A new center at Illinois State University will try to more purposefully pair students with community organizations that can benefit from their growing knowledge and skills.
The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning will host a formal ribbon-cutting Wednesday at its new location at the corner of Fell Avenue and North Street in Uptown Normal.
The new center was first pitched by President Larry Dietz in his 2014 State of the University address. Its goal now is to create opportunities for students to apply their classroom knowledge to the benefit of the local community, said Janet Paterson, ISU’s interim director of civic engagement.
“What we’re really hoping to do is build upon the knowledge and skills our students are gaining in the classroom, and demonstrate that comprehension through interface with the agencies,” she said.
A local nonprofit in need of marketing expertise, for example, could use the center to connect with a marketing or graphic design faculty member. Their students might then create marketing materials for the nonprofit—giving them professional experience while also buoying the nonprofit itself.
Like many college campuses, ISU students rack up thousands of service hours every year through hands-on volunteer work. The center, however, will try to be more purposeful about how and when students work with community agencies, Paterson said.
The center consolidates many of the volunteer and civic engagement opportunities that already exist at ISU in one place, such as September Service Saturdays and Alternative Spring Break. As the center launches new programs and initiatives, "the area that will probably emphasize most is working with community agencies in establishing more formalized partnerships that are ongoing in nature," Paterson said.
“Our hope is that we will become more familiar with what our agencies need, the times of year they need it, the capacity they have to have students work with them, and in turn match them with our faculty, courses, and student volunteers to those real needs,” Paterson said.
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