Calvin receives highest federal recognition for service learning

Students log 55,000 volunteer hours


Summer 2013

Calvin College has been named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service learning and civic engagement. This is Calvin’s second time being so honored. (The college also was recognized in 2009.)

“Receiving this award is another reminder, to ourselves, our partners and the larger society, of what Calvin College values,” said Jeff Bouman, director of Calvin’s service-learning center.

The Corporation for National and Community Service administers the annual honor roll award. It selects honorees based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

Calvin College’s service-learning center reported that 2,200 students completed almost 4,000 service-learning opportunities during the 2011–2012 academic year. The total time logged by those students: more than 55,000 hours.

“At Calvin we are committed to more than the theoretical engagement with the surrounding community and world—we are committed to understanding, learning from and participating in the world-changing that God is about in the cosmos all around us,” said Bouman. “Service learning, for nearly 50 years now, has been an engine that enables theory to touch practice.”

Fueling that engine are the longstanding community partnerships Calvin has maintained in the city of Grand Rapids. Since 1964, the college and Grand Rapids Public Schools have partnered to create tutoring and mentoring opportunities for Calvin students. For the past 15-plus years, Calvin’s seven residence halls have maintained ongoing partnerships with local nonprofit organizations. And since 1993, Calvin has provided all first-year students with an introduction to service learning and the city of Grand Rapids through its annual StreetFest program.

“I hear stories every day about how Calvin College students’ learning has been enhanced through service-learning opportunities,” said Bouman. “Their language learning; their nursing practice; their teaching skills; their ability to critically comprehend complex issues like immigration, wage theft, illiteracy, community development and organizing for change—all of these and many more are practical and theoretical skills that service-learning placements enable and encourage.”

Bouman said that academically based service learning is a hallmark of a Calvin education, and in recent years it has extended into Calvin’s semester-abroad programming. For example, in Ghana and Peru, a course in ethnography puts students in contact with service placements. And in Budapest, Hungary, students are benefiting from 20 newly developed English as a Second Language placements.

“We may not, we must not, we do not exist in an ivory tower bubble,” Bouman said of the Calvin College community. “Recognition like this award encourages us to continue creatively and effectively engaging with community partners, primarily in Grand Rapids, but also regionally with our spring break trips, as well as around the world on study abroad semester programs.”

Source: News & Stories March 25, 2013.