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Links between community and campus, social action and research have always
been vital to pedagogy and curriculum development in women's studies.

Growing from the resurgent women's movement, still-expanding numbers of
women's studies courses and programs in postsecondary education maintain
connection to this community-based heritage. The integration of experience
and theory is made visible to women's studies students, for example, when
courses and program events include presentations by, and participation of,
community women. Many women's studies courses assign interviews with family
members or research about activists/professionals in related fields. Other
courses and program activities may involve individual or collective action
projects responsive to women's needs or interests on campus and in the

Experiential learning courses make explicit these connections. Women's
studies internships, field placements and practica can play a critical role
in the feminist curriculum. They offer leadership skills development; they
structure opportunities for students to explore values and vocational options
while working on local or national "women's issues" or critically examining
sexist practices and attitudes within patriarchical organizations. The
service learning component of a women's studies program can, as well, provide
a framework for ongoing advocacy activities.

The National Women's Studies Association obtained support from The Fund for
the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in September, 1979, to assess
current practice and program needs in this area of women's studies
curriculum, and to make available materials for course development. A further
objective of the NWSA Project to Improve Service Learning in Women's Studies
was to link feminist educators who teach, supervise and administer programs
for fieldwork students with each other and with other networks of
experiential learning.

The Project sponsored a weeklong residential seminar in March, 1980, that
brought together faculty and program administrators experienced in women's
studies service learning. Participants in that Women's Studies Service
Learning Institute, and Institute consultants, represented a spectrum of
institutional settings for experiences of and perspectives on women's studies
service learning. Institute participants and consultants comprise the
majority of contributors to this Handbook; additionally, we sought and
included articles, case studies and materials from other faculty,
administrators, students and community workers.

The Women's Studies Service Learning Handbook thus provides many
approaches to women's studies service learning and an overview of the
dynamics of field experience education from a feminist perspective.

The first three essays, "Reflections and Formulations," deal with
experiential education generally, service learning more specifically, and
women's studies service learning most particularly--the latter through the
experience of one participant in the Women's Studies Service Learning
Institute. This section introduces service learning issues, rationales and
vocabulary that will recur throughout the volume.

"Multiple Models" is a series of case studies of institutional adaptations of
women's studies service learning, primarily presented from the point of view
of faculty and program administrators. We have tried to emphasize, through
the range of models here, that experiential courses in women's studies can be
designed and offered within various postsecondary educational settings, and
in relation to the needs of diverse student populations and community

"Various Views" of women's studies service learning features the perspectives
of students and agency supervisors as well as faculty and administrators.
These essays and related materials remind that there are many ways to
consider the practicum: in terms of student response, community involvement
and external evaluations.

The "Resources" section of the Handbook contains additional tools and
materials for establishing or developing service learning courses. More
information about particular courses or resources can be requested from the
programs and organizations indicated; readers should note that, over time,
some of these teaching materials will have been revised as the shape and
dimensions of women's studies and service learning continue to develop.

During its second year of activities, the Project contributed to that
development through sponsorship of seven regional workshops on women's
studies service learning. Just as the national and regional presence of the
National Women's Studies Association has helped empower academic feminists
creating or sustaining women's studies courses and programs, the presence of
an NWSA/FIPSE Project to Improve Service Learning in Women's Studies made
this area of curriculum development visible to its diverse participants and
lent credibility and support to internship courses still in "shaky" status
within their institutions.

Within a similar general format, these several 1980-81 regional workshops
naturally differed somewhat in their "flavor," and in the problems and issues
upon which the group attending chose to focus. Some factors were common,
however, both building upon and extending the Project's cumulative assessment
of practice and possibilities, need and problems in women's studies service

At most workshops, a panel of students and supervisors generated invigorating
discussion of the joys and stresses of field placement from the agency
perspective and from the point of view of working interns. In addition to
these invited presenters, the workshop groups overall included not only
faculty and administrators formally affiliated with women's studies programs,
but also academic and community-based feminist educators affiliated with
women's centers, re-entry programs et al. and with programs in social work,
the ministry, psychology, criminal justice, library science, etc., that have
traditionally placed and accepted students in work/learning courses.

While the Project, and this Handbook, were shaped with the experience of
women's studies programs in mind, we have been concerned to facilitate closer
identification and productive exchange between these establishing service
learning courses in women's studies and feminists in such applied, often
(numerically) female-dominated fields (*). At all the regional workshops,
participants were enthusiastic about this opportunity to concentrate on a
feminist perspective for experiential learning, and to share strategies and
suggestions with each other and with Project staff. On several occasions, the
group made plans to continue, within their regional structure or at the next
regional conference. We also expect dialogue in this area will be maintained
through the networks of women's studies program administrators.

The workshops highlighted the persistent and persisting need of women's
studies programs for institutional resources and administrative support for
their service learning curriculum development, an issue addressed only by
implication in this Handbook. Many of the programs now offering service
learning courses do so only through extra, often unpaid efforts of an
overworked director, graduate student or part-time faculty member,
hardpressed to coordinate its activities and outreach on and off campus, as
well as to advise, supervise and teach. We must urge that, as women's studies
service learning courses continue to be developed, greater institutional
support--even in these hard times--be forthcoming; we would expect that, as
well, programs will seek and find creative, collaborative structures on and
off campus, to support such development.

We would hope that the work of the Project, and this Handbook, will prove
useful to the advancement of feminist education, in the classroom and in the
community. The NWSA Project to Improve Service Learning in Women's Studies
will end, but not conclude, with the completion of activities outlined in our
FIPSE grant, August, 1981. After, the NWSA National Office will continue to
collect materials in women's studies service learning, to facilitate network
linkages and to coordinate national and regional service learning activities.
While we cannot, at this time, promise to continue subsidized workshops and
conference sessions, we will be able to suggest and refer to consultants,
workshop leaders and presenters from both national and regional pools.

We urge you to return the Reader Response Form included in this Handbook, and
to share other responses to the work of the Project. The Women's Studies
Service Learning Handbook will continue to be available as long as supplies
last, by which time it will be possible to consider a second printing or a
revised, expanded second edition.

                                      Jerilyn Fisher         Elaine Reuben
                                               College Park, 1981


(*) The postsecondary focus of The Project to Improve Service Learning
precluded direct attention to related curriculum development in public school
settings. The National Center for Service Learning, cited in the "Resources"
section, does offer workshops and materials for secondary school educators.
Some women's studies programs now work with public schools as settings for
service learning placements.