For the sixth consecutive year, Western Carolina University has been named to a national honor roll of institutions of higher education that provide exemplary service and civic engagement in the communities of which they are a part.
WCU is among the colleges and universities listed in the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which was announced recently at the annual conference of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.
Schools are named to the honor roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. In notifying WCU officials of the honor, Wendy Spencer, chief executive officer of the federal agency, wrote that the honor roll “recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. Your selection to the honor roll is recognition from the highest levels of the federal government of your commitment to service and civic engagement on your campus and in our nation.”
In the timeframe considered for the honor, an estimated 6,550 WCU students participated in community service or academic service-learning projects and they completed about 52,400 hours of community service.
The staff of WCU’s Center for Service Learning works to strengthen the relationships between the campus community and local communities by helping WCU students, faculty and staff find opportunities to volunteer, and by connecting community groups with WCU volunteers who can help them. For students, service learning is provided as a special form of experiential education designed to meet community needs while enhancing the students’ understanding of course content, developing their career-related skills and helping them become responsible citizens.
“The work we do in the Center for Service Learning is for the greater purpose of student engagement, community development and faculty scholarship,” said Lane Perry, WCU’s director of service learning. “By investing in these greater purposes, we add to the rich educative environment that is WCU and help create a campus culture and personal habit of community engagement that will hopefully outlast any individual’s time here.”
Perry joined the WCU staff in August 2012. Prior to his arrival, service-learning assistant director Jennifer Cooper served as interim director, and she prepared the application that put WCU in consideration for the community service honor roll.
“We are proud to be part of a university with such a strong culture of engagement,” Cooper said. “Because of the remarkable number and variety of service projects that go on at WCU, the most difficult part of preparing our honor roll application is deciding which of our engagement initiatives to highlight.”
A couple of projects that stand out, Cooper said, are the WCU Poverty Project and service initiatives based in the recreational therapy program. For the poverty-relief project, students prepared and delivered nearly 50 truckloads of firewood to low-income elderly residents, organized a free book fair that distributed more than 500 books to underprivileged elementary school children, packed more than 36,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, collected over a ton of non-perishable food, traveled to Kenya to help build a well and helped remodel a building for the local Community Table.
“The faculty and students of the recreational therapy program are role models for integrating service into the curriculum,” Cooper said. Faculty and staff have participated in service projects at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation center for individuals with spinal cord and brain injuries, and they provided service at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Asheville and at the nearby Webster Enterprises vocational rehabilitation training center. They also organized a “senior prom” at a local nursing home, an adaptive skiing program for people with physical disabilities and a wheelchair basketball activity.
Opportunities for WCU students, faculty and staff to serve others abound. For more information, contact the Center for Service Learning at 828-227-7184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.