A three-day conference, “Service learning for rebuilding Ukraine,” started at Ukrainian Catholic University.

The conference is part of a large project which UCU is implementing as part of the European Union program Erasmus+ in cooperation with Sumy State University, Dnipro University of Technology, and the foreign universities KU Leuven (Belgium), Università LUMSA (Italy), and Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (Germany). In addition, important associations for service learning in Europe and the world are partners associated with the project: European Association of Service-Learning in Higher Education, CLAYSS, Uniservitate, the business world, and, most importantly, Ukrainian communities.

The Coordinator of the Erasmus+ Office in Ukraine, Svitlana Shytikova, greeted conference participants and emphasized that the program is a valuable instrument for reform in higher education: “In the whole world, universities are centers of best practices for community service. I believe that Ukrainian universities, working together, can also be transformed into such centers. We expect that our partnership and consortium will develop a model for other universities so that service learning becomes an integral part of each university in Ukraine for the further transformation of society and service.”

servU project participants sitting at a large U-shaped table

UCU Rector Taras Dobko spoke of the value of service learning and its influence on communities: “University education should give young people the feeling that they are part of a great mission, that they are called to change the world. This dedication to service can be formed not only with the help of volunteering in free time outside of studies but also with the help of academic disciplines with project activities embedded in the community and together with the community. This is one of the best ways to give students the understanding that their studies are relevant and meaningful in wartime.”

Taras Dobko, Sophia Opatska, and Inna Shkolnyk sitting at a table together

Taras Dobko, Sophia Opatska, and Inna Shkolnyk

The rector emphasized that the goal of the ServU project is to embed service learning into the DNA of academic programs and educational courses: “This will encourage our professors and teachers to participate in social changes, to think about the community as they develop their educational courses and planned results, to learn how to think from the point of view of their contribution to the life of the community and the influence of their academic work on improving it and the common good. We would like our universities to become resource centers to spread the experience and methodology of service learning to other educational institutions of our Ukraine, at the intermediate and the higher levels.”

Two servU participants sitting next to each other at a table

Sophia Opatska speaking

Sophia Opatska

Education and practicum for the good of the community are the main goals of service learning, which professors of Ukrainian Catholic University introduce into their educational courses. UCU began to use the service learning approach in 2019.

Sophia Opatska, UCU’s Vice-Rector for Strategic Development, said: “Service learning helps carry out the ‘third’ mission of universities – service to communities. As part of the project, we plan to determine the needs of six communities, in particular two in the Sumy and two in the Dnipropetrovsk regions. After this, the stage begins of searching for levels of addressing these needs through service learning courses. We also hope to develop a methodology which could be shared with other educational institutions and use it to teach professors and teachers in Ukraine. Our goal is to make our contribution to the development of Ukrainian communities and work together to rebuild Ukraine.”