Human Development and Family Studies (including Early Childhood Education)


Leadership Studies; English


Widell, Robert

Advisor Department





leadership; service; service learning; social justice; experiential education


Servant leadership, in the words of Robert Greenleaf from the Greenleaf Center of Servant Leadership, is “a servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” This has become one of the guiding theories of leadership within the Center for Student Leadership Development’s (CSLD) Leadership Studies minor at the University of Rhode Island. First-year students in the Leadership Studies minor have the opportunity to learn different leadership models and theories and apply them to their own life. My personal experience and the experiences of others who have participated in service projects locally, nationally, and internationally has influenced my perception of the value of service and learning opportunities that involve social justice and social inequality.

Service to others creates a space for learning about the barriers to success that others face and the institutional structures that are put in place that work against various communities. In addition, the use of reflection and the exploration of academic literature to supplement service learning provide context to students. This helps them create tangible change that reflects the needs of historically and societally marginalized groups while having thoughtful discussion with students who have diverse perspectives.

In order to fulfill learning outcomes for first-year students in the Leadership Studies minor as well as provide service learning opportunities that teach students about social inequalities, I created a mock syllabus. This syllabus meets the requirements of a first-year entry level class for the Leadership Studies minor, combining service learning opportunities, academic literature surrounding social justice and social inequality, and leadership theories. The class is experiential-education based, so half of the time is spent in the classroom while the other half is spent doing hands-on service. The syllabus and reading list reflects the needs of social movement organizations in Rhode Island based off a questionnaire that asked about best service practices, needs of the Rhode Island community, and advice for college students. In addition, the leadership theories and learning reflects the learning outcomes from the CSLD and the Leadership Studies minor.