Campus Contacts
Rene’ Pruitt
Assistant Professor of Education

Dr. Rene’ Pruitt became interested in service-learning while writing comprehensives for her doctorate. One of the topics chosen featured service-learning and the exploration that followed sparked a passion that led to her dissertation: “The Effects of a Literacy-Based Service-Learning Program on Struggling Fourth Grade Readers.” Dr. Pruitt initiated several service-learning projects with her fifth grade students at LB Williams.

Dr. Pruitt began teaching at for DWU in the education department in 2006 and early on was appointed to the ad hoc committee that embarked on writing two Learn and Serve Institutional Sub Grants. The committee titled the proposals: “Making a Difference for PK-12 Disadvantage Youth through Service-Learning.” The proposals were funded and from that sprung several faculty mini-grants for DWU service-learning projects. This service-learning core team transitioned into the current service-learning standing committee currently chaired by Dr. Pruitt.

Service-learning conferences attended:

  • 2007 Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning: Kearny, Nebraska
  • 2008 Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning: Brookings, South Dakota
  • 2009 Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning: Omaha, Nebraska
  • 2012 Colorado Campus Compact Coordinators Meeting: Denver, Colorado

Service-learning projects:

  • Operation Tiger is an ongoing service-learning project with LB Williams Elementary. The principal pulls a grade level of teachers for professional development while teacher candidates substitute teach for two hours. The teacher candidates apply course work related to classroom management and teaching methods while developing confidence in the classroom environment.
  • Power Block is an ongoing project where students provide extra support for struggling readers in the elementary classroom. The teacher candidate works with a small group of struggling readers to help bridge reading gaps. This provides the education major with the authentic classroom experience of seeing the results of intensive intervention.
  • The LB Williams Family Literacy Project was developed by students in EDU 224, Children’s Literature EDU 387 Evidence Based Reading. This project was based on multiple intelligences and literacy. The teacher candidates worked with the LB Williams Star Ambassador fifth grade students to plan a night where families first identified multiple intelligences and then worked in stations to further develop attributes in various areas. A fried chicken dinner was served and each fifth grader received a free book.
  • Buddy Backpacks was developed by EDU 342 Social Studies Methods students who supplied a backpack for each grade level at LB Williams. The backpacks contained a book and standard based activities for students and their families for weekend family learning.

Dr. Pruitt’s primary philosophy of service-learning parallels that of John Dewey:

When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him [or her] with the spirit of service, and providing him [or her] with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious.

Randi Christensen

Assistant Athletic Trainer

Service Learning is an educational experiential opportunity for students and staff alike to become involved in a variety of facets of our community.  Service Learning provides the opportunity for growth in knowledge while providing service to those of need the satisfaction of accomplishment and fulfillment to those providing the service. 

Derek Driedger

Associate Dean for Online Learning

Dr. Derek Driedger has taught courses in composition, journalism, literature and civic values since he began at DWU in 2007.  He joined the service-learning committee in 2009 after completing his first service-learning project.  Dr. Driedger’s classes and students have enacted several service-learning projects, including:

  • Writing skits and hosting performances with a local improvisational theater group focused on helping teens identify and overcome various social issues
  • Hosting Learn 30 – Play 30, an athletic-academic program that focused on keeping kids active and aware of potentially unhealthy consequences of technology.
  • Placing students as writing tutors in a local fourth-grade classroom
  • Hosting an intergenerational dialog to expand the opportunities for healthy living in Mitchell.
  • Supporting the efforts of a local church’s non-food item pantry (hygiene products, clothing, etc.)

Dr. Driedger believes service-learning intertwines the students’ requests for hands-on learning with a teacher’s initiative to instill responsibility, organization, critical thinking and adaptability.  Service-learning allows students to interact with the local community and transition from learners to leaders.  In 2012 Dr. Driedger attended the annual Colorado Campus Compact conference in Denver, Co.

Justin Zajic

Assistant Professor of Education

Mr. Justin Zajic teaches courses in the education department. He joined DWU as an adjunct professor in 2011 and was hired full time in 2012. His first major service learning project was working with students to design and implement a fundraiser that would cover the costs of serving a meal at The Banquet in Sioux Falls.

Mr. Zajic believes that the concept of service-learning works well with a progressive philosophy of education. Students are interacting with real-world problems and helping to solve them in conjunction with fulfilling the requirements of the classes.

Dakota Wesleyan University was named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Dakota Wesleyan University is proudly affiliated with the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Members of any and all faiths are welcome and encouraged to experience an education based on learning, leadership, faith and service.
Dakota Wesleyan University has been honored as a College of Distinction through demonstration of excellence in these areas: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant communities and successful outcomes.
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