Murray State University has been named to the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service for the third consecutive year. The formal announcement came on March 12, at the American Council on Education annual conference in Los Angeles.
The Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. Murray State’s selection to the Honor Roll is recognition from the highest levels of the federal government of the university’s commitment to service and civic engagement on campus and in the nation.
“This honor certainly validates our efforts to create a culture of outreach and community service at Murray State University,” said Dr. Randy Dunn, MSU president. “I am a firm believer in the notion that the special calling for a public comprehensive institution like Murray State is to be a steward of the region, using the power, visibility, capacity and economic engine a university provides to elevate the quality of life for those within its catchment area.”
Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service learning is embedded in the curriculum, the commitment to long-term campus/community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of service.
“Preparing students to participate in our democracy and providing them with opportunities to take on local and global issues in their course work are as central to the mission of education as boosting college completion and closing the achievement gap,” said Eduardo Ochoa, the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education. “The Honor Roll schools should be proud of their work to elevate the role of service learning on their campuses.”
Three projects were submitted as part of the application process for the Honor Roll — the “Giving Back Scholars” initiative that is financially supported by Patricia Mendez Long and Dr. Robert Long, the “Hooked on Science” project spearheaded by “The Science Guy” Jason Lindsey and the Calloway County Conservation District, and the “Dancefest” project promoted by Karen Balzer and the Jackson Purchase Dance Company.
The Giving Back Scholars initiative serves as a resource to the MSU youth and nonprofit leadership program to promote quality volunteer engagement with community organization through competitive grant awards. Now in its third year, it teaches students the art of grantmaking and recognizes creative volunteer engagement programming.
“The initiative provides our students with opportunities to give their time and talent, along with significant funds, in genuine partnerships with local organizations to improve the community in which we live. They leave the university with real-time community development experiences and a sense of having made a valuable contribution to the lives of others,” Long explained.
The “Hooked on Science” project grant was supported by MSU’s office of regional outreach to get students in the K-12 schools in the service region excited about science, engineering and technology. Each school throughout West Kentucky was offered a free hands-on program based on Kentucky science standards with a goal of inspiring students to reach their full potential and understanding of scientific processes and concepts by providing them access to exciting, authentic, hands-on experiments in a supportive environment.
“We have exposed more than 60,000 kids throughout the western part of the state to hands-on science so far this school year,” said Lindsey.
The Jackson Purchase Dance Company, working with the support of regional outreach to provide 10 dance workshops to nine elementary schools, introduced dance vocabulary and concepts outlined in core content guidelines for arts and humanities to fulfill state educational mandates. Over 300 students in grades three through eight learned dance choreography and received an opportunity to perform in a combined assembly at Lovett Auditorium before 4,000 peers.
“While our goals for this project paralleled those outlined by the Kentucky Department of Education Objectives, the bottom line was to provide students with the opportunity to participate in dance activities, to expose them to a rich art form, and to fill the void of the students’ artistic experiences and enrich their lives,” Balzer noted.