Volunteering takes on a new role

A University center matches students with more than 200 Twin Cities organizations.

by Amber Schadewald

Despite busy schedules, many college students find time to give back to their communities through volunteer work, and for some, it’s on their transcripts.

The University’s Career and Community Learning Center offers students the option of participating in the Community Engagement Scholars Program, giving them official recognition of their volunteer work on their college transcript, as well as special cords at graduation.

In the program, students must meet a variety of requirements, including 400 hours of community work, eight credits of service-learning courses and a final integrative community engagement project created for a specific organization.

Students are required to join the program at least two semesters before graduation, ensuring a sufficient amount of time to meet the requirements.

There are currently 238 undergraduate students enrolled in the program. Art senior Liz Schachterle, one of five peer advisers at the CCLC who help students find volunteer opportunities among more than 200 Twin Cities organizations that match their personal interests, recommended that other students involved in volunteering check it out.

“If (students are) already doing the work, they might as well get credit for it,” she said.

Many students say they want to volunteer, but then don’t end up following through, Schachterle said. This program, she said, can ensure students are volunteering throughout their undergraduate career.

Amy Kallenberg, a psychology senior, is in the Community Engagement Scholars Program and is currently working on the final part of her program, a project for Planned Parenthood.

The program’s final project is intended to help make a student’s senior thesis useful to a local organization.

Kallenberg is researching ways to best encourage safer sex practices among Latino youth.

She said she likes that the volunteer program overlaps with her major, allowing useful and beneficial research for people in the real world.

“I’m basing my research on what (Planned Parenthood) may find useful,” Kallenberg said. “That way it will mean more than just sitting on a shelf somewhere.”

She said the program has been a great way for her to work, volunteer and go to school. The 400 hours may sound like a lot, she said, but it’s not as unobtainable as people think.

Many students assume they cannot afford to volunteer, having to take time off from paid work, but Kallenberg was able to incorporate work study into her volunteer time at Southside Family School. She got paid for half of her required hours.

For students who only have the time to volunteer a few hours a week, service-learning courses can be another option.

Service-learning courses are tied to a particular class and require students to volunteer about two hours a week outside of class.

There are 1,321 students in service-learning courses this semester, almost double the number of participants from all of last year, according to Katie Peacock, CCLC’s service-learning coordinator.

Peacock said the increase is mostly due to the addition of service-learning courses in the architecture department and medical school.

In order for the University to be ranked among top research institutions, different levels of student civic engagement will have to become more of a major component, Peacock said.

Arlene Teraoka, the College of Liberal Arts associate dean for undergraduate programs, said volunteer work is a part of the University’s strategic positioning plan.

She said the University is currently developing even more opportunities for students to get involved in their communities.

Teraoka said that although volunteering is a crucial part of the college experience, she would rather have service-learning courses be strongly recommended, rather than as an additional requirement.

Kallenberg noted that the program is a lot of work, but she said she has no real complaints.

“The more each person gives a little bit of their time and energy, the more we can get accomplished and changed for the better,” she said.