At the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, service is a tradition that is supported and cultivated by a faculty that boasts an unparalleled commitment to community-based research. Each semester, VCU faculty offer a diverse selection of credit-bearing service learning courses that provide students with the privilege of developing hands-on experience within their academic fields while engaging in meaningful projects that benefit communities in the Richmond area and beyond. These courses involve the enrolled student in a minimum of 20 hours of service per semester, contain a reflective component and must be designated as an “SRV-LRN” course on the student’s transcript. Wilder faculty lead many of these efforts, engaging in activities that range from examining environmental and economic sustainability issues in Guatemala to serving as mentors in juvenile delinquency prevention programs throughout Richmond.

Students who participate in service learning study apply their knowledge, analytical and practical skills as they observe and assist in organized service activities that meet community-identified needs. These courses are ideal for students who are looking for ways to increase their familiarity with community issues and organizations or would like to include community-based activities on their resume. For more information or for a full listing of service learning courses, visit Service-Learning at VCU.

The following course snapshots represent a sampling of service-learning courses taught by Wilder School faculty at VCU. Not all service-learning courses taught by Wilder faculty are described here.

CRJS 352: Crime and Delinquency Prevention

Students in professor Grant Warren’s innovative course learn about effective strategies for preventing juvenile delinquency and crime. They study proactive prevention models, programs and strategies for 21st Century Policing. Students provide academic tutoring to children and to adults working to earn the GED. They also serve as mentors for elementary school-aged children and youth from low-income families who attend after-school programs. The knowledge gained through this course builds students’ wisdom about crime and delinquency prevention theory, method, and practice in a total systems approach to problem-solving. For more information, contact Professor Warren at

CRJS 491: Special Topics in Service-Learning

Students in professor Robyn McDougle’s CRJS 491 one-credit add-on course are concurrently enrolled in her CRJS 191 Justice System Survey course. Students in these courses learn about theories and strategies for preventing juvenile delinquency by promoting better communication and respectful relationships between police officers and youth. Students volunteer throughout the semester as tutors, mentors, coaches and referees for community-based programs that enroll at-risk 9- to 13-year-old inner-city children, and reflect on the connections between their classroom and community-based learning by completing reflection journals and participating in discussion forums. For more information, contact Dr. McDougle at

GEOG 303: World Regions

Through service-learning experiences in the community, students in professor Helen Ruth Aspaas’ World Regions Geography course gain a clearer understanding of how local and global geography processes relate to each other. Environment, globalization, food security and immigration are discussed in the context of four world regions. In addition to committing 20 hours of community-based service throughout the semester at organizations such as the Humane Society, Richmond Food Pantries and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, students reflect on the connections between their classroom and community learning by writing short reports and making group presentations. For more information, contact Dr. Aspaas at

HSEP 601 Emergency Management: Planning and Incident Management

In this course, graduate students prepare themselves by reading and discussing numerous textbooks, journal articles and government documents on emergency management and planning. Participants are then assigned to teams of four or five to demonstrate their understanding of emergency planning by reviewing and updating an actual Virginia locality’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). Each student team is assigned a different Virginia locality’s EOP and works with an actual locality emergency manager using Virginia Department of Emergency Management resources and federal and state guidance to review and update the existing Emergency Operations Plan. A team PowerPoint presentation of project findings, including recommendations for the locality, is required as part of this assignment. Team findings are then presented to the Virginia locality leadership and emergency management representatives. For more information, contact Professor Keck at:

INTL 591: Topics in International Studies

Offered in conjunction with the Global Education Office, professor Avrum Shriar’s Topics in International Studies offers students a unique opportunity to engage in field work that explores environmental issues, political-economic challenges and sustainability concerns in the context of the developing country of Guatemala. Students in this course perform applied work with rural communities in the Western Highlands region of the country in conjunction with the Highland Support Project, an active non-governmental organization in the region. Topics and themes examined in the course include land hunger and distribution, social vulnerability, community health, indigenous rights, land degradation, household energy use, common property resource management, sustainable livelihoods, agricultural development and disaster risk reduction. For more information, contact Dr. Shriar at

SOCY 336/WMNS 336: Violence against Women

Students in professor Gay Cutchin’s Violence against Women course examine violence against women from a global and local perspective, focusing on violence perpetrated against adult women in the U.S. from both ecological and feminist theoretical perspectives. Each student volunteers a minimum of 20 hours during the semester with a campus or community organization that serve sexual or domestic violence victims and each student completes a community service project journal. For more information, contact Dr. Cutchin at