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Snapshot of service shows Elon students ramping up community engagement

The annual report for the first time surveyed community impact from the service work of Elon students. 

Elon students combined to provide 119,200 hours of service during the 2015-16 academic year, with 92 percent of the members of the Class of 2016 participating in service work or service learning during their time at Elon, the most recent numbers show. 

Elon students participate during the 2015 Stop Hunger Now event sponsored by Campus Kitchen that helps package meals for relief around the country. (Kim Walker)

‚ÄčThe figures included in the most recent Snapshot of Service for Elon paint an impressive picture, but Mary Morrison, assistant dean of students and the director of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, knows there's more to the story. 

"With this snapshot, we're really trying to tell more of the story, not just the numbers," Morrison said. 

That includes feedback gathered from the Student Impact and Community Impact Survey performed earlier this year for the first time. Among the survey findings — every community partner who responded said they want students to continue to serve with them. Also, more than three-fourths of Elon Volunteers students reported discussing social justic and current events through their work. 

"For me, that tells more than just the numbers of people. It speaks to the fact they are making a difference in this community," Morrison said. "Our community partners want the students to be volunteering with them, and we have the feedback to show that."

A snapshot of service at Elon University during the 2015-16 academic year.

‚ÄčService work by students can be an extension of what they are learning in the classroom, particularly for the 50 service-learning courses that Elon offered last academic year. Morrison said the goal is to work with faculty and students to help students "bring what they are learning in the classroom into their cocurricular work as well."

Finding that students are discussing social justice and current events in their service work reinforces the idea that these service opportunities are "not just about doing — they are about reflection, considering underlying issues and thinking more deeply about why things are happening the way they are happening in the community," Morrison said. 

While there's more to the story than just the numbers, the numbers themselves are pretty impressive. For instance, the 92-percent mark for service participation for this year's graduating class is a six percentage-point increase from the year before. 

"For me, that's a thrilling statistic," Morrison said. 


Owen Covington,
8/10/2016 2:10 PM