Samford University students spent 583,198 hours serving the community during the 2013-14 school year, according to a report compiled by the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement.
Janna Pennington, director of student leadership and community engagement, led the study to “quantify and describe the involvement of Samford students, faculty and staff” in the community. The report includes information from the university’s 10 academic schools plus athletics, student affairs and Air Force ROTC. Both cocurricular volunteer work and service integrated into coursework is included.
Community engagement and service-learning have been part of the Samford ethos for decades, Pennington noted, but there had been no in-depth study of the impact of those efforts.
“As a Christian institution, community engagement is very much a part of who we are,” Pennington said. “Faculty and staff across campus are committed to helping students connect faith, learning, and service through coursework and cocurricular activities.”
Service projects covered a broad spectrum, Pennington noted, including missions and ministry, sports, tutoring, legal pro bono work, homeless ministry, environmental clean-up, health clinics, art and music programs, and social justice initiatives with 80 local community partners and other service points around the world.
“Behind these numbers are hundreds of personal stories,” noted Samford President Andrew Westmoreland. “Each illustrates Samford’s enduring commitment to vital experiences in learning that go far beyond the classroom. Through serving and reflecting on the meaning and value of that experience, knowledge can become wisdom.”
Students in Samford’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education participated in a partnership that includes vocational training and class work for developmentally disabled students from the Homewood and Mountain Brook, Alabama, school systems. The students spent time each week on the Samford campus in learning activities led by Samford students and faculty.
Some of the service projects have won awards, including the Alabama Rural Health Initiative through Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy. The initiative provides patient outreach in Perry County, Alabama, and recently won the national Student Engaged Community Service Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
Several offices and groups were involved in the “Shoe a Nation” initiative early in 2014 where Samford provided shoes for 6,000 children on the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. Representatives from the pharmacy school and athletics spent several days in Dominica this summer providing health and sports clinics and exploring long-term ministry relationship opportunities.
“We grow closer to each other and nurture our souls as we use our skills and strength as a force for good in a needy world,” Westmoreland added. “Samford is an exceptional community where knowledge rooted in faith becomes action.”
The total value of Samford students’ service to the community was $13,151,114, based on the estimated value of volunteer time according to Independent Sector, Pennington said.
Pennington noted that more than 160 Samford courses include a service-learning component that is represented in 535,045 of the hours recorded.
In addition to their service hours, student groups raised more than $300,000 in charitable donations to a variety of causes.
Pennington noted that although this is the first time for Samford to conduct such an in-depth study of community service, it will become an annual assessment.