Service Learning as an Alternative Academic Trend in U. S. Higher Education from the late-1960s to the mid-1980s: A Case Study from Michigan State University

Anna Wellner


The article sheds light on the way in which alternative academic trends that originated alongside student protests in the late-1960s and early-1970s influenced higher education in the U. S. It focuses on a case study from Michigan State University (MSU), analysing the initiation and implementation process of service learning, an alternative trend in education that combined community service with academic education, from the late-1960s to the mid-1980s. It examines the roles different stakeholders at the local level (i. e., students, faculty, and administrators) as well as others on the national level (i. e., politicians and education commissioners) played in influencing that process. The case of service learning at MSU exemplifies that an alternative trend, one introduced from the bottom up, could become a standard academic practice, yet one that was not implemented without numerous adjustments and compromises. This article will demonstrate the pedagogical method’s execution and how its educational goals changed according to common standards in higher education that were usually established from the top down.


service learning; alternative academic trend; student protest; U. S. higher education; university administration

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