Study, practical skills, and usefulness for society are the three goals of the service learning approach. UCU has introduced this methodology based on leading universities of the world as part of its 2025 strategy, “A university that serves.” We will explain the first steps in implementing service learning projects.
In the last half-year, students and teachers of the UCU School of Journalism and Communications have actively begun to apply the service learning approach in practice, integrating it immediately into a number of projects connected with communications. In the words of Fr. Andriy Shestak, director of the school and Vice-Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty, long before introducing service learning at UCU, he was mentor for an educational course in Italy where he worked with young Ukrainians on developing skills for working in social media and using them as a platform for catechesis.
Together with a doctoral student in theology at Università Pontificia Salesiana, Sviatoslav Tytulyak, Fr. Andriy organized an educational School for Christian Leaders, in which 29 people from Rome, Turin, Genua, Naples, Florence, Pisa, and other parts of Italy took part. The project’s main idea was training future catechists to serve their communities. This experience inspired Fr. Andriy as a teacher to integrate such practical approaches in his own teaching.
“When I became head of the UCU School of Journalism and Communications, my priority task was ‘learning through service.’ It’s in precisely this way that students can apply theory in practice, helping various communities. Of course, projects like this demand more attention from teachers for the educational process, extra efforts in directing students, and, often, re-thinking the usefulness of the proposed material. Despite the challenges, this is what the university of the future should be like, and we on the faculty and at the school are constantly working to realize this dream,” explains Fr. Andriy Shestak.
Media communications students began to implement the practice of service through developing a communications and PR strategy for the Patriarchal Home Hotel in Lviv. As is known, during the quarantine the hotel started to work with a social goal, accepting medical workers of Lviv for observation. The students decided to get involved in the matter and offered their skills. They developed a communications strategy which the hotel will use through coming years.
“Working together with the church environment is always interesting and unusual for students, because it overcomes many stereotypes and myths about priests and the Church. Every year at the end of my course ‘The Church and social communications,’ I see how students change their views about the Church. It is no longer for them a ‘cold’ and misunderstood institution which forbids much. So, in this aspect, service learning only strengthened my presentations, giving an opportunity to demonstrate the idea that the young people who study with us are truly changing the Church,” says Fr. Andriy.
The students also did sociological research on the behavior of people from 16 to 35 years old during the pandemic, which will be publicized in February. And, recently, students in cooperation with the “Ukrainian Week” newspaper published a printed special issue on the responsibility of youth.
One of the most recent projects of the students of the School of Journalism and Communications was involvement in developing a communications strategy for the prayer initiative “The rosary unites” for the UGCC. The students also took part in creating proposals for future prayer projects.
“The UGCC Information Office did incredible work, successfully executing the project ‘The rosary unites’ on Facebook. Daily at 20:00 Kyiv time there was a live broadcast of prayers from various parishes of the world,” says Fr. Andriy. The prayer involved people from 16 countries. More than 15 thousand people prayed daily. The students also hope to help publicize other socially-oriented projects of the UGCC.