Nadinne Cruz Presents Keynote Adress for "Day of Service"

May 10, 2010


On Friday, February 9, Nadinne Cruz presented the keynote address for Mount Union College's 'Day of Service.'


Entitled "The Urgent Need for Service-Learning As Civic Art: Reflections on 20 Years of Practice and Critique of a Pedagogy," Cruz's address offered reflections on her over twenty years of experiences with a pedagogy of engagement that she originally critiqued publicly, then came to embrace as a teacher-practitioner, advocate, leader and author.

Cruz introduced the 'nuts and bolts' of service learning. Displaying four stages of service learning, she briefly described each step as it pertains to higher education institutions.

The first leans more toward service and less towards learning.

'This is an example of a day of service many schools and organizations take part in,' Cruz said.

The second stage is accessing the assets of the higher education and allowing communities and other causes to benefit. Where most of the 'rigor' is, according to Cruz, is the third aspect, is where courses are designed with service projects embedded into the curriculum.

'Typically it is driven more by the learning outcome than focusing on the service part,' she said.

The last and final stage could be called 'the prize.' This is where service and learning are equal and benefit from one another. 'It is very difficult to achieve,' Cruz said. However, she wanted to emphasize that one stage doesn't necessarily take precedence over the others, 'My standpoint is that each one has a certain place and can attain a standard of excellence in an institution.'

She spoke of institutions knowing their service learning 'portfolios' and what the standards are, and where they are located in higher education.

What has been behind her involvement for the past 20 years?

As a native of the Philippines, Cruz attended the University of the Philippines as an 18 year old freshman. 'It was chaotic times. Nationalism was at its peak,' she said. Working with peasant workers in the fields, she was shocked at the poverty she saw.

'Growing up, I always had servants in my home and knew that when I stopped the car, children would run up to it offering me one stick of gum or a cigarette. It was how they made a living,' Cruz said. She had seen many things, but it finally hit her that there was a difference between misfortune and injustice. 'Nothing was ever required of me seeing this phenomenon, but injustice is the power over ideas and belief systems and knowledge,' she said. There is a clear difference.

Cruz concluded with a question to the audience. She spoke of a place of higher education that, instead of making service learning some type of extra-curricular activity, instilled service learning into students so that it was almost second nature. 'Higher education is powerful; institutionalized means the ability to teach,' she said.

'There is a richness to what is possible,' she concluded. 'Doing something good in a world of strife is a complex thing.

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