Dornsife partners volunteers with 42 agencies

NOTE: In the printed issue, this story quotes Meredith Devey as saying, “With no money coming from the institution, Devey said Whitworth does not actually pay for Community Building Day.” Devey’s quote is factually incorrect. It should be read “With little money coming from the institution, Devey said Whitworth does not actually pay for a bulk of Community Building Day.” These changes are reflected in the online edition.

by Emily Goodell|Staff Writer

In 1907, Whitworth created Campus Day, a campus-wide beautification project. Over 100 years later, Campus Day has evolved into Community Building Day, a day of serving the Spokane community.

Every student is obligated to participate in CBD as a service learning requirement for the GE-125 first year seminar class. However, CBD may not be the most effective way to volunteer.

Meredith Devey, Community Engagement Specialist at Whitworth’s Dornsife Center for Community Engagement said that CBD is a chance for the Whitworth community to explore and learn about the Spokane community and how organizations are responding to the needs around Spokane.

“I think it’s a day for every member of Whitworth to live out that part of the mission that says to honor God, follow Christ, [and] serve humanity,” Devey said.

CBD benefits students by building service learning into every academic year and breaking down barriers that exist for students wanting to leave campus, but not knowing how to participate in the larger Spokane community, Devey said.

Devey added that having CBD happen, within the context of a GE-125 class is important toward the impact CBD service may have on students.

“With the learning component, wanting to give students time to debrief and to reflect on the experiences that they have is crucial,” Devey said. “If they’re not actually reflecting on the experience, then it’s just, ‘I went and did this thing one day’…Reflecting on service, I think, gives students the chance to integrate that into how they see themselves engaging with the world once they leave Whitworth.”

Matthew Baker, program coordinator for the Dornsife Center said Whitworth does not require upperclassmen to complete Community Building Day because Whitworth wants to create a culture of service and volunteering without it being mandatory.

A higher proportion of Whitworth students report completing community service on average than other institutions similar in size, meaning that Whitworth students are fairly involved in community service, according to the National Assessment for Service and Community Engagement (NASCE).

One way CBD benefits the community is through return investment on volunteer hours, Devey said.

In 2014, the return on investment for a volunteer hour in Washington was $27.54, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Having 1,000 Whitworth students volunteer every year for four hours, makes a financial impact for the Spokane community.

Last year Whitworth provided a total of 4,040 hours of service on Community Building Day, worth $111,262 to the Spokane Community, according to the Dornsife Center.

This year Whitworth partnered with 42 agencies at 54 service sites, with an economic impact of more than $110,000, according to a Whitworth news release.

Even with the value of service learning and return on investment of volunteer hours provided by CBD, there may be more work to do.

“I think community building day is a good introduction [to service learning], but what could make it better?” Baker said.

Some of the issues that arise with the present format of Community Building Day are those of capacity, timing and funding.

Devey said they do not have the capacity to provide as many opportunities on Community Building Day as they would like. Devey said that the Dornsife office of three professional staff have to coordinate opportunities for GE 125 classes, the leadership and sports teams and a lot of other people who may or may not be required to participate.

“[With] nearly 1,000 people going out, that’s a lot of man hours for our partner organizations to be able to have that much work available,” Devey said.

Baker says that the timing of the event during the school year is complex. During the beginning of semester, the Dornsife Center is in charge of both Community Building Day, one of the largest events to take place on campus, as well as planning and distributing service learning opportunities for academic classes.

Baker said that he wondered if the hours of CBD were different, or if it were a full day instead of half a day or happened over the course of weeks, would it would it have a larger impact on students and the community.

Asked in response to the question of whether four hours of community service over the course of a college career is enough, Devey said that as an introduction to service learning it may suffice, but as to the course of a college career, hopefully not.

“We would hope that students are having ample opportunity throughout their course of time here to engage what they’re learning in their classrooms out in the community in real world scenarios,” Devey said.

Budget is a concern as well, affecting transportation capacity. There are a limited amount of buses due to budget constraints.

Community Building Day is financed through a combination of funds donated by the Spokane Teachers Credit Union and ASWU. This year, Dornsife had to contribute to funds out of its operational budget to pay for the CBD meal, which no particular party sets a budget for, Baker said.

With little money coming from the institution, Devey said Whitworth does not actually pay for a bulk of Community Building Day.

Baker said that it interests him that outside donors give so much money so that Whitworth can continue the CBD tradition and that Whitworth is not putting in the resources behind wanting the tradition to exist.

“We make the best event we can with the resources we have available and we don’t always get to choose what those are,” Devey said.

Devey said that Dornsife hopes that more and more Whitworth students will engage with the larger Spokane community.

“If Community Building Day, while maybe flawed, does that, then I’m going to continue to support any opportunity I can give students to find ways to see how they can engage the world,” Devey said.

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