Texas A&M University has once again gained national attention for something that just comes naturally to Aggies – selfless service. Texas A&M’s newest such high-level acknowledgment is inclusion on the 2012 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the U.S. Department of Education, the honor roll is a way to recognize the nation’s leading colleges and universities, students, faculty members and staff for their commitment to bettering their communities through community service and service learning, noted Robert Velasco, acting CEO of CNCS.
“Through service, these institutions are creating the next generation of leaders by challenging students to tackle tough issues and create positive impacts in the community,” Velasco said in announcing the names of the institutions selected for the honor roll this year. “We applaud the honor roll schools, their faculty and students for their commitment to make service a priority in and out of the classroom. Together, service and learning increase civic engagement while fostering social innovation among students, empowering them to solve challenges within their communities.”
While nearly every one of Texas A&M’s 800-plus student organizations has some aspect of service in its mission statement, several stand out because they are setting an example of community service to the rest of the nation, university officials noted.
Pointing out that service is one of Texas A&M’s recognized core values, Matt Starcke, program coordinator with the Department of Student Activities said Aggies are continually asking: “How can I be of service?”
“Many students enter Texas A&M already committed to community service. Recent Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) data reveals students enter the university having already performed volunteer work and, once on campus, students have many opportunities to serve,” he said.
The largest single example Starcke cited is The Big Event, the student organization that conducts a single day of service each spring for the local community — most recently this past weekend. With an average of 17,900 student participants each providing four hours of service, The Big Event alone is responsible for more than 60,000 person hours of service each year. The organization was recognized with a “Points of Light” award at the Presidential Forum on Service in 2009 by former President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Over the past 10 years, approximately 100,000 students have participated in Big Event.
Another event that help the university be selected for the honor roll is “Replant,” a student organization started in 1991 that plans Replant Day, a one-day environmental service project striving to improve the Bryan/College Station community by planting trees. During the past five years alone, approximately 5,000 students have volunteered to plant more than 1,500 trees.
Memorial Student Center Hospitality, the official host committee of Texas A&M, is another cited organization. It focuses on serving the campus and community through programming and volunteerism. Each year MSC Hospitality produces signature programs that highlight the diversity in programming for the committee as well as the service it provides for the campus and community. The group completed 3,500 hours of community service in 2010-2011, impacting nearly 27,000 people.
Additionally, the Leadership and Service Center (LSC) in the Department of Student Activities maintains AggieServe, an online resource for students, community agencies and faculty to share service opportunities (http://aggieserve.tamu.edu). For AggieServe to succeed, the LSC maintains partnerships with more than 60 local agencies and regularly promotes the site to students and faculty. Additionally, these agencies are invited to campus each year for the Texas A&M Volunteer Opportunities Fair, and agency staff, faculty and representatives from the LSC gather annually for a “Service Agency Breakfast.”
“The honor roll schools should be proud of their work to elevate the role of service-learning on their campuses,” said Eduardo Ochoa, the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education. “Galvanizing their students to become involved in projects that address pressing concerns and enrich their academic experience has a lasting impact – both in the communities in which they work and on their own sense of purpose as citizens of the world. I hope we’ll see more and more colleges and universities following their lead.”
“Texas A&M is an institution committed to community service. Our values, support for faculty and staff and the resources provided to students all contribute to an environment where service is not simply well-regarded, but expected,” Starcke emphasized. “More importantly, Aggies embrace this spirit daily, an assertion made evident by their campus and community involvement and verified with institutional and national assessment data.”
For a full list of recipients, visit www.NationalService.gov/HonorRoll.