Sarah Finn: Service-Learning in FYW and AWD

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Sarah Finn first became involved in the Service-Learning program at Northeastern in the spring of 2014, and has consistently taught “S-L” courses since. Finn began planning her path towards service-learning courses while in graduate school where her doctoral research involved studying the interrelations between student activism and writing processes. Her wide breadth of public interests – political research, criminal justice, women’s issues, labor issues, and welfare reform – and her background in volunteer work, service, and social justice drew her to synthesizing service with the traditional classroom.

Finn has taught both First-Year Writing and Advanced Writing in the Disciplines as service-learning courses where her students participate in community groups and engage in those experiences by delving into research, field-work, data collection, and reflective writing. Finn describes the nature of the program as a “win-win” where volunteer groups receive resources, service, and new members while students learn, contribute, and find their own communities.

Community Collaborations

Professor Sarah Finn with Sean Donnelly, Elizabeth Trager, and Nuria Romero, who took First-Year Writing in Spring 2018 and joined “Behind the Smile,” an NU group dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide.

In one course, Finn’s students worked with young people in the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science and 826 Boston — a literacy program that offers resources in the arts and the written word to traditionally underserved youth in Boston.

More recently, Finn’s students have joined student activist groups at Northeastern for the duration of the course which inspires them to develop writing and research projects in response to the social justice issues they observe while participating with others on campus.

Service-Learning and Writing

Finn emphasizes the importance of the everyday ENGW student becoming aware and civically engaged. The program can be transformative for many participants.

On her part, Finn defines her greatest takeaway as the passionate work her students produce, and the working relationships she builds with her teaching assistants. Knowing that her students are making their education into the richest experience possible is a great reward.

Student Experiences

Below are several posts written by students reflecting on their experiences joining different groups on campus:

Visibility Campaigns

Service-learning students also have the opportunity to showcase their work at the Service-Learning Expo. Here are a few excerpts from brochures created by students in Sarah Finn’s courses featured at the expo:

Excerpt of a brochure by Gerard Valencia –
part of a visibility campaign for NUHRO, Northeastern’s Human Rights Organization

Excerpt of a brochure by Kelsey Dupont – part of a visibility campaign for the NU Feminist Student Organization (FSO).

Excerpt of a brochure by Nicolas Nefiodow – part of a visibility campaign for the Husky Environmental Action Team (NU HEAT).

Contributed by Olivia Clancy & Alison Stephens

Learn more about ENGW S-L courses

Published On: April 19, 2019