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, announced 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 residents by helping students, faculty and staff find opportunities to align service opportunities 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 with 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. WCU has more than 3,000 students involved in some form of course-based, curricular academic service-learning experience, with thousands of other students who are engaged in an extracurricular capacity. “Simply put, WCU has fertile soil, a conducive campus climate and environment, and hearty seeds in our students,” Perry said. “We have fertile soil for personal growth, academic development and character building.”

Highlights for the WCU Center for Service Learning include a Farm-to-Pantry gleaning program that gleaned 20,000 pounds of produce from local farms and gardens that was donated to local pantries; four alternative break experiences (Oklahoma City, Charleston, Cincinnati and Nashville) that engaged nearly 50 students in intensive service, discussion and reflection within different communities across the U.S.; and 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.

Photo Caption: Nutrition majors Mallie Billing and Lee Patillo work with students in a “kinder garden” class at Cullowhee Valley School.