Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk

By James Berrigan, FCLC ’18

This post was written to reflect upon and promote the service learning seminar at Fordham University.

Doing a good deed is a reward within itself, but why is that? When Father McShane speaks about being “men and women for others,” what does it mean to be a responsible member of Fordham’s community? Yes, service and learning are good things in themselves, but in isolation they miss the bigger picture. As a Jesuit university, Fordham strives to build graduates who “go out and set the world on fire,” but how can they do so? One simple way is to participate in a service learning seminar.

Fordham’s service learning seminar is an opportunity for students to examine the work they do with a partner organization of the Dorothy Day Center. The available organizations run the gamut from after-school tutoring programs to housing court help agencies. The seminar leads students in a reflection on the causes of the problems addressed by their work. Students link the seminar to an academic course, and that professor serves as a mentor who guides students in two essays reflecting on their volunteer work. Catholic social justice teaching and the two feet of social justice – charity and activism – feature prominently in the seminar and students are challenged to reflect on how their work figures into that model. The seminar enables students to scrutinize the societal structures that create and perpetuate the problems that their volunteer organizations seek to address.

Most people would agree that volunteering is part of being a responsible member of society, but there is a disconnect between these sentiments and action. The service learning seminar is a convenient way students can volunteer in the community while learning how their work fits into the bigger picture of their roles in society. The seminar brings volunteers together to reflect, encourage, and support one another.

This seminar offers a fun, supportive environment in which students can analyze the societal problems their service organizations attempt to fix. It brings structure and focus to the endless volunteer opportunities New York City has to offer. So if any of this interests you, stop by the Dorothy Day Center and ask about the service learning seminar.

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