Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges with a Big Heart
In the US, September 11th marks the National Day of Service and Remembrance. In addition to giving back to the local community and building leadership, community service has also been shown to improve student motivation and engagement. For students who are looking to make a difference on campus, in the classroom, and in the community, our expert team of counselors is at your service – here are five colleges with outstanding commitments to social responsibility and service learning.
University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA
The University of Massachusetts (UMass – Amherst) encourages students to contribute to their communities, not just as volunteers, but also through work-study opportunities and academic service-learning courses for credit. Designated as a Community-Engaged University by the Carnegie Foundation, many of UMass-Amherst’s more than 200 student organizations are service focused. Fall 2012 service-learning courses include Internet Business, in which students serve as consultants for local small businesses’ websites; and Tutoring in Schools, which introduces undergraduates to tutoring strategies for minority students and allows them the opportunity to provide academic assistance to secondary school students while working with public school teachers, administrators, and members of the community. Further, through the Office of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning, students can participate in the Boltwood Project, a student-led, service-learning practicum that partners participants with community programs for the developmentally-challenged and for children of displaced families. Through on-campus organizations, students can feed local families as part of the Amherst Community Kitchen, raise public health awareness as part of the Public Health Sciences Club, or raise money for educational funding as part of Students Against Lack of Education (S.A.L.E).
Founded in 1863, UMass-Amherst is the heart of the state’s public school system. The school’s 21,812 undergraduate students can choose from more than 100 degree programs, and, as part of the Five College Interchange, students can take courses at the smaller liberal arts colleges nearby: Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, and Hampshire college. Each fall, students are welcomed back to the school’s 1,450-acre campus in Western Massachusetts with First Week, featuring free food and entertainment, and, come spring, students celebrate the warm weather by rocking out to artists such as Girl Talk, Ludacris, and LMFAO at the student-organized Spring Concert.
Rollins College, Winter Park, FL
Rollins College’s Office of Community Engagement ensures students start the semester off on the right foot. At the beginning of each academic year, freshmen participate in SPARC (Service, Philanthropy, Activism, Rollins College), while returning students, faculty and staff participate in “Be a Part From the Start,” a week-long community engagement program. Throughout the year, students can volunteer for programs such as the Holiday FunFest, an annual event that benefits Central Florida foster children; Pathways to College, to promote enthusiasm for higher education in the local K-12 community; and Five Minute Difference, a weekly project which encourages passerbys to participate in quick projects such as making a card for hospitalized children or fundraising for disaster relief. For service inspiration inside the classroom, many of the school’s courses incorporate community-based work. For example, in the popular course Death and Dying, students evaluate new and emerging technology and its ethical implications for healthcare, and apply classroom theory through volunteer work at healthcare-related agencies. Students dedicated to community service may also be interested in the Rollins Immersion program, Citizens Take Action, which offers weekend projects and alternative spring breaks.
A private institution in Winter Park, Florida, Rollins College is just minutes from downtown Orlando. With over 140 student clubs and organizations, including service groups EcoRollins, Rollins Relief, and Join Us In Making Progress (JUMP), 12 fraternities and sororities, and 23 NCAA Division II athletic teams, there is plenty to do on campus. To add to the fun campus atmosphere, each spring, the President declares Fox Day, where a statue of a fox is placed on the school’s main lawn, and spontaneously cancels all classes, providing students with a surprise day off to explore local beaches and amusement parks before throwing a campus-wide barbeque.
Portland State University, Portland, OR
A public university located in the heart of Portland, Oregon, Portland State University (PSU) encourages students to put the school’s motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” into action. Civic engagement is integrated into the school curriculum, with many students participating in a six-credit senior capstone project applying what they are learning in their major to the Portland metropolitan community. The school further offers a Civic and Community Engagement minor, which combines classroom work with community service. Outside of the classroom, students can partake in Student Leaders for Service (SLC), a program that has been awarded the The MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship (PSU came in third among 66 programs from 54 universities in 27 countries.) As part of the program, students commit to serve 10 hours per week for one year to support a community-based organization. Not to be outdone by the students, PSU’s faculty exercises their (heart) muscle, too! Several of the school’s faculty members in various disciplines have been selected as Community Engaged Research Scholars, with the goal of developing community-engaged research projects to better inform the campus and the higher education community.
As the largest and fastest-growing university in Oregon, PSU is home to more than 23,000 undergraduate students. The school offers more than 220 degree options, from botany to real estate development, and more than 150 student organizations including Students United for Nonviolence (SUN) and the Bouldering Club. Off campus, students can enjoy the city of Portland, home to the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Zoo, and the annual Portland Rose Festival; students can also head down the West Coast to participate in one of the school’s popular Alternative Spring Breaks. Previous trips include Habitat for Humanity in Seattle and work with the HIV/AIDS population in San Francisco.
Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH
The only liberal arts college in the US to require a comprehensive off-campus cooperative work program of all of its students, Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio has over 150 community partners where students can work on projects involving literacy, the environment, arts, homelessness, and hunger. Through the cooperative work program, students spend four quarters in local, national, or international settings, with at least four months allocated to an education project with a non-profit organization. One of the school’s three guiding principles is “Commitment to active engagement in the community and to social justice.” This principle is further promoted in the school’s Global Seminar offerings. These interdisciplinary courses combine lectures, group discussions, field trips, research projects, and fieldwork centered on themes like water, food, energy, health, governance, and education. Students can also take advantage of Community Life courses, which aim to connect students to the Yellow Springs community through engagement, projects, activities, and collaboration.
Antioch is acclaimed for its unique triple focus: classroom, co-op, and community; and has been recognized as one of the “Colleges That Change Lives.” Coretta Scott King, one of the Antioch’s most prominent alumnae, praised Antioch for emphasizing the students’ responsibility “to serve, to share, to give, and to do what [they] can to lift up the lives of others.” Taking this vision to heart, this small, private university is also home to a working, student-run farm that features a food forest, beehives, greenhouse, chickens and annual vegetables, and is used to feed the campus community.
Note: Antioch College was previously a member of the Antioch University system. In 2008, the College severed affiliation with the University and in 2011 reopened as a member of the Great Lakes College Association, a consortium of 13, private liberal arts colleges. Antioch currently has provisional authorization from The Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents for the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees but is awaiting accreditation from the appropriate regional accreditor for bachelor’s degree colleges. As members of one of the founding classes of the newly independent Antioch College, students admitted in 2012, 2013, and 2014 will receive the Horace Mann Fellowship, which includes a full-tuition, four-year scholarship.
Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
It’s not just the students who can contribute to the greater good through the Center for Community Service and Action at Loyola University Chicago; the alumni can pitch in, too! Current students can take part in one-time service projects such as Hunger Week (held annually to raise funds and awareness, including events such as “Humanizing the Homeless” and a fast-a-thon) and The AIDS Run and Walk. Students can also pursue ongoing programs like Jumpstart, which trains volunteers to help children in low-income neighborhoods develop the language and literacy skills needed to be successful in school. Students might also join Loyola 4 Chicago (L4C), in which students commit to work with one organization on a weekly-basis for an entire academic year. Organizations include Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Misericordia (providing learning assistance to those with development disabilities), and Sarah’s Circle (providing support to homeless and struggling women).
Perhaps most impressive is Loyola alumni’s determination to continue contributing to the community even after graduation – each year, representatives of the school’s 150,000 alumni community participate in the Alumni Day of Service. In 2012, Loyola alumni provided cleaning and maintenance services to Casa Infantil, an organization that provides childcare and pre-school prep to low-income and Hispanic families, and to Chicago Youth Center at Fellowship House, which provides Chicago youth with academic and life skills development, among other projects.
This private, Jesuit university is home to more than 9,700 undergraduate students, who can choose from more than 70 majors from forensic science to social work. The school also offers more than 175 student organizations including Best Buddies, International Student Volunteers, and Up ’til Dawn, which raises money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
If you are interested in finding a college that pours heart and soul into their academic and social offerings, these five schools are great places to start your college search. You might also want to check out other service-savvy schools like the University of Notre Dame, Case Western University, and Oberlin College. From the bottom of our heart, we wish you all the best in the admissions process!
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