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Service by USF students praised
The university is recognized for its involvement in the community.
By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published June 3, 2007
USF student and volunteer Steven Mayock (left) and Amy Simon, from the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, are reflected in a mirror as they clean the bathroom at the Baby Bungalow, a children's facility for the Child Abuse Council.
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
USF graduate student and volunteer Cynara Stubbs cleans one of the windows at the Baby Bungalow, a children's facility for the Child Abuse Council.
TAMPA - Washing windows and dusting door frames aren't usually part of a college curriculum.
But University of South Florida senior Kelly Foyle doesn't mind doing it. Neither do other schoolmates who joined her recently for a spring cleaning at the Child Abuse Council's Baby Bungalow in South Tampa.
Foyle, 21, has spent most of her college career volunteering with USF.
"I can't imagine not doing it," said the St. Petersburg native, who helps on so many projects she no longer keeps track of her hours.
A USF tally shows students contributed more than 85,000 hours of community service during the 2005-06 school year. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently recognized USF for its involvement, bestowing the school with a newly created "community engagement" classification.
The recognition, given by Carnegie for the first time in December, recognizes institutions with extensive ongoing partnerships within their communities.
USF is the only Florida school among the 76 public and private colleges and universities to earn the distinction.
"To receive that classification means that USF is not just an institution on the outskirts of the city but a university that is significant to the programs and development of this community," said Maxon Victor, 23, who served as USF student body president in 2005-06 and created the university's largest volunteer event, Stampede of Service.
While Carnegie may have formally recognized community engagement at USF, school officials say it's nothing new to the university.
Medical students have a huge presence in Pinellas and Hillsborough hospitals. The sociology department partnered with All Children's Hospital to study mothers with disabled children. Faculty members and students in the geography and geology departments worked with the Southwest Florida Water Management District to learn more about ecosystems and watershed management.
USF president Judy Genshaft has actively pushed community involvement since coming to the school in 2000. The university lists community engagement as one of its values. The school touts it on brochures and on a banner that hangs on the Tampa campus in the administration building's courtyard.
USF St. Petersburg, the university's largest regional campus, has a Center for Civic Engagement to promote outreach. The Volunteer USF office at the Tampa campus changed its name to the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism. The offices, and their names, serve as not-so-subtle reminders that USF has a stake in the Tampa Bay region, school leaders say.
"There are no great cities that don't have great universities," said vice provost Ralph Wilcox , who headed the process of applying to Carnegie for the classification.
Wilcox said Carnegie's recognition bodes well for USF as the school sets itself up for membership in the elite Association of American Universities, which represents the top research universities in the United States and Canada.
"We're not just doing this for the good of the community," he said. "To recruit abroad and retain world-class professors, we have to build up the university but also create a community where they can thrive."
Today's college students have more experience with volunteering than generations past. Universities look hard at community involvement when deciding which students to admit. They want a well-rounded class, and those heading off to college know it.
"It's an effective part of marketing because students are looking for more than just to go to class and get a degree," said Susan Greenbaum, an anthropology professor and former president of the USF faculty senate. "USF is an urban university and urban universities have unique responsibilities. Having this formal classification helps fulfill a status that we deserve to have."
Karen Berkman, director of the Center of Autism and Related Disabilities at USF, said her programs serve 14 counties along Florida's gulf coast. The center advocates for early identification of autism and gives parents and professionals the tools they need to work with autistic children and adults.
Berkman estimates the center touches about 3,600 people each year. The USF center serves as one of seven in the state.
As director for the USF Collaborative for Children, Families & Communities, Judi Jetson links organizations with faculty members doing research. The programs and volunteers she's helped coordinate range from picking up trash in residential areas to a documentary on the history of the Belmont Heights Little League in East Tampa.
"The relationships that have been built are priceless," Jetson said.