The University of Montevallo has been named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This honor roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for a commitment to voluntary community outreach, recognizes institutions of higher education that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities.
Dr. John W. Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo, was quick to recognize the efforts of the students, faculty and staff of the University that led to this award. “The UM family is dedicated to sharing our efforts with the community that surrounds and supports us. The University, the City of Montevallo and Shelby County all benefit from the service of these volunteers, and together, we will continue to improve the quality of life in our own backyard.”
While UM students have, traditionally, displayed a commitment to community service, that initiative culminated in the formation of the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement (OSLACE) beginning in 2009. This department serves as a connecting rod among UM faculty, staff, students, student-athletes and student Greek organizations and approximately 70 community partner agencies in the Shelby County area.
The University of Montevallo’s mission statement, vision statement and strategic plan explicitly identify service and informed citizenship as university emphases. In support of this culture, a number of academic courses include a Service Learning designation, and students who excel in service are recognized with a service cord at graduation and with a certificate on Honors Day.
University students, faculty and staff are frequently involved in volunteer service. Some examples of more-extensive efforts follow.
Since 2011, UM has participated in The Big Event, a one-day service project in the local community, including such services as picking up trash, cleaning and planting flower beds, caulking windows, trimming hedges, washing windows and painting, as well as hauling off debris and weeding. Students also teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and the Montevallo City Council to paint two houses. In 2012, approximately 400 students representing 23 campus organizations took part in this project. Planning for the 2013 Big Event is under way.
The Falcon Scholars in Action program is another example of ongoing organized student service in which 25 UM students are selected annually to directly serve clients in agencies and programs throughout Shelby County. These students perform a minimum of 10 hours of service per week for a yearly financial stipend. The Shelby County Commission contributes funding to this program.
The Shoal Creek Prentice Village Task Force, comprised of university representatives, neighborhood residents, city leaders and Habitat for Humanity staff, was formed to organize improvement and restoration to homes in the area around Montevallo Middle School. More than 500 students from UM and local city/county schools have given more than 1,600 hours serving this community.
Hollie Cost, service learning coordinator in UM’s Department of Service Learning and Community Engagement, who also serves as mayor of the City of Montevallo, recognized the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in securing this honor for the University of Montevallo. “First, a huge ‘Thank you!’ to all those volunteers who made this award possible. You are our ‘boots on the ground.’ Many thanks, as well, are extended to the University’s administration and our partners in the city and county, including specifically Alabama Poverty Project, Shelby County Community Services, and Shoal Creek Prentice Village Task Force. Together, we will continue to share our time and energies with our neighbors.”