Service Learning and Servant Leadership

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"We need scholars who not only skillfully explore the frontiers of knowledge, but also integrate ideas, connect thought to action, and inspire students." --Ernest L. Boyer

Outward Focus
How do we go about the task of connecting thought to action and inspiring our students? Kids today on all levels want a relevant and practical education. One approach is to point students inward, allowing them to discover how education will benefit them. Perhaps an even better approach is pointing them outwards, letting them see for themselves how their education can help them lead efforts to benefit others. To this end, we can help students become servant leaders, which is rooted in the theoretical base of servant leadership.

Background and Purpose
Its history in America can be traced to the Morrill Land Grant Acts, which opened up higher education to the masses, and helped to make it less elite and more practical. The term itself was coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf, who said,

The servant-leader is servant first . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. . . . The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served.

It can be a transformational process for students and their communities by empowering people, increasing awareness of community needs, and improving tolerance and understanding. In short, it teaches others that it is a privilege and honor to serve—strengthening an ethical commitment to serve the common good.
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