Safety in numbers

Safety concerns addressed for academic service learning projects.

Jenna Kubiak, Writer

As community based learning expands at Biola, professors maintain an emphasis on student safety while participating in service projects that combine cross-cultural engagement in the community with academics.

Academic service learning trains faculty from different disciplines in intercultural confidence, and nonprofit organizations and parent churches are matched with curriculums. The goal is for students to apply experiences to course material. Currently, only faith-based agencies host the projects. The organizations sign a memorandum of understanding and are vetted, minimizing safety risks said Gail Buck, director of the center for cross cultural engagement.

“I go out to all these nonprofits and I’ve vetted them. I’ve examined the premises, the people, the people they serve,” Buck said. “I know where we’re sending our students. I know who they’re going to be involved with and what they’re going to be involved with.”


Professors who require participation in academic service learning feel confident about students’ safety. Students are required to stay in groups and travel together, said Julianne Bryant, assistant professor of modern languages.  Students in her classes integrate language skills learned in class with what the Bible teaches about languages and culture during service projects.

“We are looking at our responsibility to care for others in our own community,” Bryant said. “We talk about how language is part of God’s plan and how we can express God to others through this language that we’re learning.”

The program runs pretty smoothly and no safety issues have arisen, Bryant said. Students go into the community and participate in church based service projects. Some churches have community outreach programs that students help out with, and students in Bryant’s classes can also sign up for the adopt-a-block program at the Los Angeles Dream Center.

Staying in groups provides the best way to ensure safety due to the difficulty of anticipating what will happen in the community, Bryant said.  Bryant believes the experience gained from service projects proves valuable.

“The experience they glean from being in the community far outweighs the risks that something could happen.” Bryant said.


Students take precaution when out in the community, freshman communications major Megan Hilliard said. They follow clear safety rules, and groups make sure nobody falls behind.

“I didn't feel threatened or anything. I was definitely more aware of where my group was, how fast we were moving along the street,” Hilliard said. “I didn’t feel too unsafe — I just felt more aware that it could be a bad situation if we didn’t take precautions.”

Sophomore elementary education major Julia Ibrahim is another student who participated in service projects, and said she felt safe when she was in the community.

“They told the girls to never walk alone. Generally, we were in a big group with leaders, so they didn’t talk much about what we should or shouldn’t do- they always had their eyes on us,” Ibrahim said. “There were enough adults around to make me feel safe.”

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