Kalamazoo College has been named a Presidential Award Finalist in the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities.
K is one of only 14 institutions (and the only one from Michigan) receiving the Presidential Award Finalist honor out of nearly 700 nationwide that were considered. K has been recognized every year since the Honor Roll was launched in 2006, and was also named a Finalist in 2011. Five institutions were named Presidential Awardees this year, the highest honor.
“Selection as a Presidential Award Finalist is recognition from the highest levels of the federal government of K’s commitment to service-learning and civic engagement on our campus and beyond,” said Alison Geist, director of the College’s Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute of Service-Learning.
“This honors the commitment of K students and our community partners not only in Kalamazoo and throughout Southwest Michigan, but internationally, as well.”
According to Geist, about 74 percent of Kalamazoo College students will participate in civic engagement activities during their four years at the College. During the 2012-13 academic year alone, K students will contribute more than 35,000 hours to this effort. K offers about 30 service-learning courses that include community-based civic engagement activities, and students lead programs that take place every week throughout the year.
In the Greater Kalamazoo community, students work through approximately 40 different community partners including Kalamazoo Public Schools, Fair Food Matters, Goodwill Industries, Kalamazoo County Center for Healthy Equity, and Ministry with Community.
K students advocate for improved food access and health, and work in community gardens, serve as math tutors to elementary school children, employ theatre as empowerment with juvenile home residents, develop environmental justice programming with migrant workers for whom English is a second language, and many other roles to promote social justice.
“Our goal is to help K students gain hands-on, real world experiences that build their critical thinking, problem problem-solving, and communications skills, while fostering an interest in civic engagement and strengthening our community,” said Geist.
More and more K students are carrying this civic engagement interest to other countries, she added. About 85 percent of K students study abroad, mostly during their junior year, at more than 40 program sites on six continents. Many students now complete an Intercultural Research Project in their host country that includes a civic engagement component. Recent examples include a student who worked as a physiotherapy assistant at an aged care facility in Australia, another who taught English to students at a school for children of migrant workers in China, one who taught songs in Spanish to first-graders at a rural Mexican school, and one who raised funds to distribute portable solar-powered lanterns to elderly Kenyan residents.
Geist also commended the growing number of international students at Kalamazoo College who participate in civic engagement activities in Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan.
The Corporation for National and Community Service oversees the President’s Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact, and the American Council on Education. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service. The entire 2013 Honor Roll list is available at www.nationalservice.gov/honorroll.
Kalamazoo College (www.kzoo.edu) does more in four years so that students can do more in a lifetime. K offers rigorous academic explorations in the liberal arts and the flexibility to shape non-classroom experiences (study abroad, civic engagement, career internships, social justice leadership, and professional networking) into a résumé that gives students a leg-up for graduate school and employment. The K experience develops the ability to think and solve problems, and we measure those outcomes to continually improve.