Literacy Corps tutors Qadriyyah Parsee '02, left, and Jillian Harvey '02 read the weekly news at the CPCS bulletin board.
A Tradition of Service
When Chancellor Shaw and Mary Ann Shaw first set foot on campus in 1991, it was evident that the spirit of voluntarism was alive and well at Syracuse. Athletic groups, fraternities, and sororities had a long tradition of community service; Maxwell School and College of Arts and Sciences professor Bill Coplin required students in his introductory public affairs classes to work with inner-city children; Hendricks Chapel offered a variety of service opportunities through its Students Offering Service organization; and the Volunteer Center of Central New York had a satellite office on campus. But the Shaws discovered that each service activity at SU operated independently, which often resulted in frustration, duplication of effort, and lost opportunities. “We heard people on campus say they wanted community service to be promoted more proactively and that it needed to be better organized,” says Mary Ann Shaw, associate of the Chancellor. “We began to see common themes and elements that needed to be suppor sted and shared. The Chancellor asked me to take the lead in organizing the effort.”
Shaw set up a task force of more than 100 people representing a cross-section of the campus and community. Several brainstorming sessions defined programmatic goals and helped shape an action plan. A smaller design team studied successful models of community service programs at other institutions, including Cornell University, Brown University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Southern California. They also sought advice and technical assistance from Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents organized to create public service opportunities for students.
The team realized that SU was part of a much larger nationwide reawakening of the service movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s that had been temporarily derailed during the ’80s. However, this time there was a difference. The renewed service movement was built on the experiences of the earlier movement that proved disorganized programs don’t survive. “The service experience alone doesn’t ensure that significant learning will occur, or that the community’s needs will be met,” says Pamela Kirwin Heintz, director of CPCS. “Learning from service is not automatic—it must be accompanied by careful training, monitoring, thoughtful reflection, and continuous evaluation.”
The creation of CPCS emerged as the most practical way to support and recognize various service activities on campus—not by funneling all service activities through the center, but by having the center work with other University divisions to place students in the community and ensure that reflection and evaluation are incorporated into the service learning experience. Maxwell professor Coplin believes the center’s main purpose is to act as a catalyst to expand service learning opportunities and to play an important supporting role by making critical connections between the campus and the community. “I like to think of CPCS as a continuum, offering everything from cheerleading to recruitment, training, placing volunteers, providing transportation, troubleshooting, putting people together, and running programs,” he says. “Anyone on campus can plug in at any point along the continuum to get the help they need.”
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