University of Nevada, Reno President Milt Glick has signed the “Campus Compact,” joining a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents who have committed their campuses to encouraging service learning and civic engagement.
“It’s great to be a 4.0 student, but if you’re not taking your talents and making them useful, it doesn’t mean much,” said Tamara Valentine, director of the University’s Honors Program, who has established a student Honors Service Council that will lead the charge in encouraging student participation in service-learning and volunteer activities.
“When students volunteer and realize we’re part of the community and they’re part of something bigger, that’s very powerful,” she said.
More than 100 honors students have already paired up with local nonprofit organizations and completed some volunteer work this semester.
Some of the groups and organizations students have volunteered with so far include the SPCA, Catholic Charities, the Kiwanis and the Northern Nevada Immunization Coalition.
“The kids are great – it’s a partnership we hope grows even more,” said Wes Hoskins, forest project coordinator for Friends of Nevada Wilderness. “Phillip was an awesome kid to be around and a really hard worker. He seems to have a great future ahead of him.”
Phillip Breslow, a freshman at the University, volunteered for the organization one weekend this fall, doing trail maintenance in central Nevada.
“I had a fantastic time with them,” Breslow said. “I wanted an opportunity to get out there and give something back because I really enjoy hiking in my free time. I also really enjoyed being with their other volunteers. It was nice being around people who weren’t just doing stuff for personal gain. The feeling you get from volunteering – it’s unreal. Nothing compares to it.”
Nevada currently ranks 50th among the 50 states and Washington DC for volunteering. Nevada Volunteers, an organization dedicated to strengthening Nevada through AmeriCorps and volunteerism, helped the University secure an AmeriCorps VISTA for one year, to help jumpstart the campus’ increased commitment to volunteerism. They also paid for the first year of membership to the Campus Compact with congressionally directed funding.
“As a land-grant institution, this really fits our mission,” Valentine said. “We were very grateful for the help from Nevada Volunteers and AmeriCorps.”
By joining the Campus Compact, and the affiliated Washington Campus Compact, the university will also be able to award 10 students who complete 300 hours of service over one year an education award of about $1,100. The program is called Students in Service and is funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The University is also encouraging faculty to incorporate service-learning opportunities more into their coursework and will sponsor a Webcast for faculty at 10 a.m., Dec. 8 with information on how to creatively make service opportunities part of a meaningful learning experience.
Service learning is not completely new to campus. Many instructors are already including service learning as part of their coursework. For example, about 60 advanced students of Richard Mason, associate professor of accounting and civic engagement in the College of Business, volunteered more than 700 hours this spring to help lower- to middle-income wage earners get their taxes filed.
“It’s a win-win for the students and the people they’re helping,” he says. “Service learning is a whole different way of educating them.”