DOING SERVICE AT VANDERBILT
Clive Mentzel, Director of the Office of Active Citizenship and Service, Faculty VUceptor
When we reflect on the values that constitute the social fabric of Vanderbilt, it’s clear that as a community, we care deeply. We give back, and in the two years that I have been director of OACS, many students have heard me say that I work ceaselessly to create more service-learning opportunities for our community. Why do I do it? It’s because of the boundless energy and huge intellectual creativity, innovation, and curiosity that students bring as they embark on the huge range of projects they lead and participate in.
Why do students do this? I have heard so many reasons, but at the core, the common thread runs in two directions. Students care deeply. Not only that, students seek firsthand experiences that bring them as close as possible to the challenges societies experience globally and locally. In turn, they do this because they want to be leaders in making change happen for the better of humanity as a whole. Students tell me that their immersion in the daily lives and challenges of communities enables them to gain real-world learning through service as they apply the world-class academic education they receive at Vanderbilt to some of the most profound and basic challenges too many human beings on this planet face. And they come back to campus, sharing these experiences with others, sparking new research directions and enriching existing ones, bringing new perspectives to bear in the classroom and in their interactions with others, their academic pursuits, and their lives in general.
The range of service-related opportunities on campus is wide and growing. Some 70 student organizations exist on campus with the primary objective of providing service opportunities for students. The work they do, taken both individually and as a whole, increasingly meets the needs of a huge range of local, national, and global communities. OACS provides these organizations with support and also acts as a one-stop shop for all aspects relating to service and service-learning. OACS staff members are there to talk through your ideas with you, link you with student organizations and communities, and give you access to local and global service-learning opportunities. Sounds trite, but think you make a difference? You’re right, you do, a huge difference!
First-year students serve the neighboring Edgehill community