Higher Education and Civic Engagement: Comparative Perspectives

McIlrath, Lorraine, Lyons, Ann and Munck, Ronaldo (2012) Higher Education and Civic Engagement: Comparative Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan. 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.. ISBN 0230340377


7 Volunteering within Higher Education—A Literature; Exploration and Case Study 125; Lorraine Tansey Lorraine Tansey’s chapter provides an overview of literature on student; volunteering and includes details of a particular student volunteer program—; that of ALIVE (A Learning Initiative and the Volunteering Experience) at; the National University of Ireland, Galway. She concentrates on literature; from the United States and the United Kingdom, outlining its key themes; and identifying the gaps that currently exist in this literature. According to; Tansey, there are three themes that characterize the research in the litera-; ture under review—themes relating to demographics, experiences, and the; impact of student volunteering. Demographic research attempts to quantify; the numbers involved in student volunteering. Research with an emphasis; on experiences documents what actually happens, in practice, when students; volunteer. The literature categorized under the theme of impact is subdi-; vided into how student volunteering impacts on three specific stakeholder; groups—those of students, community, and the system of higher education; itself. While it is possible to discern these themes in the literature, Tansey; argues that there is further investigation required across all three themes, with; a necessity for greater clarity regarding the conceptualization of volunteering; and acknowledgment that volunteerism is “a complex social phenomenon.”; Her documentation of the ALIVE program at the National University of; Ireland, Galway, sketches its history since it was established in 2005. She; describes how it has evolved over time, outlines its definition and the practice; of volunteering, and explains how it is formally recognized through a certifi-; cate of participation awarded by the president of the university in an annual; award ceremony; Lorraine McIlrath’s chapter addresses a topic that is relatively under; researched in the service learning literature: service learning from the; perspective of community partners. Her chapter includes a further underre-; searched dimension: service learning in the context of Ireland. She reports; on a case study of community partners carried out at the Community; Knowledge Initiative at the National University of Ireland, Galway. The; study involved face-to-face interviews with 12 community partners who; have been involved in service learning programs with the university, for a; minimum of three years. Community and voluntary organizations in the; areas of children, youth and education, disability, homelessness, the elderly,; women and domestic violence, and mental health participated in the study.; Issues regarding partnership, the burden of engagement, understandings of engagement, and community partners as educators emerged as the key themes; from the interviews. McIlrath is of the view that service learning is not a; universal, generic approach to teaching and learning and is therefore careful; to contextualize service learning in relation to the Irish experience, provid-; ing details of the current state of development regarding service learning in; Ireland and emphasizing the significance of the concept of “localization.”; She references the recent National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030; report (Department of Education and Skills 2011), affirming its inclusion; of community engagement as a core aspect of higher education in Ireland,; but cautions that “If service learning is to become a national strategic prior-; ity then it is crucial that we listen to the community and voluntary sector; and unfold this work though a strong relationship that has a shared vision; underpinned by mutual gain.

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