Lunch and Learn


March 2023 Panel Discussion

Dr. Lisa Bowers (left), Professor Gabriel Diaz Montemayor (center), and Dr. Rogelio Garcia Contreras (right) give a panel discussion on service learning student theses projects

On March 8, 2023, the Service Learning Initiative hosted its second “Lunch and Learn” event for faculty, titled “Student Theses Projects: How to Get Started.” The event comprised a panel discussion with award-winning faculty: Dr. Lisa Bowers (Communication Sciences and Disorders), Dr. Rogelio Garcia Contreras (Walton College of Business), and Professor Gabriel Diaz Montemayor (Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design).  They discussed with attendees how they got started conducting student theses projects in their programs and the process of getting them designated as Service Learning.

Dr. Lisa Bowers explained that a student thesis project, for either an undergraduate or graduate student, can be designated as service learning as long as it is a project that provides a service to the community. While many service-related theses projects go undesignated in various departments, the purpose of faculty designating a thesis project as “service learning” is so they can acquire resources and share goals and outcomes of the project with the Service Learning Initiative. The Initiative strives to highlight how the student has made a difference in their community, which fulfills the purpose of our land grant institution and sets an example for other university communities. The formalized designation also helps faculty and students add a unique contribution to their professional portfolios.

Professor Gabriel Diaz Montemayor shared examples of student theses projects he helped lead in the School of Architecture and Design, many of which were “problem-based and created helpful interventions in environmental structure,” such as creating a sidewalk in a certain neighborhood. Dr. Rogelio Garcia Contreras shared the methodology that students and community partners use when carrying out a project together, which combines social entrepreneurship and innovation principles. He mentioned that, like innovation, service learning is also about “creating agency through collaboration.” The process is achieved via the student, professor, and community partner all coming together in effective communication and assessment. To view the recording of this Lunch and Learn discussion, click here to access the link via your UARK credentials.

For more information on how to designate a student thesis or research project as service learning, visit our Research Designation page or email us at


Carrie Nelms presenting at lunch and learn

Dr. Carrie Nelms presents on the topic of how to get started in service learning

The University of Arkansas Service Learning Initiative recently launched its "Lunch and Learn" series in which faculty learn about different topics in the world of service learning and project-based methodology. On March 16, 2022, Dr. Carrie Nelms in the Communication department presented on the topic of how to get started in service learning for the first Lunch and Learn event, titled "Savvy Starts in Service Learning."

Nelms operates her service learning classes according to the motto: "When we combine academics with industry, we produce future leaders." This theory became her solution to a problem that she noticed in academia--that post-graduation, students were not getting jobs despite having earned competitive majors.  Therefore, she established project-based learning in her Communication course, Environmental Community Adaptations. In this course, students complete hands-on, needs-based projects for local community partners that have give them strong line items on their resumes.  Many of Nelms's students have received jobs and internships with the very same organizations they worked with in her class.

In her presentation, she provided tips for faculty wanting to jump into teaching service learning courses. She advised them to create flexibility in their syllabi to match the changing needs of a community partner and conduct conflict resolution lectures for students to properly learn how to manage conflict when working with partners.  Grace Gilbert, a former student of Nelms, testified to the benefits of service learning by sharing how the skills she learned in Nelms's Environmental Community Adaptations course, such as creating executive summaries and timetables, are ones she implements on a daily basis at her job with the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce--which she received after working with them through Nelms's service learning course. 

To learn more about Dr. Nelms's course and recent student projects, visit our course projects page. Email her at if you have any questions.  If you would like to share a service learning topic at a future Lunch and Learn event, please email