end to service learning,” Dostilio said.

“I think there’s always a good reason to evaluate the progress of what you’re doing and how it can be strengthened,” Dostilio said. “It’s not surprising to me that we would take the necessary time to enhance those classes.”

Austin said he doesn’t anticipate it will take more than three years to finish the job.

“Sometimes a deadline is really good because it keeps you honest and moving,” Austin said. “I’m not willing to waiver. If we can’t do it in three years, shame on us.”