#CapturingCommunity is a series where we, in the Service-Learning community, are able to sit down with staff from our community partners, faculty at Northeastern, and students to hear about their experiences with Northeastern’s Service Learning program. In this post we are excited to hear from a Professor at Northeastern University and a 2021 recipient of the University Excellence in Teaching Award, Missy McElligott.


Name: Missy McElligott 

Role within Service-Learning: Professor for Service-Learning course Inquiries in Biology

What is one thing everyone should know about Service-Learning?
I think that it is important for students and faculty to know that Service-Learning not only enriches the learning experience in the classroom, it also gives students an opportunity to develop skills that are difficult to teach in a ‘traditional’ academic setting.  For example, many of my students reflect at the end of the semester that they are more confident working in teams, have better developed communication skills, and are more comfortable problem-solving on the fly.  In addition, my students feel much more connected with the vibrant community surrounding Northeastern and are eager to further engage with our community partners even after service has ended.   Service-Learning is an amazing opportunity to for both students and faculty and we are very lucky to have an excellent service-learning center on our campus to support our endeavors.

How are your values expressed through your community engagement and Service-Learning work?
When thinking about how Service-Learning aligns with my own personal values, I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We must remember that intelligence is not enough.  Intelligence plus good character –that is the goal of true education”.  I am a firm believer that engaging in Service-Learning builds character.  It is the ultimate reminder that we are not just learning for learning’s sake and we should use our gifts and educational experiences to help others.  In my class, students engage with the community by teaching workshops and tutoring kids ages K-12.  They are inspiring the next generation of kids to love learning, be curious, and pursue their dreams.  My Service-Learning students are role models and near peer-mentors for students who often struggle to see themselves in higher-education.  For the community, the service of the NU students is impactful and fills a definitive need.  For my students, their interactions with the students and community partners is equally impactful.  Service-Learning broadens their perspective, promoting a more holistic approach to their education at here at NU.

If Service-Learning was a component of a cell what would it be?
I love this question!  I would say that Service-Learning most reminds me of the cell cytoskeleton.  This set of structures have been described as the ‘railroad tracks’ for the cell: transporting cellular components throughout the cell and functioning as a structural scaffold.  Service-Learning similarly acts as the conduit of knowledge transfer, both to the community and within an academic program. Further, I think that Service-Learning provides the critical context to which students’ can apply their academic skills.  The combination of Service-Learning and co-op (or any other type of experiential learning) is the scaffold that allows students to make stronger connections between the course content real-world applications.  Overall, I believe that students who engage in Service-Learning, especially early in their academic careers, will have a stronger foundation for future learning.

Post adapted from S-LOG post published on March 19, 2019.