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Students who are engaged in the community are more likely to achieve greater academic success and persistence.

Student success

72% of undergraduate service-learning students graduate in five years or less.

37%  of undergraduate service-learning students are from underrepresented minority groups.

Passing at least one service-learning class correlates to significantly higher levels of faculty-student interaction and integrative learning.

4,000 VCU students take part in 250 service-learning classes across the disciplines.
Learn more about the impact of service learning.

Art for the Journey

UROP Fellowships

CEI funds undergraduate community-engaged research fellowship awards for research projects mentored by VCU faculty and carried out in collaboration with a community partner.

Learn more

Context for learning

It’s crucial for all medical students to have an understanding of how the social context of a patient’s life impacts their health. I think if you don’t go out and engage the community, it’s really hard to understand that.

Steve Crossman, M.D. 
Associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health

Succeed in service

  • Be punctual. Your supervisor and clients/participants at your service site are relying on your commitment. If you cannot meet your commitment for some extraordinary circumstance, please contact your site supervisor as soon as possible.
  • Be professional. Dress comfortably, neatly and appropriately. Remember, when you go to your site you are representing yourself, your class and the university. Refrain from cellphone use during your service hours and do not use the internet for non-work-related tasks.
  • Be flexible. No two days at your site will be the same. Be as productive as possible through both high and low times of activity.
  • Familiarize yourself with your service site. Acquaint yourself with your site’s mission statement and read carefully through your site’s website. What contributions do you hope to make? How is this experience related to your course content? Discuss these ideas with your site supervisor and course instructor.
  • Get acquainted with your service site supervisor. Know how to contact your site supervisor with questions or concerns and solicit their advice when needed. Keep their e-mail and phone number at hand.
  • Learn the rules, policies and procedures of your site. Ask your site supervisor and instructor for a copy of rules and policies (if none are provided to you) to avoid violating them out of ignorance. Protect yourself and the agency by becoming familiar with important rules and guidelines.
  • Be safe. Make sure that someone knows when you are going to your service site and how to reach you if needed. Let people know your schedule. Do not carry large amounts of cash or wear excessive jewelry that might attract attention. Park in well-lit areas and take extra precautions at night.
  • Familiarize yourself with the area. Know where phones, emergency exits, police stations, 24-hour stores, gas stations and staff offices are located.
  • When in doubt, ask for help. Your site supervisor understands the issues at your site, and you are encouraged to approach them with problems or questions. Your supervisor can assist you in determining the best way to respond in difficult or uncomfortable situations.
  • Work in pairs or groups as often as possible. It is always best to work in pairs or groups so that you are never alone with a client/participant without adequate supervision.
  • Trust your instincts and intuition. If you are feeling unsafe or uneasy about a situation, it is best to trust your instincts. You are not required to participate in any activity that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Maintain boundaries. Maintain a healthy emotional distance with clients/participants. Do not lend clients/participants money, give out your address or phone number, transport clients/participants in your personal vehicle or provide services that you are not trained to provide.
  • Expect the unexpected. Your service experiences will not always be completely predictable from week to week. This is why they are fun, but also why they can sometimes be confusing or frustrating. Try to stay flexible and learn from every situation, even the ones that appear at first to be challenging or unsuccessful.
  • Respect the privacy of all clients. Keep all confidential material (organizational files, diagnostics or personal stories) confidential.
  • Be respectful and accepting. Never accept or engage in any behavior that might be perceived as discriminating against an individual on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity.
  • Be open to learning everything that you can. The service component of your service-learning course is designed to enhance what you are learning in class through real-world experience. Keep an open mind and open perspective.
  • Be appropriate. You are in a work situation and are expected to treat your supervisor, co-workers and clients with courtesy, kindness and professionalism.


Service tips

Visit CEI's YouTube channel for videos on making the most of your service experiences.