Investing in Service-Learning and Volunteerism

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University of Nevada, Reno

Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement


University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity


As the Executive Director of Nevada Volunteers, I get to see and be part of the vision that organizations are creating for Nevada through volunteerism. It is remarkable and inspiring to see where nonprofits, corporations, and education systems are making an impact through volunteerism.

This month, across the nation organizations are highlighting the impact of National Service and volunteerism in education. Nevada commits significant national service resources to provide school support for parent engagement, school readiness, and to encourage youth to go to college.

I could talk about all the ways we do this, but instead I asked University of Nevada President Marc Johnson to share with us how they are building future Nevada leaders who understand the importance of service.

The University of Nevada, Reno instituted the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement in the 2012-13 year and it became operational in 2013-14. Why did the University decide to invest in service learning for students at the University of Nevada, Reno?

Service through volunteerism and active connection with our state and community has long been a part of the land-grant heritage of the University of Nevada, Reno. The involvement of our faculty, staff and students in service throughout our 140-year history has been substantial and profound.

Given this past history, recently the University has developed an ambitious plan to further strengthen this engagement through a number of initiatives. This is part of a larger effort on the University’s part to create a culture of student success on our campus, and to more successfully engage our local community and businesses through meaningful outreach.

In the past few months, we’ve established two initiatives that in particular seem to bring these important goals together. The Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement is a new office on our campus. This office is focused on enriching the overall academic and university experience for all students by connecting these students with non-profit organizations to help address a community-identified social issue, problem or need. This provides opportunities for students to have hands-on service, development of their academic skills, sense of civic responsibility and commitment to the community.

The group of community partners who are working with this office now numbers more than two dozen, and includes the Washoe County School District, the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Nevada Volunteers and the American Red Cross of Northern Nevada.

In addition, our new Career Studio has established a centralized hub for students, the campus community and the business community for internships, job shadow opportunities, resume-building resources and professional placement, further strengthening our connection with our community and ensuring that our prime commodity – an educated citizenry – can find the proper pathway to jobs in our community.

Both the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement and the Career Studio are clearly focused on enriching the overall academic and university experience for our students. At the same time, they are also creating learning experiences that help our students embrace a culture of impactful and involved citizenship. And further, through their service, our students are helping improve and enrich the quality of life in the community which our University serves.

Understanding the importance of service to others at all phases of life is a critical piece of building our communities and state. It is also an area where actions speak louder than words. There are exciting things happening across the state around service.

Our future leaders at colleges and universities across the state have opportunities to serve through service clubs or actual student centers focused on service learning and volunteerism like at the University of Nevada Reno and University of Nevada Las Vegas. I underlined a few of Marc Johnson’s comments because I think they are the areas that service serves us so well…

  • Connecting current and future partners
  • Addressing a community identified need
  • Impactful and involved citizenship

Congratulations to higher education for understanding and investing in service as a critical component of building Nevada’s future leaders.

In Service,

Amber Martin-Jahn

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