September 27, 2018
After Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and the Gulf states last September, then-WCU-senior chemistry-biology major Waneeza Mughees ’18 devised a way to support relief efforts. As former president of the Muslim Student Association, Mughees had previously organized a spring interfaith dinner. She simply added an at-will donation request to the dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha.
This is just one example of how campus constituents give back. The Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs (OSLVP) reported that students logged more than 712,000 service hours between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, counting both service-learning courses and co-curricular activities, with over 6,800 students participating.
“During the 2017-2018 academic year, community engagement expanded across the curriculum and students demonstrated how to meaningfully contribute to our community as active citizens,” said Kate Colyer, OSLVP assistant director.
OSLVP Director Jodi Roth-Saks and Faculty Associate Ashlie Delshad, associate professor of political science, worked closely with the University’s Curriculum and Academic Policies Council to produce some remarkable results, for example, service learning is incorporated within First-Year Experience courses for the first time this fall.
In addition, the new 12-credit Pathway Certificate in Community Engagement will recognize students who obtain service-learning experiences across a range of general education courses. By providing the community with needed services, these students will enhance such skills as critical and analytical thinking, awareness of and communication with diverse populations, and ethical decision-making. This Pathway Certificate connects classroom to community and opens doors to social justice and advocacy opportunities.
These programs are not only giving back and building relationships within our community and beyond. They also fortify the relationships students and faculty are building with each other.
Katie Solic, assistant professor of literacy, is the 2018-19 faculty associate whose role is to make connections, support faculty who are using service learning pedagogies in their courses, and be an ambassador for academic service learning.
“Right now, I’m collaborating with the faculty teams who are designing and piloting our First Year Experience course,” she explained. “We’re working hard to orient first-year students to opportunities for volunteerism and civic involvement on our campus, to teach students about the values and benefits of service-learning courses, and to figure out how to engage so many capable and enthusiastic young people in some form of service in the course that meets community needs and honors and respects our relationships with our community partners.”
Colyer noted how WCU students in the America Reads Youth Mentoring Program have tutored an increasing number of preschool and elementary-age children since the program’s inception in 2012. Last year alone, more than 500 low-income, at-risk youth received weekly mentoring in reading through partnerships with seven nonprofit organizations.
Serving the surrounding community has become a tradition for West Chester University students, whose efforts also reach across distances. This year, nearly 100 students participated in eight Alternative Break trips to serve in communities here and abroad. The 2019 spring and summer Alternative Break trips are already scheduled.
One recent international service-learning course that OSLVP supported was taught by Joanna Christaldi, assistant professor of nutrition. She led 13 students to Honduras for a week to serve alongside the organization Healthy Niños. The course offered students hands-on clinical experience as well as cultural awareness. Students provided nutritional counseling and performed health checks and hemoglobin screenings for at-risk families in impoverished areas of Honduras.