Community Service at the heart of Pacific's commitment to Civic Engagement

Pacific is named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the first time.



Pacific University has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the first time since the initiative began in 2006.

The honor roll is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service's strategic commitment to engage millions of college students in service, and celebrate the critical role of higher education in strengthening communities. It recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes for their communities.

Pacific is just one of nine colleges or universities in Oregon, and 641 junior or senior colleges nationally, to be named to the honor roll.

The program places a strong emphasis on long-term institutional support of community service, with special consideration of how service results in measurable improvement in a community.

The CNCS considers all aspects of a college or university's community service efforts, including course work, student-led co-curricular activities and staff initiatives.

During the 2009-10 academic year, 506 Pacific students engaged in academic service learning, and an additional 1,076 students engaged in a variety of community service activities, resulting in a total of 150,226 community service hours.

Ellen Hastay, director of Pacific's Center for Civic Engagement, said the listing reflects community service as a core value of the University.

"The many Pacific faculty and administrators who support civic engagement here do so because they are not only committed to furthering the common good, but also because they realize the educational benefits community service affords students in their development," she said.

The commitment to civic engagement and community service permeates both the undergraduate and graduate student populations, Hastay added.

New undergraduate students are immersed in the culture during their first week on the Forest Grove campus.  Since 1999, the College of Arts & Sciences' fall semester orientation has included a Sprucing Up The Grove day of service, in which new students engage in projects to clean up city streets and parks, touch up area schools and help the elderly throughout the city.

Additionally, co-curricular student-led projects such as the Alternative Break program and B Street Permaculture Project address hunger and homelessness issues and environmental sustainability, respectively. 

During Alternative Break, groups of students spend their fall or spring breaks traveling to cities such as San Francisco to work with food shelters and other agencies.

The B Street Permaculture Project is where students maintain gardens through sustainable practices to harvest produce for local food banks and University dining services.

"Our partnerships within the local community have resulted in more highly motivated and educated school children, better served clients at social service agencies, improved literacy for Latino adults and a cleaner environment and strengthened local food system," Hastay said.

These partnerships are likely to continue growing as a result of a recent decision to require it in curricula, she added.

Last year, the Arts & Sciences faculty adopted Engagement as a learning Cornerstone and subsequently approved a civic engagement experience as a requirement for graduation for all future students commencing with Fall Semester 2010.

To help students meet this requirement, 15 faculty members currently incorporate civic engagement experiences in their courses, including some that are wholly dedicated to the cornerstone. Hastay herself taught three classes this past academic year.

One such course is Navajo Service Learning, a travel course held between Fall and Spring semesters. Ten students and two co-leaders spend three weeks in Arizona on the Navajo Nation reservation to assist elderly tribe members with tasks like cooking, cleaning and home repair, and assist in classrooms of the local community school to enrich the educational experiences of the resident children.

Civic engagement and community service have been embedded throughout the curricula Pacific's colleges of Education, Health Professions and Optometry for years. Nearly all students in the three professional colleges perform community service, be it student teaching or clinical practice for a given health profession, Hastay said.

Hastay said that students in the colleges of Optometry and Health Professions provide tens of thousands of hours annually in direct health services to low-income and underserved populations both locally and internationally. 

Services provided include eyecare, dental health, prescription drug management, mental health, occupational therapy, diabetes management and physical therapy.

Additionally, College of Education students log approximately 420,000 hours of volunteer service to more than 30 public school districts in the greater Portland area, including Washington County, as well as Lane County, providing much needed support to K-12 faculty while gaining clinical experience in classrooms. These hours are in addition to the more than 150,000 community service hours previously stated.


Posted by Joe Lang (jlang@pacificu.edu) on Jun 22, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Edited by Stephanie Haugen (haug7381@pacificu.edu) on Apr 3, 2012 at 12:42 PM

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