UConn Earns Top National Honor for Community Service Initiatives

Brett Decker worked in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans for Community Collaborations International. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)
Brett Decker worked in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans for Community Collaborations International. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

SHARELINES

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The University of Connecticut’s commitment to service, volunteering, and civic involvement is being recognized with a prestigious award that showcases it as an example for other higher education institutions nationwide.

UConn has been named among five 2013 Presidential Award winners in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Presidential Award is the highest honor that a university can receive for its work in service-learning programs, civic engagement, and commitment to volunteerism.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent federal agency that coordinates the program, also named 690 colleges and universities this year to its honor roll. UConn had received a spot on that honor roll each time it has applied for consideration in past years, but this is its first year as a Presidential Award winner.

“We are thrilled that the efforts of our students, faculty, and staff are being recognized by this prestigious and competitive award. We have a highly motivated student body that is passionate about strengthening communities and making a difference in the lives of others,” says Matt Farley ’08 MPA, UConn’s associate director for community outreach in the Department of Student Activities.

From left to right: Allison Masters ’10 (CLAS), Kevin Breuninger ’14 (CLAS), Adanna Uwazurike ’14 (CLAS), Gina DeVivo Brassaw ’02 MSW, senior program coordinator in the UConn Office of Community Outreach, Jonathan Greenblatt, Special Assistant to the President and director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council, Wendy Spencer, chief operating officer of the Corporation for National & Community Service.
From left, Allison Masters, Kevin Breuninger, Adanna Uwazurike, and Gina DeVivo Brassaw of UConn, Jonathan Greenblatt of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council, and Wendy Spencer of the Corporation for National & Community Service, at the American Council on Education’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

“This is like winning the national championship of community service and service-learning,” he says, adding that receiving the Presidential Award places UConn in the same class as prominent schools such as Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

CNCS has administered the award since 2006 and manages the program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the American Council on Education and Campus Compact.

The four other 2013 Presidential Award winners were La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif.; Georgia Perimeter College in Dunwoody, Ga.; Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa.; and Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.

The Honor Roll recognizes student service in all of its forms in higher education: volunteerism, academic service-learning experiences, and student internships at not-for-profit and public entities. UConn was recognized with one of the five top Presidential Awards for the strength and reach of its programs, growing participation among students, and the meaningful outcomes that those efforts have produced throughout the region and beyond.

UConn’s student participation in Office of Community Outreach initiatives increased 278 percent between 2003 and 2012, and the number of hours devoted to public service in those efforts went up 540 percent.

In total, UConn students contributed over 1.4 million hours of service last year.

UConn’s Honor Roll application included information about service and service-learning activities from student organizations and departments from throughout the University including the regional campuses, law school, and medical school.

The diverse range of projects highlighted over the years in UConn’s applications include providing medical services to migrant farm workers; conducting leadership and literacy programs for students in low-income households; and offering legal services to clients seeking asylum from political, religious, or other forms of persecution.

Brett Decker worked in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans for Community Collaborations International. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)
UConn’s Honor Roll application embraced all types of service, including alternative spring break projects such as this one in New Orleans. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

All types of service were included, such as one-time community service day projects, ongoing local programs, and domestic and international travel initiatives through alternative breaks and study abroad programs. Some of UConn’s notable accomplishments also are highlighted along with those of the other winners on a video posted by the CNCS on its YouTube channel.

“When you consider the entire university, students are involved with service all year, even when traditionally they would be on break,” Farley says. “Our students have had a strong history of local involvement, but now it is exciting to see their focus expand to include the international community. It is a real testament to UConn’s land grant mission and commitment to developing global citizens.”

During the 2011-12 academic year, UConn service initiatives engaged more than 17,500 student participants, including more than 8,000 who contributed over 20 hours per semester. About 62 percent of UConn’s student participation was through academic service-learning and service-oriented internships.

“Congratulations to the University of Connecticut, its faculty, and students for its commitment to service, both in and out of the classroom,” says Wendy Spencer, chief operating officer of CNCS. “Through its work, UConn is helping to improve the community and create a new generation of leaders by challenging students to go beyond the traditional college experience and solve local challenges.”

In addition to being on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in each year that it applied, UConn also last year received a designation “with distinction” in general community service in 2012 and received the organization’s Katrina Compassion Award for Excellence in Hurricane Relief Service in 2006.

The award was presented earlier this month at the American Council on Education’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. UConn was represented by Gina DeVivo Brassaw ’02 MSW, senior program coordinator in the Office of Community Outreach; Adanna Uwazurike ’14 (CLAS), Kevin Breuninger ’14 (CLAS), and Allison Masters ’10 (CLAS).

Says Brassaw, “It was a profound honor to be in Washington, D.C., surrounded by colleagues from across the country and receive an award that recognizes our University’s efforts.”