Service Learning & Volunteering

The Department of Sociology and Criminology offers our students unique service learning opportunities with compelling experiences, among them:

  • providing literacy training at a state prison
  • tutoring students in Philadelphia schools 
  • working in community health clinics
  • assisting individuals on probation and parole

Service Learning courses are three-credit courses which connect course objectives with opportunities to meet the needs of people in underserved communities or work with agencies which advocate for the poor and or care for the environment. Integration of theoretical knowledge and experiential learning in the community provides a context for critical and constructive thinking and action that promotes the common good. 

According to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, service-learning is defined as "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."

Through the Office of Service Learning and courses such as Punishment & Society, taught by Dr. Jill McCorkel, students can participate in a service-learning experience by volunteering as literacy tutors to inmates at The State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania's largest maximum security prison.  Dr. McCorkel notes that each semester “without exception, all the students who have participated in the service learning course describe it as ‘transformative,’ ‘life changing,’ and ‘rewarding.’” 

In her testimonial below, Kristina Wotton - one of Dr. McCorkel’s former students and now a Criminal Justice graduate (class of 2012) - shares how her participation in the Prison Literacy Program influenced her:   

I volunteered as a tutor at Graterford in the Fall of my sophmore year and have been trying to go back ever since. My experience at Graterford has been paradigm shifting. I began the program with the presupposition that all inmates were violent, uneducated, and simply unwilling to be a productive part of society. Over the weeks, I realized that all of those preconceived notions were unfounded and false. The men in the Prison Literacy Program are respectful and hardworking; they want to turn their lives around and be better people and I am honored to have helped them on their way. The media and society have created this idea that all inmates are innately bad people who do not deserve to be part of the general public again.

My experience has helped me realize that it is possible for criminals to change into educated, respectful, and honest men who will one day be productive members of society. The Prison Literacy Program is an incredible program for both the inmates and the student tutors. The entire experience changed the way I think of the prison system and the people who are a part of it. It is an experience that I will carry with me into my career and the rest of my life.*

*originally published in the Spring 2011 edition of the Interactions newsletter

If you are interested in becoming a tutor at Graterford, contact Dr. Thomas Arvanites for more information.

Master Schedule (choose Service Learning as the subject)

To learn more about Service Learning, see the homepage of the Office of Service Learning

Or go to the Office of Service Learning on the 3rd floor of SAC (610.519.4602)
Director: Noreen Cameron
 (SAC 386)
Administrative Assistant: Mary Aiello (SAC 385)

Service Learning FAQ

Villanova University also offers a myriad of volunteer opportunities.

Local Volunteer Opportunties (provided by Campus Ministry)

Service Break Experiences (provided by Campus Ministry)

Mackenzie Niness reflects on her experience as a literacy tutor at Graterford Prison.