Features — 28 February 2013

Murray State University staffers and community leaders are headed to Louisville to present at an interstate conference on campus and community engagement. The mission of the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education is to promote networking among practitioners, research, ethical practices, reciprocal campus-community partnerships, sustainable programs, and a culture of engagement and public awareness through service learning and other forms of civic engagement. The 2013 conference theme is Re-Engaging Democracy in the 21st Century: Preparing Students to Lead Civic-Minded Lives.

In an attempt to help prepare students to lead civic minded lives, Murray State University recently partnered with five United Way agencies in its service region to build a network of volunteer opportunities. Gina Winchester, executive director of regional outreach, presents on how the new system works and how it will benefit the university. With the help of a social media networking company called Galaxy Digital from North Carolina, MSU and its regional partners invested in building a volunteer matching website to link nonprofit service opportunities across 18 counties in far west Kentucky to a student, faculty and staff population of over 10,000 at MSU. The system is designed to allow for a unique matching of individual users interest, abilities and passion to the needs of a nonprofit organization. In return, the organization can post events, recruit volunteers, list in-kind donations, solicit advocates and post job opportunities. The system also helps in the tracking of volunteer hours and reporting of needs met for individuals as well as the organizations involved. This presentation will showcase the system and the benefits of working across county lines to share resources.

Winchester co-presents with Aaron Dail, executive director of the Murray-Calloway County United Way, and Jennifer Revell, MSU coordinator for service outreach. Each will share their unique perspective on how the system “Get Connected” is working for their constituents.

Rebecca Feldhaus, coordinator of regional outreach, will present “Ask, Listen, Act: Murray State’s K12CONNECT Program.” Feldhaus manages the K12CONNECT program under President Randy Dunn. She’ll present the game plan for the program, which started in earnest in the 2012-13 school year. The goal of the presentation is to enlighten educators at all levels about the benefits of asking the right questions and subsequently getting better answers. When universities tell the surrounding school districts how best to help, it’s cutting the legs out from underneath the committed district support the university needs for the program’s success. By sitting down to ask “how are we doing?” the university enters into an equal partnership with school districts. Both parties are honest and engaged and more likely to stick with the plan for the long haul. Dialogue is always stronger than monologue, and Feldhaus will illustrate a few strategies during her presentation at the 2013 Gulf South Summit.

As a member of the Kentucky Campus Compact, Murray State has been actively involved in programming, best practices and research for the stronger implementation of service learning and engagement projects on and off campus. With representatives from campuses in North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and beyond, the summit combines knowledge of dynamic colleges and universities who are supporting successful programs and innovating new ones.

Winchester and Feldhaus present during concurrent sessions on Thursday morning, Feb. 28.

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