How can I use the skills from my major to help my community? This is an important question every student should ask themselves, and is, in fact, central to Purdue’s identity as a public land grant university dedicated to training and serving the residents of Indiana. It is also a way of measuring the quality of a student’s college education. The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) identifies service learning, or combining classroom instruction with community activities, as one of eleven “high impact” educational practices that provide undergraduate students with an engaging and meaningful educational experience. AACU says that “working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.”
Purdue English not only integrates service into its curriculum, but the university also offers students the unique opportunity to share their experiences through the Purdue Journal of Service Learning and International Engagement. The Journal enhances student learning by providing a platform for students to write about their service-based research projects. The process of becoming a published author in a peer-reviewed journal enhances a student’s writing abilities, and lets them collaborate with peers and mentors – all skills that will open doors to internships, jobs, and further education.
“The journal is an opportunity for students to reflect on and articulate the kinds of learning that they have experienced either in a specific service learning class or another community engagement opportunity, whether that’s domestic or international.” says Dr. Jenny Bay, Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Composition in the Purdue English Department, a community engagement scholar, and the Journal’s new editor. Prof. Bay’s strong belief in connecting students with community needs led her to incorporate service learning into her teaching. Through English 203, “Introduction to Research for Professional Writers,” she formed a long-term partnership with the Lafayette chapter of Food Finders.
The Purdue Journal of Service Learning accepts submissions from graduate and undergraduate students in all disciplines, but undergraduate research is the primary focus. Students are welcome to submit as individuals, or as part of a team.
Published articles fall into four categories:
- Student reflective essay: Reflection of the author(s) service or engagement experience, which includes a description of their project, what they learned, and the impact of their service (approximately 3,500 words).
- Research with reflection: A reflection of the author(s) service-focused scholarly research project supported by a literature review (approximately 3,500 words).
- Community partner snapshot: A description of a partner agency’s or organization’s mission, as well as suggestions for how students or members of the public can engage with them (under 1,000 words).
- Faculty profile: An overview of a Purdue faculty member’s use of service-learning projects in the classroom, and their personal commitment to community engagement (approximately 1,500 words).
Why should English majors submit to the Purdue Journal of Service Learning?
As one of only two peer-reviewed publications dedicated to Purdue undergraduate research, the Journal offers English majors the opportunity to demonstrate how their “soft skills,” such as strong communication, analysis, empathy, cultural sensitivity, and storytelling abilities, apply in real-world contexts. For instance, in the Journal’s 2017 issue, a graduate student investigated ways teachers can use storytelling to instruct English language learners. As an experiment, she instructed seventh graders in a local junior high school to write their own autobiographies and observed how the exercise benefitted their learning outcomes. In the Journal’s upcoming 2019 publication, an article will describe the ethnographic research undergraduate students in English 203 completed to help create programs for Lafayette’s new North End Community Center.
Prof. Bay says, “Having English majors use skills gained from the major to impact the local community is really important. I also think that employers really look highly on the fact that you have an example of your writing that has gone through peer review that has been published for people to read. To me, especially for English majors, this can only help your prospects.”
Peer review demonstrates that submissions have received feedback for revision from experts in the fields of community engagement and service learning. This seal of approval demonstrates that the author’s work has been rigorously vetted and deemed to be of high quality. Peer review is usually conducted by Purdue professors, but Professor Bay is working to recruit more reviewers from outside of campus. Diversifying the reviewers adds further rigor to the peer review process. It also gives authors the opportunity to network with various experts, and exposes them to a wider range of mentorship experiences, which further enhances their writing.
The Journal accepts submission on a rolling basis, but spring is the cutoff for annual publication in the fall. Graduating seniors are still welcome to apply, although their articles won’t be published until the next semester. Not every submission to the Journal will be accepted, but the application process is so simple that English majors have nothing to lose by applying. All that is required is an abstract of at least 250 words. If an abstract possesses the needed balance between community service and immersive learning, the editors will notify the author(s), and advise how to revise and craft the manuscript for incorporation into one of the four featured categories.
The Journal strongly encourages students to work with a mentor throughout the writing and publishing process. This mentor is usually the instructor of the author’s service-learning class, but the Journal is happy to assign a mentor if the author’s instructor is unavailable. Of course, the Purdue Writing Lab is always an available resource for writers, if needed.
Both Prof. Bay and Journal Coordinator, Weiran Ma, are “willing to work with anybody who wants to get feedback or develop ideas” as they work on their revisions. Prior to becoming Editor of the Purdue Journal of Service Learning this January, Prof. Bay served as a longtime member of its editorial board, and worked closely with Lindsey Payne, Purdue’s Director of Service Learning. Prof. Bay also won the 2018 university Service Learning Award from the Office of Engagement. Likewise, Weiran Ma has extensive experience working with service-learning journals. Together, Prof. Bay and Weiran Ma are a valuable resource for authors and prospective authors.
Before they graduate, most students participate in a service-learning class. Relatively few, however, will publish their experiences. Stand out from the thousands of other students; take your research to the next level and publish! The opportunity is here.