M. Lacalle-Calderón1, A. Gonzalez1, R. García-Contreras2, S. Rico3

1Universidad Autonoma Madrid (SPAIN)
2University of St. Thomas (UNITED STATES)
3Fundación Nantik Lum (SPAIN)
As a form of active pedagogy and community engagement, service learning (SL) is a highly flexible and adaptable tool reshaping the way students are learning around the world. This paper is an effort to show how the Master on Microfinance for Development (MMD) at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) (Spain) is a good example of an operating SL program that synthesizes academic studies with community service. The paper highlights the main characteristics of MMD at UAM, and shows the effects of its SL methodology on students, the community they serve, the organizations they work for, and the academic program itself. Throughout the paper, details of MMDs structure and organization reveal the challenges, achievements and shortcomings of the program since its foundation. The idea is to provide enough evidence of the unique and revolutionary pedagogical approach MMD brings to the teaching and learning experience of microfinance in the rather theoretical and often impractical world of higher education. MMD was one of the first and few programs in Spain and Europe to make use of SL techniques with the purpose of granting a graduate degree, setting up the bar for what experts call life-long and collaborative learning. At last, the paper shows how MMD is not only an example for SL but the flagship of a socially responsible trend in higher education, where the process of granting academic degrees to more committed and ethical individuals become social activism in itself, sharing with students the goal of building a more just and better world.