Features — 04 April 2013

Murray State University has been named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service for the fourth consecutive year. The formal announcement came at the March American Council on Education annual conference in Washington, D.C.

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 by the office of regional outreach as part of the application process for the Honor Roll — the “Math Out of a Bag” initiative co-sponsored by the college of education and MSU’s regional campus in Paducah, the “Shakespeare in the Schools” project spearheaded by Dr. Barbara Cobb, Dr. William Jones and the American Shakespeare Center, and the “MLK Day of Service” promoted by the United Way of Murray-Calloway County.

The Math Out of a Bag initiative aided in facilitating enhanced mathematics education at regional elementary schools. The program targeted four lower-performing schools to provide professional development to teachers and math instruction to K-5 students and their parents, as well as to establish math clubs at each school.

Under the guidance of three MSU faculty members, 35 MSU education majors put in 248 hours over the course of the semester to design, create and implement weekly math clubs and present two family math nights for each school involved. Math Out of a Bag also provided over 70 children and their families with a tote bag full of math manipulatives — objects designed to promote perception of mathematical concepts to keep and utilize in the home.

The “Shakespeare in the Schools” project was built on the success of the Murray Shakespeare Festival providing generations of students the opportunity to experience live unparalleled professional theatre at Lovett Auditorium. Taking the expertise of MSU English faculty into the K-12 schools in the region, they provided free training, resources and support in incorporating Shakespeare into curricula. Three day-long workshops were conducted for 27 teachers in the region and over 1,300 students from 10 counties benefited. This training has helped to improve literacy levels, increase cultural awareness, and prepare students for college-level study. MSU students provided mentoring to the high school students attending the performances that created critical engagement opportunities.

The United Way of Murray-Calloway County partnered with the offices of regional outreach and multicultural affairs to provide six community service projects with local nonprofit agencies to make Jan. 21, 2012, “a day on instead of a day off” to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Over 100 faculty, staff, students and community members came together for five hours that day to provide more than 500 volunteer hours impacting 20,000 citizens. The projects included packing 54 personal care kits for local Red Cross clients affected by disasters; helping Needline pack 230 food boxes for seniors; cleaning and reconfiguring exhibition space in Wrather Museum to host the Smithsonian exhibit; cleaning, painting and building projects for North Calloway Elementary School; collecting 29 55-gallon bags of clothing and household items for Angel’s Attic; and creating signage for the United Way’s free tax services.

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