September 16, 2013
Springfield, Mo., September 16, 2013—Service projects are a tradition going back decades at Drury University. During the last school year, Drury students provided more than 148,000 hours of service giving back to people and organizations in Springfield and the Ozarks. Before a student ever sets foot in a class or takes one credit hour at Drury, they spend a portion of orientation helping out in the community. On Monday, August 19, 20 different groups of students and faculty fanned out across the community to do everything from work at a food pantry to clean up Jordan Creek. It’s an annual event called Service Plunge.
“I thought it was great to give back,” said Daniel Capper, a Drury freshman who helped pick up trash and pull weeds along Commercial Street north of campus. “It’s nice to be at a school that’s willing to be involved in the community.”
“Service plunge is designed to introduce our students to a community partner and to plant the seed of service,” said Courtney Swan, director of community outreach and leadership development. “Each non-profit tells the students about their mission and the students can internalize that and ask themselves, ‘What’s my role in this?’”
Two years ago, Drury adopted a new general education curriculum, the Drury CORE: Engaging Our World, which more formally institutionalized service learning. As part of the CORE, students must complete two engaged learning experiences. Those can be fulfilled through internships, study abroad, research projects or service-learning.
“Service-learning should enhance what a student is doing in the classroom,” said Courtney Swan, director of community outreach and leadership development. “Some students learn best by having a ‘hands-on’ experience, but service learning adds another component – social responsibility.”
Service learning not only strives to address a need the community has identified, but also supports students in their personal and professional development. In addition, to qualify as service learning, there needs to be a reflective component such as a journal or a paper that encourages students to contemplate the community issues being addressed and their own civic engagement.
To fulfill the engaged learning requirements, service learning does not have to be a part of a class project. If approved, a service learning experience can be an independent study or even an alternative spring break trip. In March of 2013, Drury students on Spring Break worked on projects in Tennessee and Colorado doing everything from trail maintenance to tutoring children.
“One day, we did service work on an actual portion of the Trail of Tears while listening to stories about the Cherokee. That was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip,” said Sheila Haskins, a Drury senior who attended the Tennessee Spring Break trip in March of 2013. “By the end of the week, we were all exhausted, but it was an unforgettable experience. What I thought was going to be a week of community service turned into learning lessons about myself, other cultures and I made some new friends.”
Drury’s commitment to service is also a part of the installation of Drury’s new President Dr. David Manuel, which has the theme: Learn, Engage, Serve. Dr. Manuel will be formally installed as Drury’s 17th president on Friday, Sept. 20, but two days prior, on Sept. 18, Drury students, faculty and staff will take part in service projects throughout Springfield and the Ozarks.
Drury’s emphasis on service is designed to produce graduates who, according to Drury’s Vision Statement, “become engaged, ethical and compassionate citizens.”
“We understand that Drury is a private institution, but we are also a public trust,” said Dr. Charles Taylor, dean of the college. “Encouraging our students to engage with the community and to give back fits with Drury’s Mission. Our students understand that they are part of larger communities and have an obligation to give back.”
Story by Mark Miller, associate director of marketing and communications at Drury