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Jeff Kowalkowski

Instructor, School of Music

Courses: MUS 208 Community Audio Art



Describe the course in which you used service-learning.


I have taught the course for around 12 years, stemming from my personal experience running a not-for-profit recording studio which focused on the underserved.


What’s your understanding of service-learning?


I try to make it a normal part of my work-flow as an artist, and creatively embed service activities into the gestalt of my output as a musician and composer.


Why did you choose to use service-learning in this course?


It represents my personal vision of how musicians should relate to the world.


What were some of the benefits of doing so?


This course has been the most rewarding I have ever taught.The article that was written about my work and published in the Steans newsletter last Fall has helped me greatly in communicating with my colleagues about what I have been doing.


What were some of the challenges of doing so?


The main challenge is the small amount of students who are not emotionally and mentally mature enough to take a service-learning course, and also the popular confluence of service-learning with “service day”--or similar one time per year events.


How well did students’ community experiences complement the academic learning in the course?


DePaul students react to my syllabus by “blowing my mind” each year with the depth, compassion and vision they muster, each year brings a completely new set of personalities and dreamers who have the energy to make this sort of audio art.It is very difficult work, but students can handle it.


How well  did students' community experiences encourage critical thinking about social issues?


Every project in my course demands critical thinking, we also enjoyed the sensitivity training workshops by Steans, this brought our class close together through the exercises we did.


What learning strategies did you use to enable students to demonstrate that they achieved course learning objectives?



By finishing the final audio mix, the objectives are met, after my edits are implemented and several group critiques have occurred


In what ways was the Steans Center involved in your course? 


Sergio Elahi and Jeff Howard have become my friends throughout the years, and have encouraged me greatly and given me advice whenever I asked for it.I hope to continue this collaboration!


What do you consider to be the impact of teaching with service-learning on you? 


Makes me proud, and challenges me to do more and bigger projects with more impact.I also have met the greatest people (for example, Kimberly Moe, who is perhaps the best teacher I know of, anywhere).


Please share a story about your service-learning course?


The kid smiling after a performance with my students at an afterschool community center....and how the DePaul students were motivated by the positive energy they could transfer, just by being themselves.The optimism I see from the students also humbles me, and makes me move forward.


What advice would you give to faculty considering using service-learning in their course(s)?


If you are not absolutely sure you are committed to helping students connect service with their academic skills, don't do it. It is much harder than a traditional lecture/exam format, and much more meaningful.Expect to worry a lot about your students, and have to keep track of what they are doing.....I consider this part of the process of teaching in this way. It gets very personal, and you make friends with your students through service.You really get to know them as people too.


Is there anything else you would like to say?


I am proud of Steans and DePaul, it is one of the greatest things about this University. Our service learning work will have significant impact on the future of our students and this city.




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