The U’s Student Action Office awarded $20,000 grant

The U's Student Action Office awarded $20,000 grant
The Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning in Higher Education has awarded a one-year, $20,000 grant to fund the Student Action Office's (SAO) proposal, "Impacting Disadvantaged Youth Through Service-Learning." The University of South Dakota is an active member of the consortium.

Funding is used to enhance service-learning and faculty and community agency development to better prepare them to develop students' academic learning, their sense of social responsibility and their civic skills. This grant is the fourth, consecutive $20,000 grant awarded to the SAO by the consortium.

The reviewers of the grant proposal took special notice of how service-learning has been integrated into curricular and co-curricular programs at the U including the interdisciplinary IdEA Program, the SAO and the Center for Academic Engagement.

Sarah Hirsch Wittmuss, supervisor of the SAO and program associate director of the IdEA Program, said, "The SAO, the Center for Academic Engagement, and the IdEA Program figure heavily in the University's strategic planning efforts by providing to students, faculty, and staff opportunities to foster learning by connecting campus and community and this is a key component of academic excellence."

The award provides mini-grants to faculty and students for integrating disadvantaged youth into service-learning. Grant recipients will be conducting intergenerational dialogues to engage various community partners in identifying the needs faced by this population. In its February dialogues, the consortium will highlight the U's plans to involve a diverse array of community members.

Hirsch Wittmuss said, "The University looks forward to a conversation with the many constituencies involved in meeting the needs of disadvantaged youth in the surrounding community. Such a dialogue will help better define the service-learning and other projects the U will engage in with the community to meet the needs of this group."

Through previous consortium grants, the U established itself as a regional leader by mentoring the service-learning programs at South Dakota State University, Morningside College and Mount Marty College. The consortium noted with approval the U's plans under this grant to offer similar support to Dakota Wesleyan University. The consortium acknowledged that the SAO's expertise in service-learning has been recognized by both its campus and by peers at other institutions and that the number of faculty and staff who have benefited from some of their in-service efforts are impressive.

The SAO, as part of the U's Center for Academic Engagement, was created as a central point of contact for students to find experiential learning information, including information about service-learning, undergraduate research and off-campus academic experiences. The office is also set up as a place where faculty can receive support for integrating service-learning and experiential activities into their courses. Finally, the SAO acts as a clearinghouse for volunteers in Vermillion and the surrounding area. The SAO is supported by The U and a grant from Learn and Serve America through the Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning in Higher Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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