Nicholls receives service-learning grant

THIBODAUX – The University of Louisiana System awarded $14,784 to Nicholls State University on Jan. 24 as part of a multi-university program to advance student service-learning. The grant will fund two projects – an $11,319 building renovation and a $3,465 environmental initiative.

The first project involves the historical preservation and physical restoration of Little Zion/St. Luke’s Baptist Church, an abandoned, plantation-era black church in rural Chackbay. Dr. James Butler, associate professor of history and social sciences, will direct the collaborative effort of Nicholls students, members of the Lafourche Heritage Society and representatives of the architectural department of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The second project involves environmental cleanup at Grand Isle State Park. Dr. Allyse Ferrara, assistant professor of biological and agricultural sciences, will direct the removal of litter and marine debris from beaches and dune areas. Participants include Nicholls students, the Nature Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, AmeriCorps, Grand Isle State Park and the Grand Isle community.

Service-learning projects such as these provide numerous benefits to students. According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, student participation in service-learning improves leadership ability, grades, retention, degree aspirations, critical thinking skills and commitment to helping others. Furthermore, research shows at least 50 percent of students who engage in service-learning during college will continue volunteering after they graduate.

Dr. Sally Clausen, president of the University of Louisiana System, said higher education would do well to embrace this pedagogy.

“The result is an improved society and a better educated student. We hope these combined experiences will prepare students to make a better living for themselves and a better life for others.”

The Jan. 24 award was made possible by a three-year, $1.2 million grant to the University of Louisiana System from the Learn and Serve America division of the Corporation for National and Community Service.