Making the Best from Service Learning Experiences

Service learning experiences have invigorated my goals as a community health researcher and practitioner. To this, mention worthy has been the 11 weeks internship program in Uganda through the Advancing Collaboration and Community Training (ACCT) program of Indiana University, Bloomington. I was lucky to be selected and funded for this program in 2016. The experience not only facilitated engaging with communities in remote locations of Uganda, but helped me tremendously in gaining intercultural competencies. I could also conduct a research on HIV prevention health seeking behavior among men in certain districts of Uganda. While I had earlier learnt and read much about the skills required to be an effective service learning volunteer, being on the ground was a completely different experience. In retrospection, I would summarize as Bruce Lee says, “Knowing is not enough, you must apply; willing is not enough, you must do.”

Tapati in Uganda

Advancing on this experience, I was recently invited to a group on Ethics in Global Health Working Group. This is a multidisciplinary group of faculties and students at Indiana University, instrumental in providing technical and coordination inputs for the upcoming  visit of Professor Judith Lasker to the IUPUI and Bloomington Campuses, during February 12-14, 2018. In parallel, the group is also reviewing her recent book – Hoping to help: the promises and pitfalls of global health volunteering, Cornell University Press (2016).

In her book, Lasker, a sociologist at Lehigh University discusses how service learning programs in public health benefit the host communities in making them self-relient; as well as are insightful learning experiences for student volunteers. While the book cites various examples and appreciates academic institutions tryst to integrat service learning and volunteerism in their scholarship and pedagogy, it cautions on the ‘volun-touring’ excitement of students, rather than imbibing elements of shared-austerity. You could find more about Prof. Lasker’s work and this book on  here.

Prof. Lasker’s visit to the University are scheduled during 12-14th February, 2018. Students, specially those interested in service learning experience are encouraged to form book discussion groups, and review ‘Hoping to Help’. Reading this book is truly an intriguing experience to understand ethical aspects of service learning in public health. But, beyond that, your inputs will bring in students’ perspectives and can make a difference to the service learning planning and curriculum development in the university!! As a part of the working group on Ethics in Global Health, I would encourage you to LEARN more about the expectations from these book discussions groups, JOIN and  CONTRIBUTE on here.

Tapati Dutta


Tapati is a doctoral candidate at Indiana University School of Public Health, Bloomington.  Her research emphasis is on multi-level community engagement for effective adoption of prevention policies and programs. She has worked extensively on sexual and reproductive health rights in India, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. Beyond her pedagogic assignments she loves to spend time amidst nature and animals or painting her canvases.

By Tapati Dutta
Tapati Dutta PhD Candidaate