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In recent years, educators from diverse academic disciplines have created service learning courses in response to natural disasters. However, sociology courses have been slow to integrate service learning after disasters. In this paper, the learning experiences of fourteen students enrolled in a service learning course during the Fall 2011 semester at the University of Alabama are analyzed, four months after the April 27, 2011 tornado event. In this course, entitled Gender and Poverty, students were required to volunteer 30 hours over a 10-week period with an organization that assisted tornado survivors in addition to attending weekly class meetings and completing class assignments. Despite initial difficulties finding interactive service experiences for the students, post-tests and journal assignments indicated a shift in students’ explanations of poverty from mostly individual-level explanations to structural explanations of poverty. The service experience also emotionally transformed the students, who through their service efforts, developed empathy for storm survivors.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
202 kB



  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 6

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022