Select Page

Liberating Service Learning:

A Conversation with Prof. Randy Stoecker

In Part One of the podcast Stoecker discusses the importance of studying change and making change, connecting students with community partners. Stoecker challenges traditional institutionalized service learning and the assumptions of higher education civic engagement as a volunteer pipeline (that connects with future careers). In other words, he investigates the charity versus change dichotomy. One question that has to be asked: Does institutional service learning create social change?

In Part Two Randy Stoecker takes us further into his understanding of community-based research as critical pedagogy. He offers a challenge to the “careerism” approach that is plaguing many institutions of higher education. Using participatory action research and community-based research models, Stoecker gives examples of the work his students are doing on the margins of higher education—with/in community organizations. He shows how a “campaign model” of democracy, of goal setting by and with community groups, provides the base for concrete social change. The model of leadership here is group-centered rather than hierarchical, making the lines between margin and center porous. It is in these margins that Stoecker finds hope—for the future of higher education, and for society.

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” -Karl Marx

“This, then, is our vision: a future in which campus-community research partnerships are prolific, deep, sustained, reciprocal, and actively committed—in myriad ways, in every corner of the United States—to transforming communities and realizing a more just society. It is a future in which colleges and universities have finally become places where teaching and learning are vigorous and vital, scholarship is valued for its relevance as well as for its rigor, and the ends of knowledge truly are the benefit and use of life. We hope you will join us in working to achieve it.” (Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement, p. 241).

about our guest/s

Randy Stoecker is a Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, with a joint appointment in the Center for Community and Economic Development. Stoecker works in two spheres, the university and its extension program. Some recent courses include “Community Organizing” and “Research Design and Practice in Sociology.”


Randy Stoecker, Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement, Temple UP, 2016.

Randy Stoecker, Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach, 2nd Edition, Sage, 2012.

Randy Stoecker, Defending Community: The Struggle for Alternative Redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside (Conflicts In Urban & Regional), Temple UP, 1994.

Randy Stoecker, Nicholas Holton, and Charles Ganzert, eds., The Landscape of Rural Service Learning and What It Teaches Us All, Michigan State UP, 2017.

Randy Stoecker, Nicholas Holton, and Charles Ganzert, The Landscape of Rural Service Learning, and What It Teaches Us All (Transformations in Higher Education), Michigan State UP, 2016.

Randy Stoecker and Elizabeth A. Tryon, eds., The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service Learning, Temple UP, 2009.

Kerry J. Strand, Nicholas Cutforth, Randy Stoecker, Sam Marullo, and Patrick Donohue, Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and Practices, Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Randy Stoecker’s website:

 PRAG: Policy Research Action Group (Chicago):

The Rural Alliance for Service Learning:

Renewing the Countryside: