For the eighth consecutive year, Western Carolina University has been named to a national honor roll of institutions of higher education that provide exemplary community service and civic engagement, both on and off campus.
WCU is among the colleges and universities listed in the 2015 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. The honor was given in recognition of WCU’s actions and achievements in the 2013-14 academic year.
Cited for the recognition, the WCU Center for Service Learning works to strengthen the relationships between the campus community and local communities by helping students, faculty and staff find opportunities to align community opportunity with course content, and by connecting community groups with volunteers who can help them. In the past year, the center has worked with organizations within Jackson County and expanded to international efforts to assist impoverished peoples in Africa.
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, said Lane Perry, director of WCU’s Center for Service Learning.
“We understand that figures frame a story, but experiences tell it,” Perry said. “Just as community-engaged experiences can bring to life academic content and concepts, stories can bring figures to life. The President’s Honor Roll provides the forum to address both – figures and example stories.
“While we have over 3,000 students involved in some form of course-based, curricular academic service-learning experience, there are thousands of other students who are engaged in an extracurricular capacity,” Perry said. “Simply put, WCU has fertile soil, a conducive campus climate and environment, and hearty seeds in our students. We have fertile soil for personal growth, academic development, and character building. Like Thoreau stated, ‘Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.’ I have great faith not only in the seeds at WCU, but in the soil and conditions.”
Among the highlights for the WCU Center for Service Learning are:
- Farm-to-Pantry gleaning program gleaned 20,000 pounds of produce from local farms and gardens that was donated to local pantries.
- Twenty-four graduating seniors fulfilled the requirements for the Lily Community Engagement Award.
- Four alternative break experiences (Oklahoma City, Charleston, Cincinnati and Nashville) engaged nearly 50 students in intensive service, discussion, and reflection within different communities across the U.S.
- A center and Coulter Faculty Commons collaboration to implement the Community Scholarship Incubator retreat, which engaged nearly 50 WCU faculty and regionally-based community partners in deep and meaningful work around problem-solving.
- The center awarded $8,000 in community engagement scholarships through the Jacob Spencer Medford Scholarship endowment.
- Patricia Bricker, associate professor of science education and associate director of the School of Teaching and Learning, received the Robert L. Sigmon Service-Learning Award and was a nominee for the Holshouser Excellence in Public Service Award for her work with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and Farm-to-School program.
Other achievements that garnered regional attention were students conducting an afternoon workshop for patrons of the Waynesville center of LifeSpan Services, a disabilities assistance nonprofit group, and holding a barefoot walk-a-thon to raise awareness and funds for Samaritan’s Feet, a humanitarian group dedicated to distributing shoes to impoverished communities around the world.
“We’re always thrilled to be recognized at the national level, but the real value of this award is that it gives us the opportunity to step back and reflect on the contributions that our students, faculty and staff make to the community over the course of a year,” said Jennifer Cooper, center assistant director. “The total impact that WCU has on our region is remarkable.”
In its Honor Roll application, WCU showcased achievements associated with the Entrepreneurship Program and Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in conjunction with the Small Business and Technology Development Center, the Dillsboro Partnership and the local Farm-to-Pantry Gleaning Program.
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.