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Department of Women's StudiesService-Learning


What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with central course themes in ways that promote reflection, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Courses that promote service-learning combine the process of gaining knowledge with direct involvement in community-based research projects, usually centered on social justice. Through this intentional integration of university learning environments with community-based initiatives, service-learning shapes both students and communities in a variety of contexts. For example, our department works directly with the Hampton Roads refugee center to link global migration to the needs of new Americans transitioning from regions of severe conflict and environmental disasters. By engaging in service-learning at either the local or global level, students are able to greatly expand their academic inquiry, providing new ways of understanding and a journey of discovery not found in a traditional setting. At the same time, communities and organizations benefit from this extensive reciprocal connection with student researchers and professionals in training. In addition to local organizations, the Women's Studies department has designed graduate and undergraduate immersion courses in Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda, Haiti, and Nepal. We are committed to getting students into the world, whether that be right outside the university's perimeters or across the globe. Our Friends of Women's Studies organization directly supports the costs of service-learning for both undergraduate and graduate students.


Community Engagement Across Fields

Our students have worked directly with a range of projects, both locally and internationally, to take their knowledge into community initiatives that support social justice, equality, education, and empowerment.

As a service-learning class, we work with our local refugee organization to support the transition of new Americans from over 12 countries through language training, educational support, family mentorship, and employment preparation.

Our community research has reached out to elders in Hampton Roads, to explore the critical links among women, aging, and care labor.

In South Africa and Rwanda, students who joined our service-learning courses worked directly with migrant populations through organizational affiliates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For example, alongside colleagues in Cape Town's Agency for Refugee Education and Service Advocacy (ARESTA), our graduate, Dr. Erika Frydenlund, published this study of the citizenship policy protections for the unborn children of refugees who entered South Africa in a issue of Buwa!.

In Hampton Roads, we connect students to local organizations and initiatives, including the YWCA, Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, For Kids, Access AIDS, and Girls on the Run. Throughout our student, faculty, and Friends of Women's Studies circles, we continue to connect learning within listening and promoting the livelihoods of our wider communities.


See Our Teaching in Action



Refugee Studies Research: Learning by helping

Refugee Studies Research, originated with two questions: How might ODU students help refugees in Hampton Roads — and could that experience deepen their own education?

Ruth Osorio, Assistant Professor in ODU's Women’s Studies Department

ODU Students Create Online Map that Highlights Virginia Women’s STEM Contributions

A group of Old Dominion University students has collaborated to map Virginia's women in STEM, creating an online resource to track the commonwealth's impacts.




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