Service Learning/Global Service Learning

Global and Service Learning

The Graduate Occupational Therapy program supports global and service learning. Each year, there are three global service learning trips during which students complete their Capstone project and several service learning assignments within specific courses. The overall purpose of these global and service learning experiences is to develop students’ understanding of cultural competence, and occupational and social justice. The global service learning trips add a unique dimension of interprofessional collaboration in real-life contexts with one or more professions including physical therapy, nursing, speech-language pathology, physician assistant studies, and social work.

Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, La Plant, South Dakota

Occupational Therapy student playing a game with a childPatterns of transgenerational trauma among the Lakota have resulted in persistent poverty, unemployment, and severe physical and mental health problems. Decades of subjugation to systematic killings, sterilization, starvation, relocation, internment, and the introduction of new diseases resulted in over 100 million Native American deaths, and the destruction of families and culture. A community with this history requires an integrated, interprofessional commitment. An interprofessional team of occupational therapy, nursing, and social work students and faculty travel and live on the reservation for a week each year. The IP team collaborated with Simply Smiles, a non-governmental partner who have an established and trusting presence on the reservation. The faculty team are working with Simply Smiles to move the trip to October to allow access to the public school and new integrated health clinic to work out actions plan to improve health education and access to existing health care resources on the reservation.‌


Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech and Language Pathology programs travel with faculty members to provide supervised healthcare to a select group of marginalized Guatemalan citizens. Principles of service-learning and interprofessional collaborative practice frame the objectives of the experience. Students are supervised by faculty to provide rehabilitation services in community based facilities, special needs schools, and the home. This innovative service Occupational Therapy students in Guatemalalearning and interprofessional experience provides a platform to illuminate the benefits derived for clients and for students who collaborate to provide care while also fulfilling the College of Healthcare Profession’s Mission Statement “to develop students who value compassionate service and who can further translate this service into a life-long responsibility to contribute to a more just society”. 

Needs Assessment and Program Development

Students, working in groups, engage in service learning as providers of evidenced based needs assessments and innovative program development services in community based settings, often for underserved populations and not for profit organizations. This experience is designed to give students the proactive entrepreneurial skills needed to identify and work in community while contributing to the mission of the College of Healthcare Profession which “seeks and collaborates with local, regional, and international partners in the community to ensure that students benefit from an integration of academic and clinical experiences” and states that “these collaborations also enrich the health care endeavors of these communities and instill an ethic of community service among our students.” Consistent with the Occupational Therapy Program vision of PRIDE, students in this course have the opportunity to “respond to unmet needs in underserved communities through leadership, advocacy, or service”.

Bridge House

Bridge House is Fairfield County’s Clubhouse Model site for individuals with mental health conditions. It provides various services aimed at promoting recovery and transitioning back to the community among its members. SHU Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy (OT) students completed a semester-long service learning project at Bridge House where students facilitated educational sessions and therapeutic activities focusing on different aspects of wellness. Topics covered included healthy eating, exercise, leisure and socialization habits. Bridge House experiences have fostered students’ engagement in activities that promote humanity, open mind and respect for diversity, as well as compassionate service to others.