During their college years, many students decide to step outside of their comfort zones and seek out new experiences. As they do, they come to know more about themselves and develop a more understanding and sympathetic view of other people. Along the way, they may develop a more community-minded attitude and find great fulfillment and joy in contributing to an effort that is much bigger than themselves. Depending on your role on campus, your relationship with your students, or the courses you teach, you may play a role in supporting their efforts or guiding them towards particular avenues of service.

Though some students may already have a particular project, cause, or area of service in mind, many may not know where to begin or how to focus their efforts. In the feature “You Can Make a Difference: Thinking Less About Things and More About People,” which appears in her text Sociology in Our Times, Tenth Edition, Diana Kendall offers students some advice regarding how they can start serving others in large and small ways. Below, we frame some of these as questions that could help students identify some relatively simple ways they can start taking action, as well as paths for service that suit their interests, values, and talents. These questions may also open their eyes to the great opportunities, and great needs, that surround them:

  • In what “small” ways can you help others on a daily basis? (Consider things like helping a friend carry items to his or her car, giving someone else your seat on the bus or train, or letting someone ahead of you in the grocery line.)
  • What opportunities for service exist in your community? Consider campus organizations, social service agencies, local charities, or the public library. You might also think about mentoring or tutoring children or youth.
  • Do you know anyone who could suggest other groups or organizations that could use your help? (27)

As an instructor, you may have some additional suggestions for service projects that relate more specifically to the topics or issues you cover in your course. You may also be aware of other opportunities for service on your campus or within your community. If so, consider sharing these ideas with your students should the occasion arise.


Reference: Kendall, Diana. 2015. Sociology in Our Times, 10th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

© 2015 Cengage Learning, Inc. All rights reserved.


Do you know of a college student or students with plans to engage in a service project this Spring? Encourage them to enter CengageBrain.com’s Alternative Spring Break contest. For complete details, including rules, deadlines, and list of criteria for eligible projects, visit CengageBrain’s Facebook app for the Alternative Spring Break Contest. College students need to submit their service projects before February 14, 2014, so pass this along as soon as you can!