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Service Learning In The College Of Engineering At Villanova University

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Learning by Doing

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1060.1 - 15.1060.16



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Paper Authors


James O'Brien Villanova University

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Professor Jim O’Brien is a tenured Faculty member in the College of Engineering of Villanova University. At Villanova he has won numerous awards for teaching including the Lindback Award, the Farrell Award, and the Engineering Teacher of the Year Award. He has served as the Director of the Computer Aided Engineering Center, Director of Villanova PRIME Program (engineering community outreach), and Chairman of many department and college committees. His areas of specialization are in Hydraulics and Hydrology, Water Resources Management, Computer Aided Design, Engineering Education, and Service Learning. Since 1992 he has been working with students on international Service Learning projects.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Service Learning in the College of Engineering Villanova University


It is important for students to participate in community service and to develop an awareness of the impact they can have on society. When people work on service projects they usually learn a great deal; however, this paper specifically discusses Service Learning defined as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities”. (1) Learning “civic responsibility” and “strengthening communities” are both desirable outcomes of engineering education. The emphasis of this paper is on Service Learning as it applies to engineering education and engineering students.

This paper provides a brief history of service and service learning at Villanova University. It discusses a rationale for service learning and then describes service learning in the College of Engineering. Some typical projects are described. Also discussed is how Service Learning has impacted the education of our students.

History of Service Learning at Villanova University

Significant opportunities and encouragement for student participation in volunteer activities are provided by the university. Each year a voluntary “Day of Service” is sponsored in which over 3000 students and over 500 faculty, staff, and alumni participate. These students account for one- half of the undergraduate student body of the university. About two thousand students participate in each of three other yearly service events held on campus. Approximately three-hundred undergraduate students volunteer weekly working in locations within a fifty mile radius of the university. Additionally every year approximately 900 undergraduate students go on service trips lasting usually from one to three weeks. These students travel to local, national, or international locations. Most of these trips are not focused solely on engineering although many have engineering related components and many engineers participate in these activities. Appendix A shows a summary of some of the ongoing Community Service/Service Learning projects. (2)

At least since 1969 the College of Engineering has had students working with community organizations to solve local problems. In 1992 the Engineering College started sponsoring one week to one month long international service trips focused solely on engineering related projects. These trips are supervised by faculty members with the help of engineering alumni. The first trip was to Wacuco, Panama. Since then, there have been engineering service trips to places such as Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Kenya, Peru, Thailand, Philippines, Florida and Louisiana.

Rationale for Service Learning

As stated in the University’s Mission Statement, students and faculty have a responsibility to “better the human condition”. (3) It is a goal of the university to inculcate in the students a belief

O'Brien, J. (2010, June), Service Learning In The College Of Engineering At Villanova University Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16517

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