Bucknell Magazine: Record numbers respond to service-learning initiatives
June 15, 2009
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LEWISBURG, Pa. – In February, Bucknell University was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service-learning efforts and service to America’s communities – the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.
Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors including scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
Increasingly, on college campuses across the country, students are committing as much time and energy to service-learning as they do to their formal learning. We are in the midst of a generational shift – something as fundamental as the relationship between students and their learning, the application of their learning to the communities in which they live and will work, and the calling for a liberal education to foster civic learning and personal responsibility.
Bucknell ahead Bucknell is ahead of this phenomenon.
A recent local community impact report showed that more than 75 percent of our students are involved in some aspect of service, and 60 percent participate on a regular basis. During the 2007-08 academic year, Bucknell students contributed more than $200,000 and 52,000 service hours to local, national and international organizations. Students want professional satisfaction and success and expect their college education to prepare them for these, but they also hope for something more.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s citizens, and they know there is no opt-out button – they must shape the future they will inherit.
Community engagement High achievers with keen intellects, they are poised to move the spotlight from “me” to “we” through meaningful community engagement on and off campus. We, as educators and administrators, have a responsibility to inspire in students effective habits of civic engagement, political involvement and a predisposition toward action, rather than apathy.
Students need confidence that one person can make a difference, that voting is important in a democracy and that their individual knowledge can be used for the public good, as well as for personal gain. They need a collegiate public square, a supportive laboratory where they practice civic habits.
At Bucknell, this laboratory is both the campus and community. When students extend their learning to the environs of Lewisburg, they practice the kind of civic engagement that will serve their future towns and communities well.
Important lessons As Stephanie Rink ’09 said, “The opportunity to use my skills and talents in the surrounding community has helped me to substantially develop my relationship with the place Bucknell calls home – the wonderful town of Lewisburg. I have come to realize that service to my community not only benefits those I am working with, but also teaches me important lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Professor of Sociology Carl Milofsky designs courses where students conduct social science research, apply their knowledge to a community issue and become civically engaged through this learning process.
His students work in public health settings, prisons and other nonprofit agencies to put theory into action.
Building bridges “None of this would happen if Bucknell as an institution did not value building bridges,” he said. “We are located in central Pennsylvania but in some way we also are central Pennsylvania along with our friends and partners. The way we are enmeshed here can’t be separated from all of the other connections and partnerships we have elsewhere in Pennsylvania, in U.S. cities and in settings all over the world. The community is within ourselves and in our relationships to people whose lives come to matter a lot to us.”
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