The fall semester on university campuses across the country is one of the most exciting times for faculty, staff and students, as well as the communities that are fortunate enough to call themselves "college towns." One very important characteristic that college students today bring to their communities is a renewed emphasis on "civic engagement." In my tenure as a University administrator I have been on many campuses that lift up the involvement of their students and their levels of engagement. However, I can proudly say that I have rarely seen a student body more engaged than that of our SMSU students!
In his book, Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, Thomas Ehrlich defines civic engagement as, "working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes." SMSU has an established culture that embraces this responsibility and encourages students in every aspect of college life to become engaged.
These past few weeks, many projects have been undertaken that showcase the ways our students have chosen to become involved in our community. We have seen our environmental science students partner with middle school students to monitor water quality in the Redwood River. We have groups such as Colleges Against Cancer and the SMSU Athletic teams take on projects to raise both awareness and dollars in support of cancer research. Students have partnered to support the recent Crop Walk, the Marshall Pet Rescue, and you will soon see our student-athletes out in the community raking leaves as part of their annual work-a-thon.
These are just a few examples of how SMSU students choose to get involved and give back to the community.
Our University mission calls for us to prepare students to meet the complex challenges of this century as engaged citizens in their local and global communities. To help support that mission, SMSU has an established Center for Civic Engagement that facilitates connections between our academic programs and various community needs. The Center serves as the intersection between student learning, faculty research, and community engagement. Their goal is to highlight the many ways in which SMSU makes civic and community engagement an integral part of learning experiences campus-wide and serve as a conduit for people and organizations looking to engage volunteers.
If you are interested in learning more about the Civic Engagement opportunities on the SMSU campus, or if you have a project or cause that you would like to share with our students, I would encourage you to check out the SMSU Center for Civic Engagement located in BA 270 or on our website at www.smsu.edu/campuslife/civicengagement.
Our students can do amazing things. The more they are involved on campus and in the community, the more meaningful an educational experience they will have and the better off our communities will be for having played a part in creating their experience.
By working together, we all learn and we all benefit.