Dominican's Service-Learning program named to President's Community Service Honor Roll

Dominican University of California has been named to the 2010 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

The announcement was made in Washington, D.C. by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

A total 641 schools made the 2010 honor roll, with six recognized as Presidential Awardees, 11 named as finalists and 114 named with distinction. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors including the scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

“This year, the application process was made more rigorous with a special emphasis placed on institutional commitment to service/service-learning and how much impact this work is actually having in our local community. So, I am especially pleased that we received this honor as a small program whose main resources are the passionate faculty and community partner organizations,” said  Julia van der Ryn, Director of Dominican’s Service-Learning Program  and Assistant Professor in Humanities.

“I am grateful for the synergy that creates intentional and dynamic opportunities for students to understand social issues first hand while developing the critical thinking skills to identify complex systemic causes and the practical skills we all need to work together for a more just world. The greatest good that comes from these partnerships is the impact on our students, the awakening to the conditions of others, the challenging of assumptions and stereotypes,  and the discovery of their own passions and values and their ability to make a positive contribution right now.”

Dominican students, faculty and staff contribute  thousands of service-learning hours to Marin County. Its community partners include Bahia Vista SNAP After School Program, Canal Alliance, Garden of Eatin @ North Bay Children’s Center, Golden Gates National Parks Conservancy Marin Stewardship Program, Huckleberry Wellness Academy, Homeward Bound, Marin AIDS Project, St. Vincent de Paul, Spectrum LGBT Center,  Marin County Community School Tax Aid, Young Mom’s of Marin.

A total of 851 institutions applied for the 2010 Honor Roll, a nine percent increase over last year, a sign of the growing interest by colleges and universities in highlighting their efforts to engage students in making a difference in the community.

On campuses across the country, millions of college students are engaged in innovative projects to meet local needs, often using the skills learned in classrooms.  In 2009, 3.2 million college students dedicated more than 307 million hours of service to communities across the country, service valued at more than $6.4 billion.  Business and law students offer tax preparation and legal services, and college student volunteers provide meals, create parks, rebuild homes after disasters, conduct job training, run senior service programs, and much more.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a strong partner with the nation’s colleges and universities in supporting community service and service-learning.  Last year, CNCS provided more than $215 million in support to institutions of higher education, including grants to operate service programs and the Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for college tuition and student loan repayment.  CNCS is a catalyst for service-learning programs nationwide that connect community service with academic curricula. Through these programs, in classes, and in extracurricular activities, college students serve their communities while strengthening their academic and civic skills.

CNCS oversees the 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.

Awards will be presented in June at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New Orleans.