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About Julia van der Ryn

Over the past five years, as service-learning director working with faculty across the disciplines who are implementing courses with service-learning, and teaching my own ethics courses with service-learning, I have witnessed many of the ways in which this experience helps students to connect with their own values while questioning and shifting their own perceptions of others and the broader community.
Ethics exist because we live in community with others and because human nature is not always golden. We are conditioned and formed by all kinds of external forces that give us our identities but part of maturing is to begin to form our own values and perceptions based on new experiences in the world.
Part of a college education is about expanding ourselves, seeing and experiencing different realities. College should not insulate us from the experiences that challenge our perceptions, our assumptions, our stereotypes. Service-learning is an important vehicle for getting students off campus and into communities that are different than their own. Serving with others, engaging in the issues of diverse communities, listening to the stories of people different than themselves is often quite cathartic for students. They begin to understand that their preconceptions and judgments about others are often unfounded. This is the first ethical step and it is huge. The next step is the awareness of responsibility to others, and of what is at stake if we do not approach the world with an openness to learning about ourselves from others and then working together to question existing issues. Ethics is about working from both personal and collective levels towards equity and justice for all. Through service-learning, students are able to think and apply themselves in ways that begin to define their personal moral stance while also beginning to identify and address collective social justice issues that impact us all.


2004 - Present Assistant Professor, Dominican University of California Department of Religion and Philosophy
2004 - Present Director, Dominican University of California Service-Learning Program

Curriculum Vitae

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2004 M.A., Dominican University of California
2002 B.A., summa cum laude, Dominican University of California

Contact Information

Dominican University of California
50 Acacia Ave.
San Rafael, CA 94901



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Presentations (10)