New manuscript collection on service-based experiential learning now available online
Housed in the Elon Belk Library Archives and Special Collections, the Robert Sigmon Collection contains materials from the 1960s through the mid-2000s compiled by the North Carolina service-learning pioneer.
By Xernay Aniwar ’17
A new collection containing hundreds of documents from Robert L. Sigmon, a nationally recognized pioneer on the forefront of service-based experiential learning, has been digitized and is available online via the Elon Belk Library Archives and Special Collections.
Sigmon devoted his career to building quality experiential education and service-learning. Born in Lincoln County, North Carolina, his journey began after graduating from Duke University in 1957, when he went to West Pakistan as a short-term Methodist missionary where he managed a hostel for boys from the lowest caste families in the area. After returning to the United States three years later, Sigmon earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1964 and continued his work with economically and racially oppressed communities in the Southeast. Since 1991 he has consulted with national, state and local programs supporting community-based public service based experiential learning. In the early 1990s he designed and presented workshops promoting servant-leadership through the Robert K. Greenleaf Center. For 10 years he served as senior associate with the Engaged Community and Campus initiative of the Council of Independent Colleges in Washington, D.C.
The online manuscript collection reflects the period from 1962 to 2006 and includes Sigmon’s teachings, research, discussion and insight into the field of service learning. “The conceptual and program design descriptions along with the stories in this collection represent a late 20th century glimpse into service-based experiential learning practices,” says Sigmon, who defines service learning as what occurs when there is a balance between learning goals and service outcomes. “My hope is that community leaders, academic leaders and young people can find something in these papers to build on as you connect goals of overcoming oppression, poverty and hardships in communities while promoting service based experiential learning.”
Chrystal Carpenter, the university archivist, says she hopes the collection will “give students a starting point in order to understand how service learning started and how it’s evolved.”
The Belk Library Archives and Special Collections serves Elon University and the Elon community by preserving and administrating manuscript collections, special collections and institutional materials. The primary purpose of the department is to collect, maintain, preserve and make available institutional materials of administrative, fiscal, legal and historical value. It also serves as a repository for manuscript collections, printed materials, photographs, artifacts and other memorabilia that relate to the history of the university.