Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center


Service-learning is a learning experience that combines service with the community with structured preparation and reflection opportunities. Service opportunities are tied to academic coursework and address concerns that are identified and articulated by the community.

As students engage in service-learning, they learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as community members.

Before You Register

Watch the following video to learn more about how to register for service-learning. You may also check out a service-learning timeline for the upcoming quarter.

Now that you have reviewed the details of how to participate in service-learning at the UW, browse and register for a position.


Self-placements can be used to meet the service-learning requirement for your course IF you have a pre-existing volunteer relationship with a non-profit or government organization, AND the nature of your service work aligns with the learning goals of your course.

Special Circumstances

Acknowledgement of Risk

If you are over the age of 18 but did not verify your acknowledgement of risks inherent in community-based service during online service-learning registration in EXPO, you must complete and return a copy of this form to the Carlson Center before beginning your service-learning. If you are a minor (under age 18), your parents or guardians must review, sign and return a copy of the Acknowledgement of Risk Form to the Carlson Center before you can participate in service-learning.

Background Checks

The Carlson Center is committed to the broadest possible access to service-learning for UW students. Many service-learning positions require a background check. The specific background check that is run and the specific criminal convictions that will be disqualifying vary, depending on the site.

Mandatory Reporting Requirement

Carlson Center service learning students who will be serving with youth or vulnerable adults are mandated reporters of abuse and neglect under Chapter 26.44 of the Revised Code of Washington.

  • Read more about how these Special Circumstances may affect you

Prepare to Serve Well

There are a few ways to prepare for service-learning after you have registered for a position. Check out the following resources and opportunities and feel free to contact us at with any questions.

Beginning Your Service-Learning

1. Follow the instructions outlined in the “Orientation Details” section of your position description. Determine whether you should reach out to the person listed as the ‘Orientation Contact,’ or the ‘Supervisor’ of the position (these may be the same person; sometimes they are not) – or both – based on what’s stated in the description.

After receiving a confirmation email for your position, it is your responsibility to reach out to relevant staff at your host organization, to introduce yourself as a UW service-learner, to share some information about yourself and your learning, and to establish/confirm participation in an orientation.

This is the first step in building a relationship with your supervisor and host organization so it’s important to include details about who you are, your interests, and your commitment to the experience!

2. Use this “cover letter” template to craft your self-introduction, making sure to mention:

  • Your full name, email address and phone number;
  • That you are a UW service-learner, including your course’s full title, and information about what you will be learning;
  • A note about your motivation for signing up to serve with the organization/in this role;
  • RSVPing for, or your desire to set up an orientation;
  • Your availability for a regular volunteer schedule;
  • Any questions you have;
  • Your appreciation for this opportunity!

3. Send the email right after you register for the position, so that you can get started as quickly as possible!

Orientations with Community Partners

Participate in an orientation with your host organizations to familiarize yourself with its work, your role, and expectations for the commitment. Review details in your position description and/or contact your site supervisor to RSVP. Orientations should be completed by the second week of the quarter so you can begin your regular service soon after.

International Student Service-Learning Workshop

International Students can participate in a Service-Learning Workshop designed specifically for you! Located in MGH 171, this workshop’s topics covered include: how to register online for service-learning, factors to consider when choosing a service-learning position, reaching out to and communicating with a service-learning supervisor and getting to the service-learning site using public transportation. Read more about content, time and location!

Pre-Service Workshops

Participate in Pre-Service Workshops that offer you a basic overview of service-learning fundamentals including: building reciprocal relationships, approaching community work from an asset-based perspective, exhibiting professionalism in your work with community organizations and navigating difficult situations that can come up in service. Read more about content, times and location!

Components of Serving Thoughtfully & Anticipating an Evaluation

At the end of the academic term, the supervisor from your host organization will share feedback with your course instructor and the Carlson Center about how you approached your volunteer efforts. Take a look at the kinds of questions they will respond to – and ways to approach your service thoughtfully – through this sample Student Service-Learning Evaluation form.