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Released June 5, 2003


By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - Students of The University of Southern Mississippi are applying their classroom knowledge to situations outside the classroom through service learning, giving them valuable experiences that can benefit them after graduation.

Students in Southern Miss speech communication professor Dr. Richard Conville's graduate seminar in interpersonal communication used the skills they learned in class while volunteering at area agencies in the spring semester as part of the class' service- learning component.

"This is the first term that I have used service-learning methods in a graduate seminar," Conville said. "It has gone very well. Students come to class each week with a new set of experiences to share and use as concrete examples as we work our way through some challenging theories of interpersonal communication."

Students in the class worked in after-school programs in Hattiesburg, including the Family Network Partnership, the Hattiesburg Public School District's Family Education Center, and the Boys and Girls Club.

Jessica Wilson of Bay Springs, one of Conville's graduate students in the class, said her experience working with programs for at-risk youth at the Family Network Partnership convinced her that service learning should be an integral part of a student's academic experience.

"I think it should be fundamental," she said. "It totally changed my perspective - it's a humbling experience. Service learning helps you step outside your world and do something for someone else."

Wilson added, "The community gains as well as the student. It's a give-give situation."

Conville said that when service-learning works best, students learn both in the community and from the community. In the process, the quality of life is enhanced in the community by virtue of the students' work. "We seem to have been able to accomplish all three of these goals (in this class)," he said.

In addition, heads of the agencies where students volunteered came to the second class meeting to talk about ways they could use people like Conville's students to help them meet their goals.

Adam Todd of Senatobia, another graduate student in the class, described service learning as a way to take information from the classroom and apply it to real-life situations. "That's when true knowledge is gained. That's what the course is teaching us to do."

For more information about community service learning at Southern Miss, call the Office of Community Service Learning at (601) 266-5074.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM