Kernodle Center: service with a purpose

Meet the team that makes it possible for Elon students, faculty and staff to serve beyond the walls and grounds of the university.


In a nutshell: Established in the mid-1990s, the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement partners with local and international communities to prepare students for lives of active community engagement within a complex and changing world.

What it offers: The center houses the Elon Volunteers! program, which offers a range of opportunities for students to serve the campus and community, including tutoring Alamance County students, promoting preparedness for natural disasters, organizing service trips during university breaks and hosting blood drives and the Special Olymics. The center also coordinates academic service-learning opportunities for classes and runs Elon’s Campus Kitchen, a program that collects and delivers unused food from community partners and ARAMARK’s Dining to the local Allied Churches homeless shelter.

The results: Elon has achieved national recognition as a leader in service-learning and civic engagement and has been named six times to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

The team: Behind he center’s initiatives is a small team of dedicated staff members who work tirelessly to ensure every program succeeds. They are:

Mary Morrison, Director

Morrison came to Elon in 2005 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She oversees academic service-learning, leadership development and events.

“Working with student leaders is the most rewarding part of my job,” Morrison says. “Developing the next generation of civically-engaged students is one of the most important tasks of higher education.”

In the past two years, Morrison has helped establish the Campus Kitchen, the Downtown/East Burlington BioBus Route, the first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Alamance County and a Best Buddies Program in collaboration with Alamance Community College.

Mary Leigh Frier Denlinger, Associate Director

Denlinger primarily works with Elon Volunteers! programs, which consist of more than 100 student volunteers.

“I have the privilege of working alongside incredible EV! student leaders who are changing the world through service to their community,” Denlinger says. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my days.”

Denlinger, who came to Elon after working for Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Action & Service Learning for three years, also coordinates awareness programs, the Service Learning Community, SafeRides, America Reads and the Federal Work Study program.

Tammy Cobb, Assistant Director for Community Partnerships

Cobb is an Elon alumna and lifelong resident of Burlington. After graduating with a degree in human services, Cobb worked for the Alamance County government, including nine years as the director of Alamance Friends of Youth, a volunteer organization reaching at-risk youth.

In the Kernodle Center, Cobb oversees Leaders in Collaborative Service (LINCS), a program that places Elon students with eight community agencies in order to manage student volunteers and partnerships between community nonprofits at Elon

Evan Small, Special Programs Coordinator

Small oversees the EV! Public Relations Team, the EV! Outreach Team and Pre-Serve, the Kernodle Center’s summer experience for first year students. Small graduated from Elon with history and music degrees and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education. Prior to working at Elon, Small taught experiential and environmental education at several boarding schools in and around Asheville, N.C., and loves watching students connect what they learn to what they experience in the world around them.

“The best part of my day is watching the passion our student leaders have as they find ways to better serve their communities and their world,” Small says.

Steven Caldwell, Campus Kitchen Coordinator

Caldwell is the center’s newest member. He coordinates student and staff volunteers for the collection, preparation and distribution of unused food from campus and community outlets to those in need in the greater Elon area.

A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, he has extensive experience in the food and hospitality industry with organizations such as Carolina Inn, Fearrington House and Bloomsbury Bistro, and is an active volunteer with the Culinary Corps as well as the “Chefs Move to Schools” program.

Libby Otos, Program Assistant

Otos is the first point of contact between the center and the public. Besides supporting the center operations and handling all bookings, caterings, table and van reservations, she supervises six student staff members and oversees the service-hours validation team.

 For more information about the Kernodle Center, visit its website.

By Natalie Allison ’13