Syracuse University, the greater community celebrate 10th anniversary of the Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service
Syracuse University, the greater community celebrate 10th anniversary of the Chancellor’s Awards for Public ServiceMarch 22, 2002Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
On April 9, 1993, approximately 75 people from around the Syracuse University campus and the greater Syracuse community came together for the first celebration of the Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service (CAPS), a ceremony recognizing the community service work done by SU students. That year, Sadler Hall received a Residence Hall Award, and five students were honored with Individual Chancellor Citation Awards for their work in making the Syracuse community a better place to live.
On March 25, the University will celebrate the 10th anniversary of CAPS. In a celebration beginning at 6 p.m. in the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium, more than 300 people will be on hand to help recognize the 2002 honorees. This year, 33 individuals, groups and organizations in nine categories will be recognized for their wide-reaching accomplishments.
“CAPS winners and all student volunteers show us what can be done when there is a commitment to service,” says Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw. “I am very proud of all the winners and of all their colleagues who have given so willingly of their time and talents.”
The scope of projects that members of the University community is involved in shows that SU is in the forefront of community service-higher education integration, and shows what a difference a decade of hard work can make. Each year, nearly 5,000 SU students, faculty and staff perform close to 500,000 hours of service. This year’s winners are involved in a myriad of projects in the community, from building homes with Habitat for Humanity to working with HIV/AIDS patients, raising funds for the March of Dimes to tutoring children at the Boys and Girls Club.
The CAPS awards are given to acknowledge students who contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the University and greater Syracuse communities. The purpose of the award is to encourage students to become active community participants and leaders by serving the needs of others, and to recognize the students for such efforts. Nominations for awards, which encompass individual students, groups of students, residence halls, residence floors, student organizations and academic projects or classes, are made by SU students, faculty and staff members. The winners are chosen by a selection committee that is comprised of students, faculty, staff and community members.
When Chancellor and Mary Ann Shaw came to SU in 1991, they found a campus that had a lot of good things going on in terms of volunteer work and community service. There wasn’t, however, a central “clearinghouse,” a place where community-service opportunities could be facilitated in a way that would complement the learning process.
Mary Ann Shaw, associate of the Chancellor, organized a task force of more than a 100 people to work towards making that clearinghouse vision a reality. But even before the Center for Public and Community Service opened its doors in 1994, another critical component of a successful community-service experience–recognition–was identified.
“We wanted to create an atmosphere that would encourage our students to do more, which would encourage our faculty to look at ways that service could be used as an active learning tool in the classroom. And we wanted to promote the idea that service to one’s community is everybody’s responsibility,” says Mary Ann Shaw. “One of the reasons that we developed the Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service (CAPS) was to bring to center stage the fact that we have so many students doing wonderful things in this community.”
Thus the CAPS celebration was born. Since that first class of five students and one residence hall organization, hundreds of individuals, organizations and groups have been honored.
Rachael Gazdick ’93 was one of the individuals who received a CAPS award in the inaugural year. She was a literacy volunteer and involved in community service through Hendricks Chapel’s Students Offering Service (SOS) organization.
“I think it shaped my college experience,” says Gazdick of her community service as an undergraduate. “Prior to that, I did not feel connected to the University or the greater community. After volunteering, I felt like I had a home. I was able to live out my values and beliefs.”
Gazdick, a doctoral student in the Maxwell School, is now a mentor to students through her position as assistant director of SOS. She works to educate students on the lifelong benefits of community service to the volunteer. “There is great reciprocity in learning,” she says.
Even though she works closely with student volunteers each day, Pamela Kirwin Heintz, director of CPCS, continues to learn and be inspired by them.
“I am constantly amazed, every year, by the depth and breadth of our students activities and initiatives. They demonstrate through their community work their commitment to being active citizens, ones who will rise to the challenge of being members of a participatory democracy,” says Heintz. “They have grasped the opportunity for a human connection, not run from what is so often an anomaly in our society today. Certainly the increase in numbers at the event itself is quite surprising and encouraging. More than that is just the idea of keeping something so vital for 10 years at an institution of higher education. So often these initiatives and events only last for a short time.” Heintz says she believes the success of the event is directly proportional to the impact service has on the lives of those who participate. “It is infectious and so personally rewarding in ways that so much of life no longer manages that no one wants to do less … rather they do more.”
The students of William Coplin, professor and chair of public affairs in The College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School and a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence, have been involved in community service since before the inception of CPCS. His students’ work with the Wilson Park Community Center in Syracuse has resulted in a number of benefits for both the greater Syracuse community and the students themselves. He says that the CAPS Awards have been an integral part of that success.
“Over the past decade, community service as a powerful source of education has expanded at both the high school and college level throughout the United States. Syracuse University has been a leader in this development and the Center for Public and Community Service has been at the core of our progress,” Coplin says. “A key part of the effort has been the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and representatives from the community meet to celebrate the outstanding service efforts from this campus. Each year, the stories get better and the number of attendees grows.”
The awards given over the past 10 years reflect how the idea of community service has permeated many aspects of academic and campus life. Members of the SU Literacy Corps perform countless hours tutoring and mentoring in local schools. Students involved with the Community Design Center (CDC), housed in the School of Architecture, have won several awards for their design projects aimed at improving conditions for people in the greater community.
Community service is woven into the University’s Academic Plan. For example, community service is now is a required component in the undergraduate curriculum in the School of Management; has been incorporated into the writing program curriculum in The College of Arts and Sciences; is part of teacher preparation programs in the School of Education; and is included in licensing requirements in the School of Nursing and the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, both housed in the College of Human Services and Health Professions. Community service is also an integral part of the New York Campus Compact, an organization of colleges and universities that is committed to promoting active citizenship as an aim of higher education among member institutions.
“One of the things that the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service does is to bring to center stage all of the faculty members who are now using service as a learning tool,” says Mary Ann Shaw. “Ten years ago we had few faculty members who were doing this; but now it has spread throughout the curriculum. We have writing classes where students are required to go out and do community service. They come back into the classroom and the teachers help them use their experiences to learn how to write. It is easier for them to learn the techniques of writing when they have something of substance to say. We have hundreds and hundreds of examples all across campus where this is happening.”
“The fact that we are celebrating 10 years of the Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service is very exciting to me and to the Chancellor,” she says.
One of community organizations that has benefited greatly from the service by SU students is the Syracuse VA Medical Center. Last year, more than 30 SU students were placed at the center and served an estimated 750 hours, in several areas of the hospital, says Robert Hawes, voluntary service manager at the VA. The VA is CPCS’ “community partner” for 2002.
“I’m not sure if students are aware of the difference they make,” says Hawes. “It may be easier to cite statistical information, but I believe it is just as important to reference the more esoteric but just as relevant outcomes. These harder to quantify results are seen in our patient satisfaction survey results and in the general improvement in the quality of care we can provide as a result of the students being a part of our team.”
Chrissy Thauvette, a freshman in the School of Management, is one of five students being honored with an individual award at the March 25 celebration. She served at the VA Medical Center last semester.
“I feel that community service has enhanced my college experience by showing me a section of Syracuse I would have not been able to see otherwise,” she says. “Syracuse University provides everything from laundry facilities to grocery stores right on campus, so for most students there is no need to step outside the boundaries of SU. From serving outside of the campus and in the actual Syracuse community, the entire city of Syracuse is seen with a real perspective, not just assuming it is entirely like the community we as students experience on campus. I loved my service site, and hope to continue to serve within the greater Syracuse community for my remaining college years.”