SLU earns national recognition in service

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Ample opportunities to volunteer promote Jesuit mission

Last year, Saint Louis University students spent more than 1 million hours serving their community. This staggering number is part of the reason SLU reached No. 2 in the  ranking of universities that do the most community service by The Washington Monthly.  

Throughout the year, students are presented with multiple opportunities to participate in service events, something that contributed to the University’s ranking.

Responsible for the annual fall semester day of service, Make a Difference Day, is Assistant Director at the Center for Service and Community Engagement Robert Wassel. Make a Difference Day was mentioned in an article by The Huffington Post and in a slide show of the national ranking, recognizing that it is “one of the largest days of service at any college in the nation.” During Wassel’s first year at SLU six years ago, 1,400 students donated their time and energy to their community during the event.  Over the past five years, the event has almost doubled in size, with 2,778 volunteers participating last year.

“We are shooting for 3,000 this year,” Wassel said.

When looking at SLU’s numbers concerning community service, Wassel was not surprised that the University had ranked so high.  He said that according to last year’s student survey, 84 percent of students engaged in community service, which is well above the national average of 40 percent.  During his time here, Wassel said he has noticed that SLU attracts a certain type of student who is predisposed to give back.  One of the reasons Wassel said he feels that SLU is so successful in raising student interest and involvement with service work is that there are ample opportunities for students to get involved.

“There are a multitude of departments [that are involved with service] that cover many bases,” Wassel said.

He also said that there are numerous service opportunities at students’ fingertips, such as Alpha Phi Omega, an organization of which SLU houses one of the biggest chapters in the country.

Another unique opportunity for students to give back is Campus Kitchen, a nationwide organization in which students prepare and deliver meals to those in need. Ten years ago, SLU was the first college to jump at the chance to host the organization, which has since established divisions on 30 other college campuses across the country.

Now, SLU’s program is thought of not only as the first, but also as one of the most successful. Campus Kitchen Coordinator and SLU alumnae Jenny Bird said that some of the program’s success can be attributed to the school’s Jesuit mission and our location in the city.

Bird said that there are 50 student volunteers a week at Campus Kitchen and that she sees “a huge mix of the student population” as well as a “huge commitment.” These volunteers are responsible for the 500 meals a week that are produces and delivered to the needy of the community. Bird said she feels that because of SLU’s Jesuit mission, it is often taken for granted that at some point, most students will serve the community in one way or another.

Between classes and extracurriculars, SLU students are putting forth time and effort to serve those around them, and their work is not going unnoticed. SLU not only took the silver in the community service ranking, but also placed “94th out of 258 colleges making a ‘contribution to the public good,’” according to a  press release from the University.

Both Wassel and Bird said they feel it is important to recognize the amount of opportunities that the University has to offer, and that they urge students to discern what they are passionate about.

“SLU is a smaller school that has grown in reputation,” Bird said.

After watching both the student interest and the service opportunities grow over his past 6 years at SLU, Wassel said he agrees.

“We are making a name for ourselves,” Wassel said.

This ranking was based on factors that include the total number of hours formed, the number of students and staff that partake, the prominence of service-based scholarships available, as well as the amount of courses that incorporate service and the size of each university is relative to the statistics taken.