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In Service To Springfield Community Service Celebrates 20 Years

May 3, 2009  
 Filed in Campus History

For two decades, Wittenberg has remained a recognized and award winning leader for its commitment to service-learning on campus and abroad. In February, as the university celebrated the 20-year anniversary of its community service requirement, the campus reflected on the success and life-changing nature of the distinctive program, one that first began to take shape in the summer of 1986.

Originally known as the Office of Volunteer Services, the program, under the direction of Richard Scott, former dean of students, was initially managed by student assistant Jack Horne ’87 before the university hired Randel Wolfe ’84 to  coordinate the new and evolving program.

“We held our first volunteer fair, and a couple 100 students showed up along with reporters from the newspapers,” Scott said. “It was pretty impressive.”

The following year President Emeritus William A. Kinnison ’54 joined Campus Compact, an organization of college presidents committed to the development of personal and social responsibility of their students.

“I had attended a meeting of college presidents at the national level to discuss the benefits of service-learning to our students and our communities,” Kinnison said. “Not only does it place our students in work environments gaining work experience, it also helps meet the needs of our community. It’s a win-win situation.”

Community service became an academic requirement in 1988, followed shortly thereafter with the hiring of the program’s first full-time director, Deborah Dillon. Within a year, Dillon had emphasized the importance of placing students in specific fields of interest to help spark their career goals, and she had acquired the “Communivan” to transport students to and from work sites.

The Community Workshop, as it was soon called, found a home in 105 Shouvlin and quickly became a beehive of activity. By 1995-96, however, 55 percent of the junior class and 29 percent of the seniors had failed to complete all elements of the requirement. The university was then charged with developing a plan that would guarantee that students would complete their “community service in a timely fashion,” according to its 1997 self-study for continued accreditation.

A task force was formed, and Community Service 100 was created and approved by the faculty. Then director Greta Reames said that she felt the change would be positive for students, helping them stay more focused and on task. The plan worked, and on Feb. 13, 2009, during the 20-year anniversary celebration, the facts spoke for themselves.

To date, roughly 10,000 students have committed more than 260,000 hours in service to the Springfield/Clark County community. Some have discovered their passion in the experience and have since gone on to serve in the Peace Corps and other service-oriented fields. All have become more connected to the Springfield community.

“Throughout the years, our community partner list has changed,” said the program’s current director Kristen Collier ’92, “but we have probably partnered with more than 75 different sites in the community.

“The results of our efforts are a true reflection of the positive impact our students have made in Springfield/ Clark County and the commitment across campus to engage students in the community.”

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