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Michigan Alliance for Rural Service Learning (MARSL)

English Instructor Maggie Tatum noticed the rural communities around Kirtland Community College were losing their sense of history. Life stories were lost with the passing of each individual in this gradually aging area. Realizing the need to keep the history, memories and stories alive for future generations Maggie implemented a service learning program in her English Composition class. Her students visited a local retirement home, transcribed the oral history of the residents, and published the results. Between the interviews and the finished publication a few of these individuals had expired. It was through Maggie’s foresight that students learned the important contributions of elderly individuals and the need to preserve their life stories.

Through Maggie’s example we see Service Learning as a teaching model that integrates academic learning and relevant community service. It is a model that enhances what is taught by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community, helping also to foster a sense of caring for others.

Post secondary institutions are under increased pressure to engage students in public service. Unfortunately, most service learning programs have been developed for urban settings. Rural post secondary institutions face unique challenges that require innovative solutions. To address these special challenges, in the spring of 2002 representatives from Michigan Campus Compact, Central Michigan University and Kirtland Community College created The Michigan Alliance for Rural Service Learning (MARSL). MARSL will bring together rural post-secondary institutions and provide faculty with resources and guidance to assist in data collection, analysis, and publication of research with respect to rural service learning. MARSL and the American Association of Community Colleges co-sponsored a workshop for rural community colleges at Kirtland Community College in April of 2003.

The goals of the Michigan Alliance for Rural Service Learning include:

  • Identify rural institutions interested in providing service learning opportunities.
  • Provide resources, networking opportunities, and models of best practice in rural service learning.
  • Develop data collection methods for institutional assessment with respect to service learning.
  • Expand professional development opportunities in service learning.

At this time, MARSL is seeking liaisons from rural post secondary institutions in Northern Michigan to serve as initial points of contact. Please direct inquiries or willingness to serve as a liaison to: Julie Lavender, Vice-President of Instructional Services, Kirtland Community College, 10775 North St. Helen Road, Roscommon, MI. 48653. You may also contact him by phone (989-275-5000 Ext. 298) or by e-mail (