Through the Corporation for National and Community Service, President Barack Obama recognized Southern Utah University’s students for outstanding service when the University earned a Distinction for Excellence among the schools included on the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This marks SUU’s fourth consecutive appointment to the prestigious honor roll.
The SUU community touted a 64-percent increase in service completed, logging in 141,307 hours of community service among 4,468 students between July 2011 and July 2012.
Of this, SUU Provost Brad Cook said, “I continue to marvel at what a remarkable place this is to have such a strong campus culture of service. Many, many thanks to our tremendous service-learning leaders and service advocates.”
Such impressive strides among an already well-respected collegiate service and service-learning program merited the University’s first-time appointment as a university “With Distinction.”
According to Earl Mulderink, director of the Community Engagement Center at SUU, “Only 113 universities are given this added note of excellence, and our success is because of the contribution of everyone across campus. This is proof that at SUU we don’t just have smart students, we have concerned citizens.”
College students make a significant contribution to their communities through volunteer work and service, according to the most recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. In 2012, 3.1 million college students dedicated more than 118 million hours of service across the country—a contribution valued at $2.5 billion.
In a congratulatory letter from the Corporation for National and Community Service, CEO Wendy Spencer said, “Your selection to the Honor Roll is recognition from the highest levels of the federal government of your commitment to service and civic engagement on your campus and in our nation.”
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Barack Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.
In addition to the University’s involvement with several national service organizations, the majority of SUU’s community service stemmed from service-learning opportunities for students in the classroom. Of the total amount of hours completed by the SUU community 79,833 hours alone were completed in over fifty academic service-learning classes.
Just a few of the service-learning opportunities at SUU that were highlighted as enriching students’ academic experience while also enabling them to serve their communities include:
With civic engagement and service as a guiding force in its mission, the University introduces students to the personal satisfaction and communal benefits that come from voluntary service right from the start in Service Saturday, an annual tradition for incoming freshmen the weekend before classes begin that takes the entire freshman class out into the surrounding communities in service. Here, they learn more about their new surroundings and their potential impact across the community, build lasting friendships with fellow peers in service and come to know by experience all the good that can come from helping others.
Combining forces with Iron County Holiday Assistance, SUU’s students help coordinate and staff eight service programs for low-income residents over the holiday season, ensuring no child or family is left out of the holiday festivities that make the season special. The Holiday Store is the largest of these efforts, where those in need may “shop” for gifts for their family from donated goods at no expense. To fill the store and help additional families, SUU’s students coordinate several Angel Tree projects in the community, run a Stuff the Truck program and collect non-perishable food and cash donations at various events across the community.
The University’s business students coordinate a Teddy Bear Dean to provide assistance to low-income pregnant women, ensuring expectant mothers gain access to free prenatal health care services and providing much-needed baby supplies as financially-burdened mother prepare for the arrival of their little ones. In just its second year, the Teddy Bear Den at SUU has already garnered national attention for standout excellence in community service, with a first-place nod in the Phi Beta Lambda Collegiate Community Service Competition from the national honor society for professional business leaders.
DEPARTMENT OF NURSING
Nursing students logged 33,043 hours serving in health clinics, conducting community health screenings and health education and providing general healthcare assistance in local nursing homes.
SUU’s pre-healthcare students increase their likelihood of medical and graduate school placement by participating in medical service trips to countries such as Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua. The 233 students who participated in these alternative break trips clocked 10,980 hours on top of the many service hours they provide closer to home in rural health clinics.
VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE
SUU’s accounting students help low-income families in the community prepare federal and state tax returns, free of charge through the annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. In the past year, 58 students logged more than 2,177 hours, saving the community an estimated $135,000 in tax preparation fees and helping to recover $1,272,206 in refunds.