Dean of Students Earns National Service Learning Honor

Back in 1994, as a CNM instructor in his food service management class, Rudy Garcia introduced a new concept to the CNM student experience – Service Learning.
September 01, 2016

Dr. Rudy GarciaBack in 1994, as a CNM instructor in his food service management class, Rudy Garcia introduced a new concept to the CNM student experience – Service Learning. The concept, which uses community service to enhance classroom instruction, was immediately put to good use by Garcia's food service management students, the first official students of Service Learning at the college. They developed food safety manuals for four different homeless shelters around Albuquerque, helping to ensure that the homeless would be served healthy meals.

Now, 17 years later, thousands of CNM students have learned the value of serving their community through the college's Service Learning program. Dr. Rudy Garcia, now CNM's dean of students, has guided the growth of the CNM program, which has developed into a highly regarded community college model for Service Learning success. He's helped various colleges from around the country, and even outside the country, implement successful Service Learning programs that aim to instill in students a lifelong appreciation for community service, civic engagement and social responsibility.

For his 17-plus years of advancing the virtues of Service Learning, Dr. Garcia will be honored as one of the 20 Most Influential Service Learning Practitioners in the United States at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Community College National Center for Community Engagement, which will take place in Scottsdale, Ariz., in late May.

"I'm truly honored by the recognition," Dr. Garcia said. "Most importantly, it's been a great honor to help students learn more about civility, responsibility and caring about other people's needs."

In addition to helping other colleges around the country implement Service Learning programs, Dr. Garcia has also served as a Service Learning consultant for colleges in Spain (Universitat de Barcelona), Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Institute of Technology) and American Samoa (American Samoa Community College).

CNM's program earned the 1999 National Bellwether Award for being the best instructional Service Learning program in the country. In 2006, Dr. Garcia won the Spirit of Service Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

A recent national survey showed that 41 percent of students who participate in Service Learning programs continue to be active volunteers in their community after they graduate.

Service Learning at CNM, which included about 250 students during the spring term, allows instructors to integrate classroom instruction with student service to the community at selected CNM-approved community agencies. The program provides students with a structured time for critical thinking and reflection. Students, who receive classroom credit for their Service Learning projects, get to apply what they're learning in the classroom to real needs in the community, while at the same time gaining a greater understanding for the importance of community service and civic engagement.