Students performed over 1 million hours of community service during the 2017-18 academic year
With the holiday season in full swing, the focus on giving can be quickly lost. But for many Towson University students, the last year was definitely about giving back to the local community.
During the 2017-18 academic year, students performed 1,023,873 hours of service. That total combines community service hours with internship hours that were considered service.
Many students perform community service through their student organizations. This includes volunteer activities that range from sorting donations with the TU Foodshare, serving meals at food banks, tutoring youth and volunteering at nursing homes.
For Lisa Hill, coordinator of community service in the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, it’s important for students to step outside that campus bubble.
“When TU students engage in community service, they help the community but they also enhance their own education,” Hill said. “Community service experiences provide students with opportunities to learn about their assumptions, expectations, and values and to do the work in cultural competency.”
When looking for community service opportunities, most students and student organizations work with Hill and her office.
Nonprofits and community agencies contact Hill with volunteer opportunities. She also works with organizations to establish partnerships.
“Volunteering with our students is one of the highlights of my job,” Hill said. “Not only do I get the opportunity to connect with the greater Baltimore community—I get to watch our students have new experiences and develop as citizens.”
Along with partnering with local organizations and nonprofits, TU puts on large-scale community service events such as Town and Gown and The Big Event. And whether it’s a small group or TU’s largest day of service, the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility is excited to see students give their time.
“Whether it’s one student or a thousand students, it is great to see them giving back and taking care of the community,” said Corey Holland, coordinator of Community Outreach in the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility. “Our residents and neighbors must continue to feel that TU is committed to seeing Towson flourish.”
In addition to the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, other campus departments are helping students with service.
Most of Campus Recreation’s 30-plus sports clubs are required to complete between 50 and 350 community service hours per year, with some exceeding that amount.
The past academic year, Campus Rec saw 1,556 participants work at 143 community-service events, while completing 6,547 service hours. This included planting native trees at Gunpowder Valley Conservatory, welcoming back troops as part of Operation Welcome Home, and helping Habitat for Humanity.
“Community service contributes to the overall success and development of our club teams and students,” said Jeff Keenan, assistant director of competitive sports. “Community organizations need our help. They do amazing work and rely on countless volunteers to help."
Along with working with the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, Keenan encourages students to do their own legwork when looking for organizations to work with.
His office will provide a framework, resources and ideas, but it’s the sports club’s officers who make the contacts, which Keenan hopes will help them develop skills such as organization, time management and professional communication skills.
“Seeing them succeed and develop through these challenges makes me proud of the work they have done and our role in helping develop them into young professionals,” Keenan said.
One of the key contributors to TU’s community-service efforts are members of the Greek Life community.
During the 2017-18 academic year, TU fraternities and sororities completed over 21,000 hours of community service, and helped raise over $244,000 for charitable organizations.
Some examples of Greek Life philanthropy include:
With so many opportunities for service, Carly Heasley, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, is heartened to see the numbers grow. She’s also excited to continue to hear from the students about their positive experiences.
“Individual fraternities and sororities are based on different values and principals, but we were all founded with the general purpose of giving back to the community,” Heasley said. “Getting involved with community service projects and philanthropic endeavors is a way to truly live out those values.”
For six consecutive years, TU student-athletes have completed more than 10,000 hours of community service with last year reaching a record of 13,710 hours.
Student-athletes have mentored youth, advocated healthy lifestyles, hosted various sports clinics, participated in voter registration, and raised awareness about autism, breast cancer and prostate cancer. They also have supported many Special Olympics events.
During the 2018-19 academic year, TU student-athletes have thus far completed 5,053 hours of community service with more than 15 community organizations. They are more than halfway to their goal of 10,000 hours.
According to Antwaine Smith, senior assistant athletic director, Office of Community Service and Engagement, community service is both a source of pride for the student-athletes and a legacy for the entire department.
In 2018, TU finished the year ranked second nationally in the NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition. In addition, TU was a runner-up for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics’ Community Service Award, which is sponsored by the Fiesta Bowl.
“Often times there is not much notice or recognition when it comes to community service outside of the participants and recipients,” Smith said. “To receive acknowledgment and awards for our efforts has been inspiring yet very humbling.”
Students interested in community-service opportunities at Towson University can track opportunities at Involved@TU. They can also visit the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility on the second floor of the Administration Building.
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and a Culture of Philanthropy.