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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Reed College's SEEDS (Students for Education, Empowerment, and Direct Service) program recently received a grant to fund three years of a new program called Service Learning Afield (SLA). Designed to enhance Reed students' academic experiences, SLA provides students on summer vacation, study abroad, or on leave with grants, advice, and contacts to complete community service projects that are relevant to their academic interests and provide background material for Reed senior theses, existing courses, or independent study work. The funding for SLA is provided by a grant from the Western Region Campus Compact Consortium, a regional group of Campus Compact member schools. It was Campus Compact that provided money to start the SEEDS program in the late '80s.

The SLA program arose out of Reed's commitment to academically relevant community service. "We at SEEDS have a goal of making community service genuinely educational, to make sure it's thoughtful and purposeful and instructional and SLA is a way to provide some additional emphasis in that area because it's so explicitly tied to academic learning," said Allen Poole, Reed's community service coordinator.

So far Reed has awarded three $500 grants to students for service learning afield projects. The money can be used for plane tickets, materials, or any other personal expenses. Student projects, though they cannot be applied toward course credit, are carefully designed to correspond and contribute to students' academic interests. SLA grant recipients have included a pre-med student who did research on Alzheimer's patients in a convalescent hospital in Maine, a student interested in anthropology who is working in England for an organization fighting the practice of female genital mutilation in North Africa, and an economics major who will work with a microlending bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that provides loans to rural laborers wishing to start their own small businesses.

In addition to providing grants for student projects, SLA provides support for two innovative new Reed courses that incorporate intensive academic study with service to the community. In one course, economics students study the town of Stevenson, Washington, as it struggles to balance environmental concerns with its natural resource-based economy. The students, working under associate professor of economics Noelwah Netusil, study various environmental factors and economic indicators and compile reports of their findings. The students then present their recommendations to town officials. In another course currently being developed with the help of SLA, students working under professor of music David Schiff identify and define issues facing arts organizations, using experience they gain through internships in local arts programs.

The SEEDS web site can be found at