Julia Van Der Ryn, MA

Julia Van Der Ryn

Director of Service-Learning, Humanities Assistant Professor
50 Acacia Avenue
San Rafael, CA 94901
[email protected]
Dominican Scholar Profile


Teaching and Research Interests:

The interface between philosophical, political, and psychological exploration. Participatory democracy and the necessity of critical engagement. The bridging of the intellectual to practice through service-learning pedagogy.

Why I do what I do:

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.

Classes Taught:

Self, Community, and Service: Modern Identity and Meaning (Ethics GE-Service-Learning)
Self, Community, and Service: Ethics of Love and Responsibility (Ethics GE/Service-Learning)
Radical Response: Social Initiative in a Changing World
The Language of Love and War: Three 20th Century French Women Writers