New program could replace “Lend a Hand, Hear the Band”

The Minnesota Student Association will vote to partner with the program next Tuesday.

by Cali Owings

A new program that offers walk-in advising for students looking for involvement opportunities on campus is hoping to partner with the Minnesota Student Association.

Last semester, the Office for Student Engagement at the University of Minnesota piloted Engagement Themed Communities as a tool that divided internships, student groups and volunteer opportunities into different categories of interest. This summer, the program was redubbed Do What Matters and expanded into a resource center.

MSA is considering supporting the program instead of Lend a Hand, Hear the Band, pending forum approval on Sept. 14.

“The whole idea behind this new initiative is that students who are more engaged on campus are more connected to the University,” Do What Matters coordinator Jermaine Elliott said.

Students who are engaged will also be more likely to graduate on time and feel a sense of belonging in the University community, he added.

Involvement opportunities are divided into six categories: social justice, health and wellness, arts, environmental issues and sustainability, youth and diversity. Program assistants specialize in one of these areas and relay information regarding engagement opportunities to interested students.

Elliott said the group primarily used Facebook pages to connect with students and added a partnership with MSA would drive more attention to their services.

If MSA chooses to partner with Do What Matters, it will be at the cost of their current student engagement program, Lend a Hand, Hear the Band.

In the past, Lend a Hand rewarded students who completed 10 hours of community service during the school year with a ticket to a private, MSA-sponsored concert. Last spring, MSA held the fourth-annual Lend a Hand concert with performances from Will Hutchinson and Mat Kearney.

MSA President Sarah Shook said she thought the hourly requirement may have prevented students from donating their time to the causes about which they were most passionate.

“With this program, we identify areas they can be passionate about during college and after they graduate also,” she said. “We are basically trying to create lifelong, engaged citizens.”

The cost of partnering with Do What Matters will also be less of a burden on the organization. Last year’s concert cost $40,000, despite moving the concert from Northrop Auditorium to the less expensive Great Hall in Coffman Union.

Elliott Shamberg, an undecided first-year student, said he wouldn’t be interested in student groups until later in his college career. Shamberg said he will feel most connected to the University during Gophers football games.

Minnesota International Student Association president Harsh Mankodi said Do What Matters would be effective, given the sometimes overwhelming amount of engagement opportunities on campus.

Being involved in a student group has certainly helped Mankodi feel more connected to campus. As a commuter student, he said he had difficulty making friends.

In MISA, Mankodi helps connect international students to the University community.

“Today, I got to meet people from three different continents,”
he said.

The Do What Matters office does not create internships or interest groups for students. Anyone looking to get involved can simply walk into their office in the new Science Teaching and Student Services building and complete an interest survey. Program assistants will use their contacts and the Engage search — a searchable database connecting users to involvement opportunities.

“We are supporting things that are already going on and connecting students to those initiatives,” Elliott said.