Service Learning projects help open doors to students for 20 years

Students participate in service learning projects that bring a lasting impact

More stories from Lauren Kritter



Hamer and the other Community Connection team members pose outside of Marshfield Clinic.

For the past 20 years, UW Eau Claire has had a graduation requirement that not many universities hold.

Service Learning was implemented at the university in 1995 to get college-aged individuals more engaged with the community around them and around the world.

From working with kids at the Tiny Tots Children’s Museum to “adopting a grandparent” at Heritage Court, the volunteer work students can partake in is limitless.

Since the implementation, Benita Wagner, the service-learning coordinator at Eau Claire, has students getting involved in projects through an organization that sparks a passion in them. Wagner said because service-learning is so broad, students can do unique customized projects to fit their interests and possibly put them on the right career path.

“The sky is the limit with service-learning projects,” Wagner said. “Find an organization, find your passion and go with it.”

Anna Hamer, a senior psychology student, has had a lot of personal growth come from her service-learning project.

Hamer originally started out as the volunteer coordinator at Marshfield Clinic. She was responsible for recruiting people to volunteer for the Community Connections team.

The Community Connections team at Marshfield Clinic helps patients connect to resources that assist in the aid of basic needs.

Hamer later decided that since she was spending all of this time helping recruit volunteers she should go ahead and work for the team as well.

Working for the team quickly had a big impact on her, Hamer said. She was in between switching majors and trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.

“It really made me want to give back more,” Hamer said. “I became more aware of how many different ways poverty impacts people.”

As her time with the team continued, Hamer said she became aware of how many other students wanted to be part of something like this. Hamer said it was when she and her friend created their student organization, Community Care Allies.

This student organization does what the Community Connections team does but expands it to more than just Marshfield Clinic patients. Hamer said it allows more of the community to be involved and get help if needed.

Senior business administration major Aaron Anderson said he expanded his horizons and traveled to Portland Oregon to complete his service learning project.

As part of the Environmental Studies Sustainable Cities class he was in at the time, the trip to Portland was offered to students who wanted to further implement elements from class.

“Portland was a great city to learn and involve myself in because of its community involvement,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the city opened his eyes to the world which, until that time, had remained unseen to him.

While there, the group of students volunteered with low-income citizens as well as with Portland State University (Ore.) representatives on increasing civic decision efficiency.

“We had to apply our sensitivity training we were given in class because we were working with such a diverse group of people,” Anderson said.

Because he hopes to have a future involving the studies of sustainability and because Portland is considered a sustainable hub, Anderson said there was no better place for him to visit if he wishes to continue in the path of his personal social responsibility of creating a more sustainable world.

Because of the lasting impact many students leave with after completing their projects, Wagner said there are only beneficial outcomes to getting a head start on the service-learning requirement early in a student’s college career.