Austin Mattox '11

Before enrolling in Dr. Deborah Gold’s Death and Dying course, I separated community service and academic learning into two distinct categories… The service-learning approach of Dr. Gold’s course was an eye-opening experience that blended the intricacies of vibrant classroom debates with the excitement of engaging the local community.

I volunteered at Duke Children’s hospital as part of my service-learning in Dr. Gold’s class and have continued to do so over my time at Duke… I [also] facilitated student-led discussion sections for Dr. Gold’s courses as part of the Learning through Experience, Action, Partnership, and Service (LEAPS) program.

The idea of pushing students into situations beyond their comfort zones, beyond what they would normally see in a typical classroom setting, is incredibly important. These initially uncomfortable situations force students to examine personal beliefs, morals, and apply classroom information practically.

Simultaneously, students understand that community service is not about allotting a few hours a week as a “feel-good” exercise but is instead a way to explore and learn about the people and places where they live. This service-learning approach builds leaders with a strong moral compass that encourages them to become responsible citizens in their present and future communities.