Feb. 17, 2021
For the past five years, Rocío Melissa Rivera has helped students find ways to make a positive impact in the Columbia community through service learning. Rivera, an associate professor in the Division of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, teaches Animal Science 2140: Companion Animals, a course dedicated to teaching students about companion animals such as cats, dogs and horses.
The course is one of numerous service learning opportunities for students across the University of Missouri campus. Students in this specific course pick a local organization that features companion animals, such as the Central Missouri Humane Society or the Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center.
At the beginning of her first semester teaching the course, Rivera met with each student to learn why they wanted to take the course and why they picked the specific organization with which they intended to volunteer.
After the semester was completed, Rivera met with the students again. While the students had something in common before the course began, Rivera found they all had similar feelings afterward as well.
“Their responses were really incredible,” Rivera said. “They went into the class thinking that playing with puppies and kittens would be the best part of volunteering. They all learned that the best part of service learning was their interactions with the people they served. The personal growth that I saw then, and continue to see now, is incredible. I continue to meet with each service learning student at the beginning and the end of the semester and always get the same responses.”