WCU again named to national honor roll for service learning

Western Carolina University’s efforts to incorporate community service and civic engagement activities into the curriculum once again have been recognized as exemplary by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

For the second consecutive year, WCU has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, the highest level of federal recognition for commitment to service and civic engagement.

“At Western Carolina, we have long embraced service learning as a way to enhance the educational experience of our students while helping solve problems for the people of the region,” said WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo. “We are glad to see that our emphasis on service learning and civic engagement continues to receive national recognition. Although we don’t do this for the awards, being named to the honor roll with distinction helps reinforce the importance of what we are trying to do.”

Institutions are selected for recognition on the honor roll based on factors such as scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and the extent to which the institution offers academic service-learning courses.

During the service period considered for this year’s recognition, more than 7,000 students – nearly 80 percent of WCU’s student body – were involved in service-learning activities, said Glenn Bowen, director of service learning. Together, they provided 53,000 hours of service primarily in the areas of education, social services and community development, Bowen said.

The 146 students enrolled in the WCU Teaching Fellows program provided more than 4,700 hours of service through a variety of community projects across Western North Carolina, including many in nursing homes and food banks. “The Teaching Fellows demonstrated compellingly how it is not too difficult to balance commitment to high academic achievement with commitment to community service while in college,” Bowen said.

In addition, a “Survival Spanish” service-learning project was cited as exemplary. WCU students assisted deputies with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office in learning and practicing basic Spanish phrases that could help them on the job by overcoming language barriers when dealing with a growing Hispanic population.

In other examples of service learning activities, as part of the America Reads/America Counts program, 23 students served as teaching assistants and mentors in Jackson County public schools; more than 500 students participated in the 25th annual Tuckaseigee River Cleanup project in April, contributing 3,000 hours of service; and the “Empty Bowl” project at Jackson County’s Community Table received support from ceramics students and faculty at WCU, who donated 95 handcrafted bowls, helping the nonprofit organization raise $8,000 to combat hunger and food insecurity.

The Corporation for National and Community Service oversees the honor roll in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact and the American Council on Education

For more information about WCU’s service-learning program, contact Glenn Bowen at (828) 227-7184 or at gbowen@wcu.edu.