Setting New Standards for Service
Junior Lina Ma, an international business major, cuts away invasive blackberry bushes at Cheasty Greenspace during Serve Seattle, an annual day of service in the community.
Five years ago, Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., created a special office to bring students and the Seattle community together in the spirit of service. At the time, he predicted that the Center for Service and Community Engagement would, over the next 10 years, help double the number of SU courses with a service component.
It was enough to make Kent Koth, the center’s director, gulp.
As it turns out Koth, several thousand students and scores of professors and community partners hit Father Sundborg’s goal in half the time. This past year saw more than 100 faculty and nearly 4,000 students active in the community as part of their studies. They did this through 224 courses with a service-learning component—a 111 percent increase from when the center was created in 2004.
“It’s an example of how you make an investment and it grows and further animates the ethos of an institution,” says Koth.
Three out of four SU students now serve the community as part of their studies. That’s a rate more than twice the national average, and a distinction in keeping with SU’s mission to empower leaders for a just and humane world.
Three out of four Seattle University students now serve the community as part of their studies.
The center has formal arrangements built around the goals of 60 organizations, many of which are in the neighborhoods surrounding 12th Avenue. Students volunteer in numerous ways, from direct service work like tutoring students or feeding the homeless, to philanthropy, political participation, social entrepreneurship and community-based research.
With some partners, connections created by one course lead to several others. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County Rotary Branch in the Central District, an effort to help students with homework after school led to a photography project with students, a design class making an exit plan and weekly basketball games with student athletes.
Jeri Chonle, volunteer coordinator for Northwest Harvest’s Cherry Street Food Bank, says many students bring special interests and insights from the classroom to their service experience.
“We couldn’t do our work without lots of energetic, caring volunteers,” says Chonle, who has been at the food bank nearly 20 years, “and we’ve gotten lots of those from Seattle University.”