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Service Learning and Career Plans Research question one asked if taking a service learning class has an impact on a student’s willingness to work for a nonprofit organization. The correlations discussed as part of research question two will show that while there was no significant finding that supported the question about career plans specifically, there is a connection that exists between a positive service learning experience and a student’s openness to a career in a nonprofit organization, as well as their opinions of working for a nonprofit. As part of other research questions, additional correlations will be discussed and show that a positive service learning experience also gave students a heightened awareness of the importance of social responsibility and is connected to improving career related and personal skills.
Research question two asked if students who have taken a service learning class have a more favorable opinion of career opportunities in a nonprofit organization. Although t tests showed no significance, correlations showed that students felt that their service learning experience helped them consider working for a nonprofit if their supervisor thanked them (.292, p.05), if they were included in important meetings (.360, p.01), if they felt people at the organization were interested in helping them learn (.311, p.01), and if people at the organization took time to show them how to do certain tasks. Correlations also showed that students believe they would find it rewarding to work for a nonprofit if they were thanked by their supervisor (.284, p.05), if they were included in important meetings (.371, p.01), if they felt that the people at the organization were interested in helping them learn (.337, p.01) and if they felt that the people at the nonprofit appreciated the work they did (.290, p.05).
There were significant correlations that indicate students felt that their service learning experience helped them explore their career options if their supervisor gave them important tasks to do (.252, p.05), if their supervisor praised them for their work (.365, p.01), if their supervisor thanked them for their work (.366, p.01), if people at the organization treated them with respect (.276, p.05), if they were included in important meetings (.419, p.01), if they felt people at the organization were interested in helping them learn (.440, p.01), if people at the nonprofit took time to show them how to do certain tasks (.345, p.01) and if they believed that people at the nonprofit appreciated the work they did (.339, p.01).
196 Career Values, Personal Values and Social Responsibility Research question three asked if students who have taken a service learning class have different career values than students who have not. The t tests showed that although there was a difference between the two groups, it was not significant. Correlations were also analyzed for each group to point out where the potential similarities and differences were. For both groups, the correlation between creativity/initiative and expression of personal values was significant (.414, p.01 for the service learning group and.579, p.01 for the non-service learning group).
The correlations between high income potential and a stable and secure future were also significant for both groups (.473, p.01 for the service learning group and.571, p.01 for the non-service learning group). For the service learning group, the correlation between leadership potential and flexible work hours was significant (.451, p.01), but it was not for the nonservice learning group. However, the correlation between leadership and high income potential was significant (.407, p.01) for the non-service learning group, but it was not significant for the service learning group.
Students often choose career paths based on limited knowledge of themselves or the world of work, or often because of what their parents or friends suggest. Service learning can open new possibilities to such students, who can learn that their vocational calling in life may involve more than making money; it may involve serving others as well and working to better our society.
Research question four asked if students who have taken a service learning class have different personal values than students who have not. A significant difference was found as t (120) = 2.35, p.020. Out of the 11 statements listed under the personal values dimension, service learning students placed a significantly higher level of importance on working for social justice, helping others, promoting racial understanding, understanding other countries and cultures, becoming a leader and developing a meaningful philosophy of life than non-service learning students. Non service learning students identified “becoming wealthy” as personally important.
Research question five asked if students who have taken a service learning class have a different sense of giving back to society than students who did not. A significant difference was found between the groups as t (120) = 3.34, p.001. This study shows that regardless of whether a service learning student pursues a career in a nonprofit organization after graduation, he/she does see the importance of social responsibility and the value of nonprofit organizations to society more so than those who did not participate in a service learning course.
Finally, research question six examined if the quality of the service learning experience influenced the likelihood of a student to consider a career with a nonprofit organization. A regression was performed using the eight statements in the appreciation dimension on the survey as the independent variables and the question about the impact of the service learning experience on their career choice after graduation. The analysis showed that the quality of the service learning experience helped students in the service learning group consider a career in a nonprofit organization. In addition to the positive results of the regression, the correlations discussed as part of research question two in this chapter also show that students who had a positive service learning experience at a nonprofit organization and felt appreciated would be more likely to consider a career in nonprofits.
Implications for Practice 197 This study adds weight to the argument that participation in service learning supports many of the goals of higher education by enhancing the personal and cognitive development of undergraduate students who are planning a career in public relations. Service learning can enrich an individual’s existence and teaches students how to make a difference in the civic life of our communities by developing the right combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make a difference. Findings from previous research support the notion that service learning helps students become more involved in their communities, impacts a student’s belief in the importance of social justice and can build a value foundation. Whether students want to work for a publicly-held or privately-held for-profit company, they need to understand the importance of social responsibility. Pro bono work, volunteering or company sponsorship are just a few ways that companies recognize the long-term benefits of corporate social responsibility and demonstrate their community support.
In this study, students in each group were asked to indicate their level of agreement with five statements about giving back and the importance they place on nonprofit organizations and what they do for society. The service learning group agreed more strongly with all five statements: “I believe individuals have a responsibility to give back to society,” “I believe that nonprofit organizations work for the better good of society,” “People should donate time to nonprofit organizations that work to better society,” “People should donate money to nonprofit organizations that work to better society,” and “I believe more support is needed for nonprofit organizations that work to better society.” And although it is not a new conclusion, the findings of this study show that social responsibility and civic engagement should continue to be reinforced as a key concept in public relations and public relations education. It also shows us that service learning should continue to be used as a teaching strategy through which the future leaders of both businesses and nonprofit organizations can realize and reinforce their responsibility to society. For schools that do not offer service learning opportunities as part of their communication program, professors may want to explore how to include service learning in an effort to reinforce the values of the public relations profession and do their part to produce socially responsible, civically engaged graduates.
Leadership and career values.
As reported in the introduction of this study, nonprofit organizations are currently facing a crisis. Based on the correlations found in this study, non-profit organizations should begin to actively reach out to their local colleges’ public relations department. If the school does not have a service learning program, a nonprofit could find out if any classes offer discussions on nonprofit organizations as part of curriculum and then make a presentation to that class. Public relations professors and departments that do not have a service learning program should consider incorporating service learning into their curriculum. Not only has it been proven to be a positive pedagogical tool, but demonstrates to students the significance of these organizations to society, while teaching social responsibility and civic engagement.
Additionally this study showed that service learning can enhance skills learned in the classroom that are important to students after graduation. Students felt the work they did at the nonprofit organization helped them improve their skills, if their supervisor gave them important tasks to do (.386, p.01), praised them for their work (.562, p.01), thanked them for their work (.496, p.01), if the people at the organization treated them with respect (.525, p.01), if 198 they were included in important meetings (.460, p.01), if they felt the people at the organization were interested in helping them learn (.487, p.01), if the people at the nonprofit showed them how to do certain tasks (.338, p.01) and if they felt the nonprofit appreciated the work they did (.593, p.01). Students felt they improved their people skills during their service learning experience if their supervisor praised them for their work (.295, p.05), if the people at the organization treated them with respect (.442, p.01), if they were included in important meetings (.329, p.01), if they felt people at the organization were interested in helping them (.341, p.01), if people at the nonprofit showed them how to do certain tasks (.424, p.01) and if they felt the nonprofit appreciated the work they did (.485, p.01).
There can be little doubt that service learning can provide a win/win/win experience for students, partnered organizations and the future of the non-profit sector.
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200 Appendix A Respondent Demographics – Service Learning and Non-Service Learning