Rhodes College is Named to President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

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Publication Date: 10/19/2006

Rhodes College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll “With Distinction for General Community Service.” This new recognition program is designed to increase public awareness of the contributions that college students are making within their local communities and across the country through volunteer service.

The 2006 President′s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is presented in cooperation with Campus Compact, a nonprofit association dedicated to building community and civic work into campus life, and sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, the USA Freedom Corps and the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development. More than 500 applications were received for the Honor Roll in its inaugural year. The list of honorees was announced just after the Corporation for National and Community Service released a comprehensive study showing that college student civic engagement has risen approximately 20 percent between 2002 and 2005.

At Rhodes more than 80 percent of the students participate in community service, and recently the college has adopted a curriculum that recognizes the synergistic relationship between service in the community and learning in a classroom. “As with laboratories and internships, service engages the student in discovery learning; it provides context for what the student is studying in the classroom, and most importantly creates opportunities for independent problem solving and the exercise of reflective judgment” according to Robert Strandburg, associate dean of academic affairs and director of Rhodes CARES (Center for Outreach and Research through Service).

Rhodes has been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) since 1855 and its emphasis on service is rooted in that heritage. The Chaplain’s Office, which is open to students of all faiths, serves as a gateway to numerous service opportunities including the Kinney Program that provides placements for students with over 100 area non-profit organizations. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Kinney Program on campus which provides sustained engagement with community partners. For example, since 1988 students in the program have staffed a weekly soup kitchen at St. John’s United Methodist Church.  That same year the Chaplain’s Office also established one of the first collegiate chapters of Habitat for Humanity and began the Tex-Mex Border Ministry. Students in this program spend spring break in Reynosa, Mexico, building homes with friends across the border. Kinney also responds to immediate crises.  Just recently, Rhodes students traveled to Bay St. Louis, Miss., to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

For students involved in service organizations, ongoing leadership workshops are provided through the Office of Student Leadership Programs that address a variety of issues:  “Service Reflection Groups,” “Finding Your Service Fit,” “Advocacy Workshop,” “Motivations for Service” and “The Historical Roots of Service in Memphis.”  The office also develops informed and reflective community leaders through programs like the Bonner Scholarship that empowers student leaders to develop and implement community-based programs addressing specific community needs as the culminating work of their four-year service engagement.  In addition, the Rhodes Summer Service Fellowship is a nine-week program that offers students the opportunity to devote a summer to a significant community project—either one identified by a community organization or something the student designs.  Students gain valuable insight into urban problems and Memphis reaps the benefits of the completed projects.

In January 2005, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Rhodes a grant to establish and operate a Community Outreach Partnership Center in the area northeast of the campus. Only twelve other institutions nationwide received the grant. Today, Rhodes students and staff work with a number of other community organizations in the Rhodes Hollywood Springdale Partnership supporting resident capacity building, crime prevention, health education and elementary, middle, junior high and high school student success.

Founded in 1848, Rhodes aspires to graduate students with a lifelong passion for learning, a compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world.