Welcome to the Service Learning and Civic Engagement Office!

The students, faculty, and staff of Grinnell College have long been committed to social responsibility. Grinnell was a center for abolitionist activity before and during the Civil War, and it later played a key role in the Social Gospel Reform Movement. During the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Grinnell alumni—including Harry Hopkins, Paul Appleby, and Hallie Flanagan—to positions in his “New Deal” administration.

Today’s Service Learning and Civic Engagement Program is an outgrowth of this history; the program operates under the assumption that quality civic engagement activities not only address the common good but also entail rigorous and transformational experiential learning opportunities. The activities and classes supported by the program allow students to become active participants in their learning while making a difference in the community. In addition to enhancing their overall sense of wellbeing and civic purpose, the activities deepen students’ understanding of what they are learning in the classroom and teach them related, transferrable professional skills. Moreover, the activities allow students to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of real-world problem solving and thus to understand the civic and professional value of a liberal arts education.

Whether you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, considering how you may make a difference in the local Grinnell area, seeking a community service work-study position, or looking for help with classes that have a community applied aspect to them, this office can help!


What is Service Learning?

Service learning is a structured learning experience that combines community-based projects with explicit learning objectives, preparation, and reflection. Students involved in both curricular and co-curricular service-learning experiences are expected not only to provide a service to the community but also to learn about the context in which the service is provided, the connection between the service and their academic coursework, the connection to their own personal values and social justice interests, and their roles as engaged citizens.

Service-learning at Grinnell

  • Responds to community-identified concerns or needs;
  • Is developed, implemented, and evaluated in collaboration with community partners;
  • Respects each partner’s capacity and factors affecting sustainability;
  • Seeks to be aware of power dynamics, builds upon each party’s strengths, and shares resources;
  • Attempts to balance the service that is provided with the reciprocal learning taking place;
  • Enhances the liberal arts experience by extending interdisciplinary learning beyond the classroom, thus allowing students to apply what they are learning to complex real-world situations;
  • Focuses on the development of civic and professional skills;
  • Provides opportunities for feedback, critical reflection, and personal development; and
  • Aims to help students and community members understand the civic and professional value of a liberal arts education.

If you are interested in learning more about some of our services and opportunities please contact Susan Leathem Sanning, Assistant Director of Service Learning and Engagement, at sannings[at]grinnell[dot]edu or 641-269-4827.

To see a list of local organizations with which members of the college community partner, please see our community partner list.