Embrace community service


More than 12,500 UM students logged 157,489 hours of community service during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Vikesh Patel knows that a college education isn’t all about sitting in a classroom.

Yes, he has attended soccer games and spent countless hours at the Shalala Student Center, but he knows that a college experience involves more than sports and schoolwork. It’s about understanding your new home, your new surroundings, and finding out how to make a difference in the community.

The University of Miami has a long tradition of community service, and as the new president of the student government, Patel wants to build on that momentum this year.

“Community service is an integral part of our college experience and will not only help others in need, but also give every student a sense of belonging,” Patel said, adding that all UM students “understand the importance of giving back to our communities. “

For the 2014-15 academic year, more than 12,500 University of Miami students logged an impressive 157,489 hours of community service, an increase of approximately 10,000 hours from 2013-14. The University recently provided the numbers to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes community service.

Many of these dedicated hours of service come from academic organizations promoting community service and leadership, including the William R. Butler Center for Service and Leadership and the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. The Butler Center, for example, located at the Shalala Student Center in the heart of the Coral Gables campus, is devoted solely to volunteer service and advocacy opportunities for students and employees.

Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center, was delighted with the latest hours of service report.

“We are committed to encouraging students across the University to become engaged citizens and to help cultivate their ability to create positive social change in our communities,” said Wiemer.

Robin F. Bachin, deputy president for civic and community engagement, said students also participate in community activities through service learning courses. The University’s 11 schools and colleges offer more than 450 courses with a community learning component, she added.

“Students’ engagement with their communities gives them the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have learned in the classroom in real contexts and provides them with a foundation that prepares them to become leaders and future problem solvers,” Bachin said. The Office of Civic and Community Engagement leverages the University’s academic resources to promote campus-community partnerships and enrich the civic life of our communities.

The Student Affairs Division focuses on student engagement, both on and off campus. Volunteering and community service, said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president of student affairs, is critically important to a student’s growth.

“Preparing students to become active and engaged citizens in our communities is at the heart of our mission and it is heartening to see our commitment to service continue to grow each year through volunteerism, service learning and service. ‘civic engagement,’ said Whitely.

Student Affairs, along with the Butler Center and various student organizations, organize days of service throughout the year to encourage students to become more involved in local communities.

The largest of these days of service is Gandhi’s National Day of Service. Over 750 students dedicate a day to hanging out in Miami-Dade County and volunteering with several nonprofit organizations. Last year, students spent the day planting trees, removing graffiti and hosting a carnival at the South Miami Community Center.

Visit the Butler Center website for more ways to get involved in community service.

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